[Note: Sense b was formerly the entry bore for the simples.]
simples n pl With the ~ joc
a Foolishness or silliness regarded facetiously as a disease. [OED2 simple n. B.3.a 1648→; “Obs. exc. dial.” ]
1868 Semi-Weekly WI (Milwaukee) 30 May 1/2, By that time the oracle who wrote the above will either die of the “simples” or get his eyes open to see things differently. 1878 Brownstown Banner (IN) [19 Sept 3]/2 (newspaperarchive.com), The Cincinnati Gazette is greatly disturbed by fears of Southern war claims. . . The apprehension, if real, indicates a dangerous attack of the simples. 1890 Daily Reflector (Norwalk OH) 18 Aug /2, This is a “drowning man catching at straws” or a clear case of the simples. 1942 Lubbock Avalanche–Jrl. (TX) 15 Feb 2/2, When a friend acts other than dignified, Tudor Clark says “He’s got the simples.” 1947 Lewis Kingsblood 59 MN, Don’t talk like you got the simples! 1958 Progress (Clearfield PA) 7 June 4/1, Then came a pseudo-medical character leading into the familiar cut-away of a human head . . , followed by an individual, obviously suffering from no more than a case of the simples, bleating out “I feel great.” 1975 San Patricio Co. News (Sinton TX) 8 May 2/4, We made up commercials til some unreal hour of the morning. . . We got the simples and ended up in hysterics. 1992 Laurel Leader–Call (MS) 3 July sec A 2/4, It is said by some wags that adults who read the funnies on a partial or regular basis suffer from a terminal case of the simples. 2014 in 2017 DARE File—Internet eTX, We’ve all been to this point where we are exhausted, we haven’t been sleeping, our body aches, stressed out, and all of a sudden . . everything is funny. Yes, folks I have a case of the Simples today.
b hence freq in phrr bore (or bleed, cut, tap, etc) for the simples: To subject to an imaginary surgical operation supposed to cure folly; hence vbl n phr cutting for the simples. [OED2 simple n. B.3.b “to be cut for (of) the simples”; 1699→; “Orig. cant or slang, and now dial”; EDD simple sb. 8.(5) “to want bleeding, cutting, or nicking for the simples”]
1767 GA Gaz. (Savannah) [20 May 2]/1, No person in America but myself has the art of cutting for the simples. I therefore desire you to give the following publick notice. 1837 Ithaca Herald (NY) 19 Apr /3, The first day of May next, wind and weather permitting, is the time appointed by our butchers for operating upon Randall for the Simples. We do earnestly trust, for we wish the editor well, that this process may prove beneficial. 1842 IN State Sentinel (Indianapolis) 6 Sept /3 (newspaperarchive.com), The mother of “Marion” certainly don’t know that he’s out. Somebody should tell her, or he might get “bled for the simples.” 1848 IN State Jrl. (Indianapolis) 3 July 1/2, It will be recollected that Col. Benton [of MO] told Mr. Cass, in the Oregon debate in the Senate, that he would “bore the honorable Senator from Michigan for the simples.” 1916 DN 4.342 seOH, Bore for the simples. Ironical expression used in asserting any one to be of unsound mind; e.g. “I shall bore him for the simples.” 1927 AmSp 2.349 cwWV, Bore one for the simples . . , said ironically to imply unsound mind or reasoning. “You will have to be bored for the simples soon.” 1927 DN 5.473 Ozarks, “W’y, th’ danged ol’ fool! He should orter be bored fer th’ simples!” The idea is that a hole in the skull might let some of the foolishness out. 1934 Charleston Gaz. (WV) 14 Sept 8/2, The average fellow will figure he should be cut for the simples if he’d catch himself buying a pint of good whisky for five dollars when the same amount would fetch him a gallon of moonshine. 1947 AmSp 22.157 KY, ‘You should be tapped for the simples’ is what my father says when I do something especially foolish. He learned it from his mother, who came originally from Kentucky. 1995 MO Conservationist Dec 5, I remember helping an old man skin a beaver, back when limited beaver trapping was first allowed. . .“A man who would do this for a livin’,” he said wryly, “had ort to be bored for the simples. I purely hate it.”