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Upon My Honor

Posted by R. Berg on April 26, 2006

In Reply to: Upon My Honor posted by Bob on April 26, 2006

: : : : My father (born in East Tennessee, USA in the 1910's) always used the phrase..."'pon my honor"...or correctly..."Upon My Honor". I always wondered where he came to use that phrase. In 2003 I saw an English perios movie (1700-1800's) where the city folks arrived in their horse drawn carriage in front of their country folks estate...and as they stepped out of their carriage, the country relatives greeted them with..." Well, upon my honor, if it isn't cousin (so and so)...So, does that mean that the phrase "Upon My Honor" comes from the English and used in that period mentioned in the movie?...and does that mean in conclusion that my father may be from english ancestry?

: : : "Upon my honor" is an old phrase that used to be quite common among English speakers, presumably including more than a few Americans. Why do you say "Upon my honor" is more correct that "'Pon my honor"? Contractions have a long history in our honourable language. If your dad was named Bowers, it's a fair guess that he came from English stock. Pity you can't ask him where he learned to say "'pon my honor." Could have been from HIS dad, or he could have read it somewhere and liked it. When I was in the fifth grade I repeatedly startled Miss Hobart by saying, "Mark my words." My parents had never said this at all, but I got it out of a book and liked it for a while--mercifully, only while in the fifth grade.

: : : I'm eagerly waiting to hear what someone more English than I might say. SS

: : I certainly recognise it as a familiar phrase. It was relatively common when I was a lad, a good few years ago. It's much less common now, but not totally strange to the ear. It expresses surprise and most commonly was ''pon my honour'. A similar expression was/is 'goodness gracious me, it's cousin John'.
: : 'On my honour' has a somewhat different meaning, implying that what I'm saying is the truth

: Much of the population of East Tennessee (not to mention the rest of the Piedmont, and Appalachia) came from English, Scots or Irish stock. the language of that region changed at a slower rate than in England, so there are many Elizabethan/Shakespearean words and phrases and accents still heard there.

No one has mentioned yet that "upon my honor" is an oath. "If what I'm saying is false, consider me dishonorable." One offers one's honor (virtue, respectability) as collateral to support the truth of the statement, much as in "I'll be damned if it isn't Cousin John" or "May God strike me down if..."

I think an earlier version was "upon my honor as a gentleman."