Macquarie Dictionary


Spit the dummy

This week’s blog is dedicated to toddlers because they are the most likely to spit the dummy. A relative recent phrase, having joined the Aussie lexicon in the 1980s, to spit the dummy means to throw a tantrum. 

Aussie slang features plenty of colourful ways of saying someone is throwing a tantrum or losing their temper. Aside from spit the dummy, the most well-known phrases include chuck a micky and chuck a wobbly. The latter can refer specifically to machines. For example, if your car breaks down it could be said to chuck a wobbly

Truth be known, Aussies don’t really approve of people losing their temper. It is seen as overreacting. Hence, all these phrases are meant to belittle. Perhaps this is best embodied by a piece of slang that dates back to the 1890s: perform. It’s not heard so much these days but to perform means to throw a tantrum and make a big fuss. To say someone who is throwing a tantrum is performing really does seem to encompass the Aussie attitude to anger. 

Another phrase that in a rare show of defiance doesn’t involve chucking anything is lose your rag, which means lose your temper. Then there is hissy fit, which can more broadly refer to a fit of hysterics. If you’re down in Tasmania you might throw a reggie

Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.

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