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Re: Hissy fit

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 17, 2009 at 19:39

In Reply to: Re: Hissy fit posted by ESC on January 17, 2009 at 18:55:

: : : : "Hissy fit". Walter Scott in Redgauntlet refers to a character as suffering from a "hissing-hot fit" of the gout. Could this be a predecessor of the modern "hissy fit"?

: : : Here is what Phrase Finder says: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hissy-fit.html I always thought it came from a mad goose hissing. It could be hissing of water on a hot stove.

: : Cats and kittens hiss as a warning signal in a dispute over territory. Other animals hiss, too. I once saw an opossum hiss. ~rb

: I can testify that a red-earred slider turtle hisses.

I think this may be a case where Scott's adjective, "hissing-hot," recurs, in its shorter form, "hissing," time and again in popular speech because it is so appropriate for the kind of speaking tone of some people when they get angry. Or it may not. It may, as the OED suggests, simply be a slangy reference to "hysteric" or "hysterics." The OED, incidentally, did not find an example of the coupling of "hissy" with "fit" until 1967, although the combination as "hissy fit" was plainly in use before that date. The OED also defines the phrase as "chiefly U.S."

The hissing of various animals when they are frightened or angry certainly parallels the speech of some individuals when they are angry. After all, we, too, are animals.