I recently discussed the sound words zumbar and zoom, abuchear and boo. Another is Spanish sisear, whose two s sounds outdo the one in the synonymous English hiss, which also serves as a noun; Spanish has siseo for its noun. The corresponding English adjective is hissy, which describes the sound—and some of us are old enough to have lived with it—that a vinyl record increasingly made as it aged. This may be the same hissy that since the 1930s has appeared in the colloquial English hissy fit, sometimes shortened to hissy, that is a ‘tantrum’ in which someone metaphorically hisses at someone else. There’s a possibility, though, that the hissy of hissy fit is an alteration of hysterical or was at least influenced by the first syllable of hysterical.

© 2010 Steven Schwartzman


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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