Conniption over court appearance: A modern day hissy fit

Last month I received a self-sealing letter in the post. These are usually some or other form of traffic infringement notice. Indeed, it was. But it was red. This was the first time in my life that I had received a fine in red. Reading further, I found the fine showed a photograph of a car that is not mine, for a date on which I was not available, in a city I haven’t visited for more than 10 years. “No admission of guilt”, the document warned.

Thinking I would have to show up in court to defend these outrageous allegations, I had a conniption. Or a conniption fit, as is sometimes incorrectly stated.


So, in modern terms, I had a hissy fit. The word conniption sounds so dainty and polite it seems almost euphemistic for what, in the strongest terms, is throwing a tantrum.

A comment on the Sesquiotica website states: “I think conniption has a good sound; that ‘nip’ in the middle is fittingly indignant but short; the gathering ‘con’ could call on confound and condemn and consarn (a fake-swear probably based on concern and usable where one might use gosh darn), and the ‘ption’ ending brings out not only contraption but corruption, consumption, and conscription – and eruption and exception, among others.”

This modest word has no definite history and experts trace its first usage to the early 19th century and its origin, as is the case with many words, is derived from existing words. It’s also thought to come from American English, not British.

According to Word Detective, in 1848, the Dictionary of American English defined “conniption” as “a fainting fit,” and the very earliest use of the word found so far, from 1833, made a “conniption” sound quite serious with all its drama attributed to an alleged Aunt Keziah, who experienced one.

Merriam Webster defines conniption as a fit of rage, hysteria, or alarm. Fit, huff, outburst, tantrum, blow-up are some synonyms.

Now back to the traffic infringement… I have since discovered the car’s registration details were taken down incorrectly, and hence matched or rather mismatched all my details. Knowing this small error has caused me an interminable amount of stress, I think I’ll have a conniption.

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