Posted by Masakim on September 07, 2001
In Reply to: Jesus h christ posted by marcus on January 28, 2001
: : : Does anybody know what the h stands for, and where it came from?
: : This question came up a while back. I (from the U.S.) said it was "Howard" but our British host says it's "Harold." And it comes from some naughty person changing the phrase "Hallowed be thy name" to Harold (or Howard) be thy name.
: ;) "Hark", Harold the Angel sings..."
"Haploid" is the joking answer if you're a techie, but the real
answer is probably that it comes from the Greek monogram for Jesus,
"IHS" or "IHC." The "H" is the capital form of the Greek letter
eta, but was reinterpreted as being the Latin letter "H" (that is,
"aitch"). (In the "IHC" variant, the "C" is the Byzantine Greek
form of sigma, the "S" letter.)
The IHS or IHC monogram was (and still is) used on religious articles as an emblem, and people unfamiliar with the Greek assumed that the "H" was a part of the name "Jesus" or of "Jesus Christ." (A similar mistake was made many centuries earlier; a common spelling of Jesus in medieval Latin was "Ihesus.")
The use of "Jesus H. Christ" as a profane oath dates back at least to the late nineteenth century, but was probably around earlier. Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography that even in his childhood the oath was considered old.
From The Mavens' Word of the Day (13 June 1996)