Posted by The Fallen on January 04, 2002

In Reply to: Bloody posted by Sauerkraut on January 04, 2002

: : : Some time ago I read that the term 'bloody' as used in swearings ('that bloody bastard') is just the short form of 'bless our Lady'. Is that correct?

: : It doesn't seem to be. Here's what the Oxford English Dictionary says:
: : "The origin is not quite certain; but there is good reason to think that it was at first a reference to the habits of the 'bloods' or aristocratic rowdies of the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th c. The phrase 'bloody drunk' was apparently = 'as drunk as a blood' (cf. 'as drunk as a lord'); thence it was extended to kindred expressions, and at length to others; probably, in later times, its associations with bloodshed and murder (cf. a bloody battle, a bloody butcher) have recommended it to the rough classes as a word that appeals to their imagination. We may compare the prevalent craving for impressive or graphic intensives, seen in the use of 'jolly', awfully', 'terribly', 'devilish', deuced', 'damned', 'ripping', 'rattling', 'thumping', 'stunning', 'thundering', etc. There is no ground for the notion that 'bloody', offensive as from associations it now is to ears polite, contains any profane allusion or has connexion with the oath ' 's blood!'"

: : Incidentally, the OED also says this of "bloody":
: : "In general colloquial use from the Restoration to c 1750; now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered 'a horrid word', on a par with obscene or profane language, and usually printed in the newspapers (in police reports, etc.) 'b ---- y'."

: : These extracts are from the First Edition . The OED editors now say their policy is descriptivist, not prescriptivist. The pendulum must have swung.

: I have always wondered why rendering an obsenity in print is better when dashes are substituted for the internal letters. Everyone knows the word from the first and last letters and the context. Those few gentle souls who can't figure it out probably wouldn't be helped by having the entire word before them. Lest I be misunderstood, I don't favor the indiscriminate use of any vulgarities in print or speech. Such things should be used sparingly and to indicate great emotion or pain. I've listened to too many people who vulgarize their speech so liberally that if one struck all of the useless words, they have little to say. Maybe that's why they do it.

This may be apocryphal, but I seem to remember from somewhere that the origins of "bloody" as a mild and/or intensifying vulgarity are much older than C17th, and date back to Chaucerian times. I believe that it is a crucifixion reference, and a contraction of "by God's blood", and therefore blasphemous in that it takes the Lord's name in vain. Older English was full of such odd religious epithets, a couple of which spring instantly to mind as examples, namely "zounds" (by Christ's wounds) and the more recently used "blimey" (God blind me).

But then again, I could be entirely mistaken...