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Hissy fit

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 20, 2008 at 14:24

In Reply to: Hissy fit posted by James Lally on October 19, 2008 at 22:22:

: Hissy fit. I have just heard that phrase used for the first time during an episode of A case for Frost on ITV. I wonder if hissy could be derived from the Danish word, hidsig -- which is pronounced Hissy and means hot tempered, to lose ones temper. Any ideas out there?

According to the Oxford English Dictioanry, it's primarily an American idiom, first used simply as "hissy," of which the OED cites several examples, including these:

"1934 Amer. Speech 9 71 Hissy is probably provincial slang. I have heard it for eight or ten years. He threw a hissy or He had a hissy means that a person in question was very disturbed and very angry. . . ." The latest example cited by OED is from 1992-93.

At least as early as 1967 it showed up as "hissy=fit," meaning the same, namely "a fit of temper, an angry outburst, a tantrum" *(OED). The examples cited by OED include one from Australis: "1999 Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 22 Nov. 24/8 Elton John threw a hissy fit at Winnipeg Airport, Canada, after customs officers took almost two hours to clear his five-person entourage."

Like hysterics, hissy-fits are primarily associated with women.

The OED suggests that the origin of "hissy" may be the word "hysteric," in the sense of "She went into hysterics." A Danish origin would be very hard to explain.