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Jeepers Creepers

June 5, 2012

I was thinking recently about all the euphemistic phrases that were once commonly deployed in both British and American English to avoid blaspheming: Jeepers creepers for Jesus Christ, as well as crumbs, crikey and criminy instead of Christ and Jumping Jehosophat instead of Jesus; also, amusingly, Jesus H. Christ, as if one was was referring to someone completely different who just happened to have the first name Jesus and the surname Christ. For Christ’s sake becomes For crying out loud! Instead of God, we have gosh, golly, and golly-gosh, and Good gracious and Good grief; and the humorously distorted Gawd, itself softened into Gordon Bennet. Oh my God becomes Oh my Godfathers. Damn becomes dash, darn and drat. 

We see the same phenomenon, to a slightly less extent with rude words too: fuck becomes flip and shit turns to sugar. In French, merde is sometimes, oddly, replaced by mince (thin).

I wonder, though, as swearing and blasphemy become less taboo, whether these genteel replacements will fade away? They’re probably already doing so; I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say Jeepers creepers. 

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