chew/eat the carpet

A discussion on Language Log considered the expression chew/eat the carpet. One definition is, in the words of Oxford Reference, “to lose emotional control, to suffer a temper tantrum”. 

I got thinking about temper tantrum. I would say, simply, tantrum. Temper tantrum has always sounded redundant to me. What other kinds of tantra are there? It also sounds vaguely American. 

Google Ngrams shows that a tantrum is used about 2 to 6 times as often as a temper tantrum in British English, and about 2 to 3 times as often in American English. In other words, a tantrum is the number one choice, but a temper tantrum is a strong alternative, especially in American English. 

It also shows that temper tantrum sprang into being in 1916, and then increased in use in 1923. I can’t find any reason for this. A discussion on English Language and Usage Stack Exchange cites a psychiatric case at Johns Hopkins University in 1918, where it is rendered in scare quotes, which suggests it was new and unusual then. (That discussion is more about the word tantrum (origin unknown) than it is about the expression temper tantrum.)

The other kinds of noun tantra are toddler, morning and childhood ones, all of which have a minuscule usage compared with temper tantrum. (I’m being silly in using tantra as the plural of tantrum. Whatever its origin, it’s not Latin, so the plural is tantrums.)

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