What qualifies as a "Hissy Fit"?

W. 10 defines “hissy fit” as “tantrum”, claims that it dates from 1934, and postulates it is a back formation from “hysterical.”

DSM V doesn’t exist yet
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition is the current standard in diagnosis of mental disorders, the DSM V is one I made up,
“hissy fit” is clearly not a technical term listed in any edition of the DSM
although I may propose it for future study and consideration.

now for a clever name…

“hissyfit disorder” with specifiers: chronic or acute, maybe with mixed tantrums and bitchiness (although that’s more of a mood disorder)
“Shannon Doherty’s disorder”

I like “Doherty’s Syndrome”, because the drome makes it sound cool…

I’m sorry if this comes off as sexist but, to me, a “hissy fit” seems to be something intrinsically feminine. It’s an actress, model or some other type of diva throwing a major tantrum over some minor thing (e.g., the little umbrellas in her drink are the wrong color).

Yes, I know males can get pissed off over petty things but, unless they’re gay (or the person describing the fit is trying to make the fit-thrower seem especially effeminate), I rarely see such a tirade referred to as a “hissy fit”. (For example, I don’t think anyone publicly referred to basketball coach Bobby Knight’s frequent outbursts as “hissy fits”.)

Are you saying that it’s all right to call it a hissy fit if the “thrower” is gay OR you are trying to insult a straight man? Should it not be equally insulting to males of any sexual orientation?

Personally, I don’t think it is insulting, or that it questions anyone’s sexuality, I never found any homophobic undertones in the term. Neverthe3ess, I do see your point, since it comes from “hysteria” which is a term that used to be applied exclusively to females (having to do with the uterus, and everything).

What did people “publicly” refer to coach whomever’s hissy fits, btw? Maybe we are missing a synonim!

Actually, I think the term is meant to insult anyone–be they male, female, straight, or gay–who throws a colossal fit over a trivial matter. I apologize if I came across as homophobic.

Judging from the way you described it, I don’t think your outburst would qualify as a “hissy fit” unless you were so disruptive that you attracted the attention of other restaurant patrons and the staff. You seem to have had a legitimate beef–albeit maybe your reaction was slightly out of proportion to your grievance.

As for Bobby Knight (the former coach of Indiana and the present coach of Texas Tech), I’ve heard his expressions of excessive anger (e.g., throwing chairs across a basketball court or attacking students who make flippant greetings) referred to as tantrums, fits, meltdowns, tirades, and freak-outs. (I’m sure most college basketball fans can also think of some other terms.) I think if Knight heard you refer to one of his outbursts as a “hissy fit”, his hands would soon be making contact with your neck.

But most importantly, where does “hissy fit” - er, fit on the scale of

Tif … Tizzy … Tantrum … [etc] … really pissed off … murderous … PMS-ing

Interesting, actually considering a phrase heard and used since childhood…

It was gender-neutral, for one, in usage at least. Haven’t the least idea as to origins, mind.

The general sense was ridiculous, waaaayy over the top dramatics; an adult tantrum, really. It was always dismissive in tone. Anybody pitching* a hissy fit was laughable, an object of scorn. Hissy fits have absolutely no dignity.

A hissy fit is the expressive emotional equivalent of flinging yourself to the floor, screaming loudly, drumming your heels then holding your breath until you turn blue.


[sub]*true hissy fits are pitched, not merely “had”. PROPERLY described hissy fits include vivid adjectives like “wall-eyed”, “froth mouthed”, etc.[/sub]

Webster says…

Main Entry: hissy
Pronunciation: 'hi-sE
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps by shortening & alteration from hysterical
Date: circa 1934
chiefly Southern & southern Midland : TANTRUM — called also hissy fit.

I find the ‘southern’ reference amusing…


“Hissy fits,” “tantrums,” and “conniptions” are all related pretty closely. Basically, when someone else is upset about something you don’t find important, they’re having a hissy fit.

When you’re upset about something they don’t think is important, you’re experiencing righteous anger.

I think Hissy Fit would qualify as the lowest intensity of all the outburst-related terminology, although for the most part, the hissy-fitter thinks it is righteous anger…, at least while the fit is in progress.

NDP, don’t worry about it, I know you didn’t mean it as a in a homophobic sense, just wanted to clarify.
In my case, I did not attract any attention in the restaurant, and the bulk of the fit was “pitched” (thanks TVeblen for clarifying), back home, and actually when someone said “Just wait until Lothos finnishes his Hissy Fit” I started laughing uncontrollably, as did the rest of my family", having dawned on me that it was an over reaction. The fact it made me laugh so hard because it conveyed the ridiculous aspect of it all was what prompted me to investigate the term further.

By the way, if coach whatever (Bobby Knight) did that while I was around, he would probably hear the word “Hissy Fit” more than once, even if he hit me, I could just sue and enjoy the proceeds… :wink: