Monday, June 29, 2009

Minced Oaths

Following my recent post about the euphemism crimanetly, I have heard about many additional expressions/exclamations of irritation from friends and readers. Upon looking up some of these expressions, I learned something new - there is a special category of euphemisms called "minced oaths" which is applied to exclamations.

According to a site called The Phrase Finder, "Minced oaths are a sub-group of euphemisms used to avoid swearing when expressing surprise or annoyance. They are usually, although not exclusively, religious in nature and date from the days when it wasn't acceptable to use the name of God, Jesus or other religious notables in everyday speech. To mince your words, or mince matters, means to choose words so as not to offend anyone."

Wikipedia notes that a minced oath is also sometimes called a pseudo-profanity or an expletive-deletive.

Here are some examples:

Begorrah = By God

Bejabbers = By Jesus

Blimey = Blind me

Blinking heck = Bloody Hell

By George = By God

By golly = By God's body

By gosh = By God

Cheese and Crackers = Jesus Christ

Cor blimey/Gorblimey = God blind me

Crikey/Cripes = Christ

Crivvens = Christ defend us

Dagnabbit/Dangnabbit/Dagnammit = God damn it

Dang/Darn = Damn

Drat = God rot it

Flaming/Flipping heck = Fucking Hell

For crying out loud = For Christ's sake

For Pete's sake = For St. Peter's sake

For the love of Mike = For St. Michael's sake

Freaking/Flipping = fucking

Gadzooks = God's hooks

Good garden party = Good God

Holy spit = Holy shit

Jason Crisp/Jiminy Cricket/Judas Priest = Jesus Christ

Jebus/Jeez/Jehosaphat = Jesus

Jumping Jehosaphat = Jumping Jesus

Land sakes = For the Lord's sake

Lawks a mercy = Lord have mercy

Odds-bodkins = God's sweet body

Sacré bleu = Sang de Dieu (God's blood)

Sam Hill = Hell

Shoot/Shucks = shit

Strewth = God's Truth

Suffering succotash = Suffering Saviour

Tarnation = Damnation

What in Sam Hill? = What in damn Hell?

Zounds = God's wounds

The Phrase Finder site also points out that even though new euphemisms appear on a regular basis, new minced oaths are quite rare and this may be because, "restrictions on swearing out loud when surprised or annoyed have slackened somewhat."

Interesting observation...if you ask me, restrictions hardly exist at all anymore and expletives are more the norm than the exception.


Erin Davis said...

I agree. Most of these euphemisms seem outdated and quaint, because we are now more accustomed to hearing the real thing. Judas Priest!

Carlos said...


Can't say I've ever heard cheese and crackers, but I have heard of cheese and rice.

Jinx said...

My French teacher used to say "Shut the fff–ront door!"

Virtual Linguist said...

Sugar is quite common here (UK) to avoid saying 'Shit!'. Then there's the old-fashioned 'fiddlesticks', another f-word. The OED tells me that Hoboken is an American euphemism for hell. We used to have Go to Hanover or Go to Halifax (the Yorkshire, England town is meant).
I blogged on euphemisms for hell

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