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Well, I swan

Posted by ESC on June 23, 2010 at 11:59

In Reply to: Well, I swan posted by David FG on June 23, 2010 at 04:39:

: : : Is 'I swan' an American phrase? I've come across it in US literature a couple of times recently but have not heard it before it the UK.

: : Yep. References say it stands for "I swear." I (born and raised in West Virginia) use it myself occasionally.

: Where does it come from - and why? Surely even the most puritanical can't object to the word 'swear' itself (as opposed to any instance of it).


A Kentucky coworker would say, "I swan to my goodness." And I've heard, "I swanny." One reference says "I swan" is used in place of "I swear" (from the Scots "I's warrant ye" meaning "I guarantee you") as a euphemism to comply with the Bible prohibition against swearing. "Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English" by Michael B. Montgomery and Joseph S. Hall (University of Tennessee Press, 2004). Page 585.

From Bible Gateway:

Matthew 5 (King James Version):
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.