As in "Cleggmania". And "Tigermania". And "Twilight-mania". We are so afflicted by manias, you'd think everyone was walking around clutching their tormented heads or rocking gently at their desks while humming the national anthem. It's media shorthand again, of the "-gate" variety (Watergate, Cheriegate, climategate - though that one never quite tripped off the tongue). But mania has been with us for a long time. I think
the Beatles started it: an assertion based on little apart from the fact that their tribute band was called, yes, Beatlemania.

Cleggmania is, or perhaps already was, a strange disease. I'd like to think it was entirely invented by the press, but the polls, too, showed the surge in popularity. Then someone compared Clegg to Barack Obama and the mania really got into its stride, spouting hyperbole and anointing saints all over the place. Poor old Nick, he never asked for it and knew from the off it would probably end badly (or in "Clegglomania", said the Sun).

But that's mania's true colours. I'm not sure about getting all etymological on you, but apparently the word comes from the Greek (the Greek!) uavia, meaning "to rage, to be furious". We think of it, in its Twilight and Beatles shapes, as being a sort of happy madness - screaming girls and weeping fans - but mania's subjects balance perilously between adoration and loathing. People who suffer from bipolar disorder lurch from depressive to manic episodes. There's always the flip-side, you see. It's Janus-faced, old mania, knocking you down just when you think you've never been more loved.

The moral of the story is, as always, to remember the tulips. "Tulip mania" took hold in Holland in the 17th century. Tulips would exchange hands
for stunning sums and then, predictably, the bubble burst, prices collapsed and investors watched their fortunes evaporate. The little bulbs were the collateralised debt obligations of a more innocent age. So, modern manias, learn your lesson. If the tide can turn on the tulips, it can turn on you, too.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 03 May 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Danger