This afternoon, when I spotted Annabel Crabb had a headline on The Age website that started with ‘Spitting the dummy‘, I figured clicking through to the article basically is research.
At the Sociology of Emotions and Affect workshop I gave a paper on ‘cracking the shits’. Although this was not really a term I heard bandied around, it was certainly how I initially characterised some interactions I saw (and occasionally was on the receiving end of) in Port Melbourne. I decided that when I decided that (and acted as if) somebody else was ‘cracking the shits’, suddenly their anger was no longer so disruptive.
I knew (partly through polling my friends on Facebook) that ‘cracking the shits’ is an Australian expression. No combination of cracking/crack the shits/sads appeared today on my Wiktionary searches, so maybe they are not such prevalent expressions as I thought. I am not sure how limited its circulation in Australia is, but I think it is pretty common in Australia to not be taken seriously for (1) an illegitimate display of anger (generally in terms of force) that is (2) over something that everybody might suspect that people care about, but you really should not indicate publicly that is the case.
I have had this on-off project of trying to work out if there are any overseas equivalents to ‘cracking the shits’. An American travelling in Australia said that he had not heard of it, and went on to guess that it meant to laugh.
I was surprised to see how many similar terms are either hard to find online and/or are reputed to be Australian.
‘To spit the dummy‘, ‘chucking a wobbly‘ and (one I had never even heard of before) ‘cracking a fruity’ are all defined as Australian. However, ‘throw a wobbly‘- ‘To burst out into a verbal uproar’- does appear on Wiktionary without any name of any particular country or group of English speakers.
‘Narky‘ is described as Australian and British. According to Wiktionary, the noun ‘nark‘ – is described on Wiktionary as a police spy/ informer in UK slang but ‘A narcotics law enforcement officer’ in US slang.
On one of the Australian slang sites, ‘hissy fit‘ and ‘have a cow’ are used in the definitions. These appear to be more closely associated with American English. ‘Hissy fit‘ is certainly seen as childish both on Urban Dictonary and Wiktionary.
To ‘have a fit‘ can mean both a seizure or ‘To become suddenly enraged.’ There are spin offs like ‘flip a bitch‘ (which I hadn’t heard of)- ‘to have a fit, freak out, flip out, or otherwise become quickly and unreasonably angry.’ and ‘pitch a fit‘.
‘Have a cow’, ‘To get angry; have a fit.‘, has often been used by the character Bart in The Simpsons. Another related expression I heard a lot more as a child, ‘keep your knickers’ was included in the Urban Dictionary as part of its definition.
Of course, this rather silly Sunday afternoon post should be concluded with the suggestion that this is all probably not worth getting my knickers in a knot.