My editor and I have a most harmonious relationship. I agree with nearly all of her suggestions, and she trusts my judgment in those places where we differ. There's only one tiny conflict, and it seems to crop up in almost every manuscript. She, and the copy editor, are adamant that in order for a word to be hissed, it must have an “S” in it. I think that if you say the word in a whispery, breathy manner like you're translating Parseltongue, you can hiss anything. (J.K. Rowling reportedly said she derived the word Parselmouth from an old term for someone with a hare-lip or cleft palate. I couldn't find that word, though it might derive from parcel, a part or division, such as a snake's forked tongue.)
Hiss is of course an onomatopoeia, that is, a word that sounds like what it means, an imitative word. It is related to the word sibilant, which I had assumed was itself related to the word sibyl, one of the ancient oracular priestesses such as the famous one at Cumae. Which is natural, because they probably had sacred hissing snakes, and the Delphic sibyl was called the Python, or Pythia, which might have been because Apollo slew the Python and her home was in its rotting corpse. (Python means “to rot” and might also have referred to the chthonic fumes that rose from the earth and intoxicated the sibyl into prophesy.) But actually sibyl seems sibyl comes from Doric siobolla, meaning “divine wish.” Oh well.
Hiss is also related to another of my pet words, which I don't use nearly often enough – persiflage. Wodehouse loved the word persiflage, meaning “frivolous talk.” I don't know if the hissing part refers to the fact that it is guiltily whispered in a hissing manner, or that those hearing it hiss in condemnation.
So what do you say, friends? Can you hiss anything, or only something with an S?