Posted by Michael on September 22, 2001
In Reply to: Holy cow posted by ESC on August 07, 2001
: : was this only a modern phrase..
: I don't know. Here's what I found: "Holy smoke!, 1889; Holy cats!, Holy mackerel!, both 1803; Holy Moses!, 1906, Holy cow!, 1942." From I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).
: It would seem to possibly refer to India's consideration of the cow as holy. A man from India explained to me that the cow was considered holy in old times because the mothers, a lot of times, died during childbirth. The cows took over (with their milk, of course) as a sort of surrogate mother. Of course, I have basis as to whether this is factual, but it appeased my curiosity for the time.