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Posted by ESC on June 15, 2003

In Reply to: Where did "what in Tarnation" come from? posted by Tom Canazon on June 15, 2003

: where did "what in Tarnation" come from?

Merriam-Webster online says:

Main Entry: tar·na·tion
Pronunciation: "tär-'nA-sh&n
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of darnation, euphemism for damnation
Date: 1790
: DAMNATION -- often used as an interjection or intensive; often used with in

Another source says it has been used in New England since colonial times and it is "a suphemism for damnation! or damn!.The best guess is that it derives from the English 'tarnal!' which itself derives from the mild interjection 'eternal!'" From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).