June 25th, 2013

plaid

Tuesday Word: swivet

Oh, what a weekend. The other night I was sitting on the porch smoking my first cigarette in two weeks and, as is my habit, mentally composing an account of the events of the past few days. How, for instance, to describe the part where, lacking a mini screwdriver, I tried to open up my computer with a kitchen knife? I panicked. No, I was in a panic.

Eh..not quite right. I mean, if you're panicking, then you've totally lost control of yourself and just have to wait for it to pass, but if you can get into a panic, then you can pull yourself out of it, right? It doesn't sound serious enough and it's possibly a bit too formal, depending on the eventual context. And then I remembered the phrase "in a swivet," which isn't what I was looking for at all but makes up for it by being so fun to say.

A swivet is a flustered state; to be in a swivet is to lose your composure. During half an hour of research, I found only one instance of a swivet arising from a pleasant emotional state, so while being in a swivet CAN be a good thing, it is probably necessary to make this clear. Otherwise people will assume the swivet resulted from frustration, embarrassment, etc.

The Online Etymology Dictionary doesn't have a hell of a lot to say about it, and my slang dictionary has even less, but apparently "swivet" has been around since at least 1892 and comes from a dialect spoken in the United States.