Warning: boring entry. I’m primarily posting this for my personal amusement.
A few years ago, having been raised my whole life to believe that “minced oaths” (gosh, heck, darn, etc.) were just as bad as “actual oaths” (God, hell, damn, etc.), I decided to take a microscope to the whole interjection issue and uncover the definition and origin of as many interjections as I could think of, to determine which ones were “acceptable” and which ones were not, and why. Since then (and a good while before my entire religion began to collapse), I decided that words are just words, noting that the third commandment is a directive on lifestyle, not word choice (another person’s explanation here). However, I recently ran across my old “minced oaths” research, and thought I’d post it here … mainly for laughs.
— AND MORE —
MINCED OATHS are also known as Christian swear words and Christian curses, but all these names refer to the same thing: Chocolate-coated dung, blasphemy disguised as innocence. The following list of euphemisms I have compiled from my own curiosity, so I make no claim of entirety. I’ve probably missed several, but would be happy to add them to the list if anybody thinks of them. Some British research is included as well (though it is probably far from exhaustive).
Warning: Be advised that, to include entire etymologies, some distasteful and/or “unchristian” themes and phrases had to be included. Furthermore, I don’t think the definition of “bugger” is appropriate for any very young readers. Proceed with discretion.
All following etymologies (and definitions, when included) are copied from the Oxford Dictionary unless otherwise noted.
RED entries denote obvious minced oaths — expressions to be avoided.
ORANGE entries denote questionable words — uncertain or on the edge; use discretion.
GREEN entries denote apparently permissible expressions — my research finds no fault … yet.
BLUE entries denote items of additional interest (not interjections) — some good, some bad.
Note: You may be curious as to why I color-coded in orange (rather than red) obvious euphemisms for certain “taboo” words. The reason is that I personally do not find them as extremely offensive as most people do. The only offensiveness is in their usage — their definitions are entirely commonplace; for example, “dung” is never censored, but “s***” usually is. The “F-word” refers to something that should not be mocked or discussed lightly (see Ephesians 5:4), but there is no reason that this particular word should receive any higher censorship than any other reference to the same thing. Still, because of the cultural connotations, I don’t recommend incorporating these words into your vocabulary.
strike with divine anger : “damn and blast this awful place!”
exclamation (chiefly Brit., informal)
expressing annoyance : “Blast! The car won’t start!”
— Note: Seems pretty similar to “damn” — ordering God to pronounce judgment on something.
BLIMEY (also COR BLIMEY)
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: altered form of (GOD) BLIND (OR BLAME) ME!
— Perhaps not as “wicked” as saying “damn me”, but I still wouldn’t recommend using it.
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from “bloody” [the normal adjective]. The use of BLOODY to add emphasis to an expression is of uncertain origin, but is thought to have a connection with the “bloods” (aristocratic rowdies) of the late 17th and early 18th centuries; hence the phrase BLOODY DRUNK (= as drunk as a blood) meant ‘very drunk indeed.’ After the mid 18th cent. until quite recently, BLOODY used as a swearword was regarded as unprintable, probably from the mistaken belief that it implied a blasphemous reference to the blood of Christ, or that the word was an alteration of “by Our Lady”; hence a widespread caution in using the term even in phrases such as BLOODY BATTLE merely referring to bloodshed.
— Good news and bad news. There’s nothing wrong with using the word … except that most people don’t know that there’s nothing wrong with using the word. Tough call.
1 another term for bogeyman .
2 (informal) a piece of dried nasal mucus.
— No etymology, but it seems that it’s no worse than crude (I was afraid that it was linked to BUGGER, discussed below).
used to express strong feelings, esp. of excitement or admiration : “oh boy, that’s wonderful!”
— No etymology is given, but until further research proves otherwise, I will assume that this is essentially the same expression as MAN (below).
(vulgar slang, chiefly Brit.)
1 [with adj. ] a contemptible or pitied person, typically a man.
• a person with a particular negative quality or characteristic.
• used as a term of affection or respect, typically grudgingly : “all right, let the little buggers come in.”
2 (derogatory) a person who commits buggery [pederasty].
penetrate the anus of (someone) during sexual intercourse; sodomize.
used to express annoyance or anger.
ORIGIN Middle English (originally denoting a heretic, specifically an Albigensian)…. The sense [sodomite] (16th cent.) arose from an association of heresy with forbidden sexual practices; its use as a general insult dates from the early 18th cent.
ORIGIN 1930s: alteration of GOD.
1 something that is of extremely poor quality.
• rubbish; junk.
• [in sing. ] an act of defecation.
verb [ intrans. ]
ORIGIN Middle English : related to Dutch krappe, from krappen ‘pluck or cut off,’ and perhaps also to Old French crappe ‘siftings,’ Anglo-Latin crappa ‘chaff.’ The original sense was [chaff,] later [residue from rendering fat,] also [dregs of beer.] Current senses date from the late 19th cent.
ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: euphemism for CHRIST.
NOTE: This etymology taken from Webster’s New Millenium Dictionary of English.
