Answer Man

Many people say they’re having a ‘conniption fit,’ but what does that mean?

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Q: We frequently hear of people saying they’re having a “conniption fit.” Exactly what is a conniption?

Jim Marks

A: In 1833, a woman known as Aunt Keziah joined her neighbors to welcome President Andrew Jackson to their small New England town. When he turned into a no-show, it was reported that “Aunt Keziah fell down in a conniption fit.”

By all accounts I could find, it was the first recorded use of the term, but trying to determine just where it came from sent me into a conniption fit. One guess is it may be related to “corruption,” which was used centuries ago as a synonym for “anger” or “temper.”

(“‘Let alone my goods,’ exclaimed I, for my corruption was rising.”) The other theory is that it evolved from the English word “canapshus,” which itself was a corruption of “captious,” meaning “ill-tempered.” In any case, by 1848 the Dictionary of American English had defined conniption as “a fainting fit.”

Today’s trivia

When do many think the first ambulance was used for emergency transport?

Answer to Monday’s trivia: Nuts about squirrels? Then Jan. 21 is your day. In 2001, Christy Hargrove, a wildlife rehabilitator at the Western North Caroline Nature Center, established the date as National Squirrel Appreciation Day, a chance to show your love for the more than 200 species of squirrels in the United States. Looking for ways to share your fondness? Try http://blog.nwf.org/2011/01/7-ways-to-celebrate-national-squirrel-appreciation-day.

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