In a word: fantods

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 


People get themselves into a state over things. When they are irritable, fidgety, or tense, given to emotional outbursts, we can say that they have the fantods

The etymology, as is so often the case with slangy words, is conjectural. The OED and Merriam-Webster speculate that fantods derives in some way from fantastic, and that's as it may be. 

Appearing in the mid-nineteenth century, the word described "a crotchety way of acting," the OED says, citing C.F. Briggs's Adventures of Harry Franco (1839): "You have got strong symptoms of the fantods." Over time, the meaning has enlarged to include minor displays of distress.

Example: From a 1991 Russell Baker column in The New York Times on going to Washington: "The 'security' was so palpable it gave me the fantods, which is what ghostly encouters gave Huckleberry Finn." 

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