I had never heard the expression THROW A WOBBLY. But that, as I learned, was probably because it is not used much, if at all, in these parts. It’s a U.K. and British Commonwealth expression, as far as I can make out.<2008 “Zimbabwe: Mugabe Throws a Wobbly At AU Summit: On Monday the world caught a glimpse of the pressure that Robert Mugabe is under, as global condemnation intensifies in the wake of his sham election. Mugabe went on a tirade calling a journalist a ‘bloody idiot’ when he was waylaid by reporters at the African Union Summit in Egypt on Monday. The drama happened when a journalist from the UK ITV news channel asked him on what basis he thought he was President of Zimbabwe. Mugabe responded angrily saying it was on the same basis that Gordon Brown is ‘Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.’ It is not clear if he forgot which country is his and which country is Brown's. He sounded muddled and angry at being questioned by the journalist.”— SW Radio Africa (London),1 July> [[during African Union Summit in Egypt on, Monday, 30 June]].
THROW A WOBBLER/WOBBLY (British & Australian, informal: To suddenly become very angry. She saw Peter talking to an attractive blonde and threw a wobbly. [[New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English claims New Zealand is the country of origin]]
OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY
WOBBLER noun : = WOBBLY. Frequently in the phrase To throw a wobbler.
WOBBLY noun colloquial [from the adjective]
TO THROW A WOBBLY : To lose one's self-control in a fit of nerves, panic, temperament, annoyance, or the like; also, to act in an unexpected way, causing surprise or consternation.
CASSELL’S DICTIONARY OF SLANG
THROW A WOBBLY (also THROW A WOBBLER, CHUCK A . . . , DO A . . .) verb [1970s and still in use]: Of people, to panic, to suffer a fit of nerves; also used figuratively of things. [Standard English throw + slang wobbly]
WOBBLY (also WOBBLER) [1930s and still in use]: A fit of nerves, of panic, of bad temper [[anger]]; thus one who has such attacks.
BREWER’S DICTIONARY OF MODERN PHRASE & FABLE
THROW A WOBBLY: To display a fit of temper; to panic. The latter word relates to the person’s uncontrolled deviation from the norm. The expression dates from the 1960s.
SHORTER SLANG DICTIONARY: FROM THE WORK OF ERIC PARTRIDGE:
THROW A WOBBLY: To become angry, agitated or mentally unbalanced; to behave irrationally or unpredictably. Later 20th century.
20TH CENTURY WORDS by John Ayto
WOBBLY noun (1977): A sudden fit of temperament or uncontrollable anger. Slang; mainly in the phrase throw a wobbly. Probably a variation on the earlier wobbler, first recorded in 1942 [[see quote below]]—the underlying idea being the uncontrollable shaking of someone having a fit.
Some synonyms for THROW A WOBBLY that come to mind, but which are not listed in the sources above, include BLOW A FUSE, BLOW A GASKET, BLOW ONE'S STACK, BLOW ONE'S TOP, FLY OFF THE HANDLE, GO THROUGH THE ROOF, HAVE A CONNIPTION, HAVE A HISSY FIT, and HAVE A TANTRUM.
(quotes from Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)<1942 Fit, especially a feigned one. . . Brody, . . . WOBBLER.”—American Thesaurus of Slang by Berrey & Van Den Bark, §130/11>
<1977 “The world has used him, exploited his talent and brains and then discarded him . . . is it any wonder that he THROWS A WOBBLY?”—Telegraph (Brisbane, Australia), 13 April, page 13/2>
<1978 “Not only did she THROW A WOBBLY at the slightest murmur of tango rhythms, even the sight of a piano-accordion brought her out in hives.”—Take My Word for It by D. Norden, page 59>
<1981 “The debriefing . . . seemed to take an inordinately long time... ‘By lunch,’ he [sc. Simeon Harris] says, ‘I was getting a bit fed up, so I THREW A WOBBLY.’”—Radio Times, 22-28 August, page 6/4>
<1982 “If the men heard my name called on the public address system all kinds of stories would go round. They'd say ‘Someone's THROWN A WOBBLY again.’”—The Guardian (U.K.), 30 October>
<1984 “WOBBLY: A fit of anger—A Personal Kiwi-Yankee Dictionary by L S. Leland, page 304>
<1985 “Vikki said the camera shots were all wrong, her manager objected to ‘the thin sound’, and the backing group . . . THREW A complete WOBBLER.”—Sunday Times (London), 5 May, page 7/2>
<1987 “When Susannah was 15 Leslie THREW the biggest WOBBLY of all. She uprooted the family from Kent . . . and went to farthest Pembrokeshire.”—Daily Telegraph (U.K.), 28 January, page 13/4>
<1988 “She just rooly CHUCKED A WOBBLY last night.”—My Diary by Kylie Mole (Maryanne Fahey), page 103>
<1989 “Mum THROWS A WOBBLER with three weeks to go. If anyone buys her slippers, a scarf or perfume again this year, she's on the first plane out with the milkman.”—Looks, December, page 53/1>
<1995 “Thing is Cools, he’ll really CHUCK A WOBBLY if he thinks I’ve shafted him.”—The Search for Savage Henry by Harrison Biscuit, page 69>
<1998 “Uh oh, I thought, she’s gunna CRACK A WOBBLY. Mum didn’t often CRACK A WOBBLY, but when she did, it was a very wobbly WOBBLY.”—Deadly Una? by Phillip Gwynne, page 81>
<2003 “If the food isn't up to scratch he'll THROW A WOBBLY, I suspect there are a lot of other things that could make him ratty.”—Sunday Mirror (London), 27 April>
<2005 “. . . a grown-up man, not one who thinks he can shirk his responsibilities and THROW A WOBBLY when he doesn't have a clean shirt.”—The Mirror (London), 9 September>
<2007 “But here are some other words and phrases we picked up while visiting the United Kingdom. To ‘THROW A WOBBLY’”: To throw a fit or become cross.”—Joplin Globe (Missouri), 21 March>
<2008 “AUSTRALIAN air travellers want crying babies and their parents to be segregated on overseas flights, a new survey shows: My son is the light of my life, but definitely has his moments! It's bad enough when he decides to THROW A WOBBLY or exercise his vocal cords to the highest pitch, . . .”—CourierMail.com.au (Sidney, Australia), 20 February>
Ken G – July 3, 2008