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The meaning and origin of the expression: Minced oath

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Minced oath

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Minced Oaths - what they are and why they were formed

The English, being a restrained lot, have a long list of euphemistic phrases, many of which became part of the language before it spread to other parts of the world. The root cause of these is a wish to communicate without being explicit. This is something the English are particularly fond of, hence their long tradition of double-entendre comedy.

Euphemisms aren't all from the distant past though. For every Shakesperian 'beast with two backs' there's a 20th century 'knee trembler'.

Minced oaths are a sub-group of euphemisms used to avoid swearing when expressing surprise or annoyance. If you hit your thumb with a hammer when great aunt Edith is in the room what do you say? It's probably going to be a minced oath. Shakespeare might have resorted to 'gadzooks' (God's hooks - referring to the nails in the cross), we might try 'shoot' or 'freaking heck'.

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. Some example are 'Jiminy Cricket' (Jesus Christ), 'dagnamit' (God damn it'), 'for Pete's sake' (for St. Peter's sake).

It's interesting that, while we continue to generate new euphemisms, new minced oaths are few and far between. Perhaps that's because, while there are still taboos about discussing death, disability, homosexuality etc, the restrictions on swearing out loud when surprised or annoyed have slackened somewhat.

There are many examples:

Begorrah --> By God
Bejabbers --> By Jesus
Bleeding heck --> Bloody Hell
Blimey --> Blind me
Blinking heck --> Bloody Hell
By George --> By God
By golly --> By God's body
By gosh --> By God
By gum --> By God
By Jove --> By God
Cheese and Rice --> Jesus Christ
Chrissakes --> For Christ's sake
Christmas --> Christ
Cor blimey --> God blind me
Crikey --> Christ
Criminy --> Christ
Cripes --> Christ
Crivvens --> Christ defend us
Dad gum --> God damn
Dagnabbit --> God damn it
Dagnammit --> God damn it
Dang --> Damn
Dangnabbit --> God damn it
Dangnation --> Damnation
Darn --> Damn
Darnation --> Damnation
Doggone --> God damn
Drat --> God rot it
Egad --> A God
Figs --> Fuck
Fink --> Fuck
Flaming heck --> Fucking Hell
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 --> fucking
Gadzooks --> God's hooks
Gat Dangit --> God damn it
Gee --> Jesus
Gee whizz --> Jesus
Gee willikers --> Jesus
Godfrey Daniel --> God
Golly Gee willikers --> Jesus
Good garden party --> Good God
Good grief --> Good God
Goodness gracious --> Good God
Gorblimey --> God blind me
Gosh --> God
Gosh darned --> God damned
Heck --> Hell
Holy spit --> Holy shit
Jason Crisp --> Jesus Christ
Jebus --> Jesus
Jeepers Creepers --> Jesus Christ
Jeez --> Jesus
Jeezy Creezy --> Jesus Christ
Jehosaphat --> Jesus
Jiminy Christmas --> Jesus Christ
Jiminy Cricket --> Jesus Christ
Judas Priest --> Jesus Christ
Land sakes --> For the Lord's sake
Lawks a mercy --> Lord have mercy
My goodness --> My God
My gosh --> My God
Odds-bodkins --> God's sweet body
Sacré bleu --> Sang de Dieu (God's blood)
Sam Hill --> Hell
Shoot --> shit
Shucks --> shit
Strewth --> God's Truth
Suffering succotash --> Suffering Saviour
Sugar --> shit
Tarnation --> Damnation
What in Sam Hill? --> What in damn Hell?
Wish to goodness --> Wish to God
Zounds --> God's wounds