Word of The Day for Friday, October 29, 2010


fan•tod (FAN-tod)  n

1. a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness; the willies; the fidgets (usually the fantods)
2. a sudden outpouring of anger, outrage, or a similar intense emotion

Sentence Examples:
• Words failed him and he sat quite still. Emily, who thought she knew him so well, was alarmed, and went towards the sideboard where she kept some sal volatile. She could not see the tenacious Forsyte spirit working in that thin, tremulous shape against the extravagance of the emotion called up by this outrage on Forsyte principles--the Forsyte spirit deep in there, saying: 'You mustn't get into a fantod, it'll never do. You won't digest your lunch. You'll have a fit!' -The Forsythe Saga, John Galsworthy
• This occurred with paralysing regularity and Spurge would promptly produce another fantod, which Ms. Peg'ole filed in a room to that effect, which in turn and in time became a department, which became a building with silos attached for unmanageable fantods that had suffered tears. - Lydia Thrippe!, Daniel Sloate, 1999

The Storyline
Crash! Anna heard the din from across the hall. And she closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing to hold off the fantods.

1839;  appar. fant ( igue ) (earlier fantique,  perh. b. fantasy  and frantic; -igue  prob. by assoc. with fatigue) + -od ( s ), of obscure orig.

Sources: Dictionary.com

Why This Word:
What we have here is an etymological mystery. All of the sources seem to agree that the origin of this word is uncertain and all they can do is guess. It's a part of what saves it from being just a Victorian Era curiosity. I submit, however, that there's more to this story. I've found quotes using fantod in a completely different sense.

An hour later three shearers, Bill, Fred, and Ben, riding at a gallop along the high road to Loo, came upon a man with a bundle walking cheerfully in the same direction. The horsemen pulled up.
"Hi, mate, have you seen anythin' of a strange sort of animal on this road?" cried Bill.
"Have I?" answered the man. "My word, I have! A great, big, red, hairy bunyip 'r somethin' charged out o' th' bush 'bout a mile back, bowled me
over an' went howlin' down th' road in a cloud o' dust."
"Which way?" gasped Bill.
The pedestrian pointed in the direction of Loo. "That's th' way he went," he said. "Cripes, I'd a' thought I seen a fantod on'y I bin teetotal fer a year." - The Missing Link, Edward Dyson, 1922
A hissing noise was heard as if from a score of rattlesnakes, and now the cow-punchers emerged on all sides from the darkness, stepping high,
with ludicrously exaggerated caution, and "hist"-ing to one another to observe the utmost prudence in approaching. They formed a solemn, wide
circle about the hat, gazing at it in manifest alarm, and seized every few moments by little stampedes of panicky flight.
"It's the varmint," said one in awed tones, "that flits up and down in the low grounds at night, saying, 'Willie-wallo!'"
"It's the venomous Kypootum," proclaimed another. "It stings after it's dead, and hollers after it's buried."
"It's the chief of the hairy tribe," said Phonograph Davis. "But it's stone dead, now, boys."
"Don't you believe it," demurred Dry-Creek. "It's only 'possumin'.' It's the dreaded Highgollacum fantod from the forest. There's only one way to destroy its life." -Rolling Stones, O. Henry
These authors are clearly using fantod to mean some fantastical being of a menacing nature, more akin to say, a fantom. And here's a quote that comes with a picture:
In the eighteenth shop they have visited, the cousin thinks he sees a rare sort of lustre jug, and Mr Earbrass irritatedly wonders why anyone should have had a fantod stuffed and put under a glass bell. -Amphigorey, Edward Gorey, 1980
Either this word has a separate and apparently undocumented meaning or authors have, over the span of time, repeatedly misused it in the about the same way. I think more likely the former.

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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