two snits (no friz?)

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Wed Aug 20 14:17:49 UTC 2014

Though I would rather be discussing whether "on the friz" is plausibly linked with freeze and froze and the like (so, in effect, stopped, not working), while I wait for opinions pro or con (on or off-list), no need to get into a snit fit, but bide time by mentioning a perhaps-less-certain association of two 1930s snits.

OED for snit noun2 starts:

Etymology:  Of uncertain origin (see quot. 19392<>).
slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.)...
  A state of agitation; a fit of rage or bad temper; a tantrum, sulk. Freq. in phr. in a snit.
1939   C. Boothe Kiss Boys Good-bye ii. i. 105   'I declare, Mrs. Rand, I cried myself into a snit.' 'A snit?' 'I do deplore it, but when I'm in a snit I'm prone to bull the object of my wrath plumb in the tummy.'
1939   Sat. Rev. Lit. 23 Dec. 12/1   The membership could hardly be said to be in a snit, nobody in Georgia seems ever to have heard of either the word or the state of being until Miss Clare Boothe isolated and defined it. [....]

Snit appears in the printed version of the play six times, in the now-familiar sense.

Before the play, snit seems rare. (American Speech 1937  p.  287 notes that ?"a snit is a slice, as of an orange" in the Shenandoah Valley, but that may be unrelated.)

Snit appears in a 1934 novel, The Golden Vanity (New York: William Morris), by Isabel Paterson (the libertarian). Both women, Paterson and Boothe (Luce), were active in New York politics and journalism circles; perhaps they knew of one another.
This snit is not identical to the 1939 (and earlier theater production) use, but might there be some relation? Or, can anyone find a pre-Kiss snit use? Page 110:

"Isn't young Mr. Dickerson the son of Julius?" Mysie enquired. "I should say off hand that he is a snit."
"You overstate," said Jake. "He is ectoplasm...."
[The word "tantrum" appears on p. 109, but apparently coincidentally; GB lists 1981 and 2013 works that employ the odd collocation "ectoplasmic snit," perhaps also coincidental.]

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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