Where does passive aggressive come from?
The first time passive aggressive behavior was ever described was in 1945 in a Technical Bulletin issued by the US War Department. In this bulletin, Colonel William Menninger reported soldiers expressing aggressiveness via “passive measures,” which he said occurred through behaviors like pouting and stubbornness.
In the 1950s, the first edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) was compiled, which included a definition for passive-aggressive personality, with the subheading passive-aggressive type that contained a description similar to Menninger’s. In 1966, passive-aggressive personality disorder was a common psychiatric diagnosis due to how easily it could apply to people. It continued to be used this way for a long time and often showed up in psychological scholarship.
By the 1980s, though perhaps earlier, passive aggressive began to refer to everyday behaviors. This was a shift from the previous usage, which was a way to pathologize people. It started being used by everyday people to accuse others of exhibiting these types of behaviors.
Passive-aggressive personality disorder was eventually cut from the DSM. It last appeared in the DSM-IV (1994), and it was no longer present in the DSM-V (2013).
Today, it only refers to the obnoxious behavior that people exhibit. Passive aggressive behaviors include sulking, shutting down communication, denying anger, procrastinating, doing things in an intentionally inefficient way, lying by omission, leaving someone out on purpose, delivering backhanded compliments, “forgetting” to do things, being sarcastic, and much more.
Who uses passive aggressive?
Passive aggressive personality disorder is different from passive aggressive behavior because it presumably caused impairment for the person who was diagnosed. The modern use can be used to describe one instance of passive aggressive behavior.
The more common use of passive aggressive and its variants is as a behavior that annoys other people. Passive aggression is the act that people might carry out. Uses of the term passive aggressive can often include calling out someone’s behavior by declaring that they’re acting that way. It also appears on sites explaining how to deal with someone who’s being passive aggressive and uncommunicative.
“sorry i'm passive aggressive for no goddamn reason it's that my mood change like these goddamn seasons”
candace @RomeroGotDinero Twitter (May 14, 2017)
“For Taylor Swift to pretend that her entire music career is not a tool of passive aggression toward those who had wronged her is like me pretending I’m not carbon-based: too easy to disprove, laughable at its very suggestion.”
Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “Revenge of the Nerds,” The Paris Review (June 22, 2015)
“Otherwise, you send the person a passive-aggressive message that your Twitter relationship should have never been more than a one-retweet stand.”
Sylvan Lane, “The 10 Most Passive-Aggressive Things You’re Doing on Social Media,” Mashable (June 27, 2014)