Conniption

conniption (n.) Look up conniption at Dictionary.com1833, American English, origin uncertain; perhaps related to corruption, which was used in a sense of “anger” from 1799, or from English dialectal canapshus “ill-tempered, captious,” probably a corruption of captious.  Captious means tending to find fault with little things – a good synonym is carping.

Another American corruption of British dialectical forms – one wonders why the Americans couldn’t simply learn to speak English.  In any case, I love the word conniption – while not onomatopoeic, the sound of the word itself tends to convey the action it represents.  My personal synonym for having a conniption is to have a Fitzcarraldo – the title of a 1982 movie by Werner Herzog about Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, the rubber baron (yes ‘rubber’ – not ‘robber’), who tried to build an opera house in the middle of the Peruvian jungle – the locals called him Fitzcarraldo.  Instead of saying ‘don’t have a fit’ (a mostly useless admonishment to excitable types) I say ‘don’t have a Fitzcarraldo.’  I like to think this makes me quirky, although it probably simply renders me incomprehensible to most people.

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About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist
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2 Responses to Conniption

  1. An often used word where I’m from.

    • hickson1 says:

      I think I probably picked it up as a kid, in the two years we lived in St. John New Brunswick – a lot of words and expressions that I learned there have stuck with me –

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