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Hi again,

This time I need your help with a phrase from Apocalypse Now that I'm not sure about. Here's the expression in the context:

Clean... Mr Clean... was from some South Bronx shit-hole... and I think the light and the space of Vietnam... really [color=green] put the zap on his head [/color] .

Judging on the context, it seems that it's like 'drive somebody mad' or better when something goes to your head and you're unable to think clearly. I tried to find it on some Internet dictionaries but there wasn't such an expression anywhere.
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Thanks for replying,

The most appropriate meaning of 'zap' here would be 'energy and enthusiasm' for sure, but it still doesn't fit this context perfectly.

Well.....unless a surge of energy and enthusiasm is equivalent to dazing or something like that because I think that would definitely fit the context.

Has anyone here heard of 'zap' being used this way?
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Yes, probably making him crazy.

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zap

b : to get rid of, destroy, or kill especially with or as if with
sudden force


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"Drive crazy":

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While adverse to specific company risk and trying to evaluate the
individual company stocks, (besides bell weather, Newmont) he's
suggesting GLD.NYSE to his audience, the bullion ETF that trades in
New York. He says, that with only 1% in of one's assets into gold, a
person should still be worried. But with 5%, people can sleep soundly
at night! This really must have put the zap into people, because that
same week, I heard numerous individual investors expressing that very
sentiment - the strong desire, even a sense of urgency, to own the
physical metal.

http://www.learntotradefutures.com/dcforum/DCForumID16/1130.html
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I'd say that to "put the zap on his head" is to "drive him [somewhat] crazy."

I've thought about this one too, for a long time. The sense I get is that the speaker is saying that Mr. Clean's arrival in this wide open natural environment far from home had removed him from the psychological restrictions/restraints/confinements of his densely urban background. The result of this, "the zap" being "put on his head," is definitely a kind of craziness. However, I think that "crazy" is a better word than "insane." Insane focuses too much on a person's clinical psychological state, where crazy, particularly in its most colloquial uses, denotes a person who is not so much mentally ill as disposed to act in unpredictable, erratic, inappropriate, or dangerous ways. This might range from a person who behaves in a merely "pixilated" or eccentric way, to behavior that is frequently reckless and maniacal.

In any event, I think that Mr. Clean is said to have taken leave of his previously normal, grounded, behaviors and frames of mind, and has started acting "crazy," --his new environment has unleashed a rather unbalanced personality that is driven by whim, impulse, and fantasy, generating behaviors that are erratic and even reckless.
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I'd agree with that!
"Put the zap on [someone's] head" is extremely rare English; I've only heard it that one time in Apocalypse Now, so it seems clear to me that it is one of the slang expressions that the American "Baby-Boomer" generation briefly toyed with in their youth. In my opinion, the best way to figure out what that phrase means is to examine the character whom it is used to describe:

In the movie, Clean (Lawrence Fishburn's first role in a movie) is the least important character on the boat. Of the others, Captain Willard is the main character, Chief is the one who argues against him, Chef adds a sort of "Cajun flavoring", and Lance's surfing stardom affects the course of the sequence which includes the epic "Ride of the Valkyries" battle scene. What does Clean add to the movie, besides a warm body that's the first one on the boat to die? He annoys Captain Willard by practicing with his drumsticks, smokes a little marijuana, looks at things in amazement, happens to be the first one to open fire when it seems like a Viet girl is going for a hidden weapon (which tragically turns out to be just a puppy), and his death scene is by far the most tragic, not so much because of himself, but because an audiotape letter from his mother telling him to "keep out of the way of the bullets, and bring your heiny home where it belongs" plays in the background as he bleeds out in Chief's arms.

From this, I believe that "put the zap on his head" simply means that it put him into a sort of quiet confusion, so he mostly "goes with the flow".

Similar phrase is used in Twin Peaks.

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