Definition: god damn it
Etymology: based on “dang rabbit,” said by the character Elmer Fudd in Bugs Bunny cartoons.
euphemism for DAMN
DARN (also DURN)
euphemism for DAMN
DEAR (also DEAR ME)
NOTE: This etymology taken from dict.die.net
[corrupted fr. F. O Dieu! or It. O Dio! O God! O Dio mio! O my God! —Wyman.], exclamations expressive of various emotions, but usually promoted by surprise, consternation, grief, pain, etc.
— One website is admittedly not a conclusive source; however, the definition of “dear” as a replacement for “God” is collaborated by A. L. Mayhew in Oxford Journals’ “Notes and Queries” (Nov. 28, 1908, pp. 434-435) and also makes sense in context with historical expressions such as “the Dear One knows” or “Dear knows” wherein “Dear” is an obvious substitute for “God”.
DEVIL TO PAY
serious trouble to be dealt with : “there was the devil to pay when we got home.”
— Oxford does not provide an origin for this phrase, but my own research gives strong credibility to one author’s opinion that it derives from a nautical expression whose origin can be summarized as follows:
The “devil” on a ship is the seam between the deck and the gunwale, and is called the “devil” because it is the most difficult seam to caulk (or “pay”) and also one of the seams most often in need of caulking. The full expression is “the devil to pay and no pitch hot” — by implication, a difficult task to do and nothing to do it with.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: probably from DOG ON IT, euphemism for GOD DAMN IT.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: shortening of OD RAT, euphemism for GOD ROT.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: probably from German dialect DUDE ‘fool.’
EGAD (also EGADS)
ORIGIN late 17th cent.: representing earlier A GOD.
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: from flip1 + -ing2
— One definition for “flip” is to go mad. So “flipping” may just mean “crazy”. Unfortunately, my research has shown that, thanks to the word’s construction, many people believe it to be a euphemism for the “F-word”. Proceed with caution.
used as a euphemism for “fucking” : “I’m going out of my freaking mind!”
GEE (also GEE WHIZ)
ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: perhaps an abbreviation of JESUS.
ORIGIN late 18th cent.: euphemism for GOD.
(as a substitution for “God”) expressing surprise, anger, etc. : goodness knows what her rent will be.
ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: euphemism for GOD.
GUM (in phrase BY GUM)
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: euphemistic alteration of GOD.
JEEZ (also GEEZ)
ORIGIN 1920s: abbreviation of JESUS. — Note: Though Oxford doesn’t provide etymology for “sheesh,” I believe it is another variation of the same word.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: alteration of GEMINI used as a mild oath in the mid 17th cent., a euphemistic form of JESUS (CHRIST). — Note: “Jiminy cricket(s)” and “Jiminy Christmas” are forms of this, the latter very obviously supporting the definition.
(dated) used in expressions as a mild oath
[intrans.] “they could all go hang”
[trans.] “I’m hanged if I know.”
— Mild oath? I don’t like the look of that, but it doesn’t seem to be derived from anything beyond its normal definition. (My mom had hypothesized earlier that it might be similar to “dang” in derivation.)
ORIGIN late 19th cent.(originally dialect): euphemistic alteration of HELL.
used, irrespective of the sex of the person addressed, to express surprise, admiration, delight, etc., or for emphasis : “man, what a show!”
— The etymology of the interjection is not given, but appears to be simply an emphatic form of address.
an expression of contempt or derision : “keep up the good work, and nuts to everyone who doesn’t like it.”
— There is one other definition of the word “nuts” that carries offensive connotations; however, I have not found any plausible connection between that slang term and the interjection.
used to express mild annoyance or irritation.
— No etymology, but I can’t think of a possible offensive origin. I’m still researching this one, but am considering it innocent until proven guilty.
[trans.] (vulgar slang) have sexual intercourse with.
• [intrans.] (of a couple) have sexual intercourse.
• [in imperative] (informal) used to express anger or contempt
— Note: I couldn’t get a definite, but I’m pretty sure that the phrase “screw up” is linked to this definition.
used as a euphemism for SHIT
— Sorry, but that’s the sad truth. And to think I used it all the time!
SHUCKS (also AW-SHUCKS)
used to express surprise, regret, irritation, or, in response to praise, self-deprecation : “Thank you for getting it.” “Oh, shucks, it was nothing.”
— American Heritage Dictionary gives one definition of the noun “shucks” as “Something worthless. Often used in the plural: an issue that didn’t amount to shucks.”
— Online Etymology Dictionary also notes that “Interjection shucks is 1847, from sense of “something valueless” (not worth shucks).”
– (ON/UPON) MY WORD an exclamation of surprise or emphasis : “my word, you were here quickly!” - WORD UP [as imperative ] informal LISTEN : “word up, my brother, you got me high as a kite.” - My mom and a couple of siblings thought that “oh my word” might be a euphemistic version of God’s Word; happily, it is not.
ORIGIN natural exclamation: first recorded in Scots in the early 16th cent. - I had heard that it was an acronym for “Wonder of wonders”: apparently, it is not.
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: contraction from (GOD)’S WOUNDS (i.e., those of Jesus Christ on the Cross).
Yeah…. I was, at one time, a species of particularly insufferable prig.
a self-righteously moralistic person who behaves as if superior to others.
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: of unknown origin. The earliest sense was [tinker] or [petty thief,] whence [disliked person,] esp. [someone who is affectedly and self-consciously precise] (late 17th cent.).