Holy moley!

Posted by ESC on July 04, 2000

In Reply to: Phrase posted by Bev Glass on July 04, 2000

: Where did the phrase "holy mole" (mo-lee) come from and what does it mean?

There's a whole list of "holy" expressions under "Goddam, Darn, and Oh Perdition!" in I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).

".blasphemy has been a part of the American language from its beginning. However, the majority of respectable, religious American businessmen, parents, and old maids of the past have, at least in public, preferred milder euphemisms like 'darn!' and 'cripes!' or even more delicate mincing terms like 'Oh perdition!' and 'Shucks!'."

Among the "Minced oaths" listed by Mr. Flexner are: Holy smoke!, 1889; Holy cats! and Holy Mackerel!, both 1803; Holy Moses!, 1906; and Holy cow!, 1942.

The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 2, H-O by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994, has this entry: "moley n. (pop. As a characteristic exclamation of 'Captain Marvel,' hero of a series of comic books begun 1940, first written by C.C. Beck; perh. reflecting 'moly' 'magic herb in Greek mythology', in allusion to the invocation of mythological figures as a source of the character's powers; perh. euphem. and rhyming alt. of 'holy Moses.' In phrase: 'holy moley' (used as an exclamation of surprise). 1949 'Capt. Marvel Adventures, in Barrier & Williams 'Book of Comics' 87: Holey Moley! He got away."