Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tizzy

Tizzy

There are heaps of words we can use to define our state when we’re feeling out of sorts. Many of them have unknown origins. 

In 1727 one could be in a tiff, meaning quarrelsome or petty irritation. Though no one is certain of tiff’s source, it may have be an imitative word for the sound of a sigh or puff of air. 

In 1922 the word tizzy was born. Like tiff, nobody really knows its source, but some etymologists argue it may have grown out of the earlier term, tizzy, meaning sixpence piece, slang for the first coin minted with the profile of a head on it, taken from the Latin word testa, meaning head.

In 1939 the word snit came into the world, meaning a state of agitation or fit of temper. It appeared first in the play Kiss the Boys Good-bye by Clair Boothe Luce. Nobody knows its source.

Though the word hissy has been with us since 1905, hissy fit (meaning a dramatic tantrum) didn’t appear until 1983. Both hissy & hissy fit come from the word hiss, which has been around since the 1300s. Like tiff, hiss is onomatopoeic. 

Since the 1530s, a fit of ill feeling  has been referred to as pique (or a fit of pique). This comes from a Middle French word which meant irritation or sting.

When one takes offense, one might be miffed. This form of miff got rolling in 1797. But miff first showed up in English much earlier in 1620. At that time miff was a noun meaning fit of ill humor. It appears to be another onomatopoeic word based on an exclamation of disgust.

In the 1590s a pother was a disturbance or commotion. Nobody knows where this word came from, & by the 1640s to be in a pother meant one was flustered or irritated.

In the 1600s, one who quaked or trembled could be said to be in a dither. Dither came from the Middle English word didderen, which has no known source. By 1819 folks who were anxious & flustered were said to be in a dither.

These terms aren’t heard as much as they once were. If you could bring one back into popular usage, which would  you choose?





8 comments:

  1. Could today's choice of words have anything to do with the fact that you just had to take a trip on an airplane? That experience has certainly caused me to feel miffed and tiffed and a bit dithered. I've always liked the term hissy fit. A perfect descriptor for how I react--in the privacy of my own home only :)--when I have reached the end of my patience. A quick little hissy fit can feel quite satisfying!

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    1. Hey Christine -- Actually, airplanes don't send me into any kind of tiff. It's leaving the house & using all those resources to go somewhere wonderful when I'm already somewhere wonderful to begin with. Thanks for popping bye & may your hissy fit:life ratio for the year be very very low.

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  2. One of these years I want to be able to write a sentence that includes pother, miff, and snit in the same sentence. Oh, I just did.

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    1. Excellent job, Steve. It's always good to have attainable goals. Thanks for coming by.

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  3. I think we should bring back "Pother". Great word. I had no idea that Clare Booth Luce gave us the word "tizzy." One of my faves. :-)

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    1. I'm with you, Anne. I haven't run into "pother" much at all, but it really works for me. Thanks for coming by, & may your week be pother-free.

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  4. Pique. Because then I could have a hissy fit every time I saw it misspelled. ;-)

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    1. Ah, I see you're a fellow member of the MNHFT ( Misspelling Noticers' Hissy Fit Team)! Thanks for dropping by.

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