Having discussed the meaning of “not mincing one’s words” n my previous post, it seemed logical to explore the practice of using minced oaths.
You might never have heard of a minced oath, but most of us use them all the time.
A minced oath is a term we use instead of a swear word. Just as minced words are diplomatic so as to not cause offence, minced oaths are likewise designed to express surprise or to emphasise reactions or feelings without causing offence through swearing or blasphemy.
Therefore, it’s a kind of euphemism: a word we use instead of a less polite or more uncomfortable term. We use them all the time, and there are probably thousands of them in common use in English. For example, we call the toilet “the bathroom”, we call dying “passing away” and the dead our “dearly departed”, and we refer to swearing as “colourful language”.
A minced oath can also work as an intensifier: it can give emphasis and power to a statement, just as effectively as a swearword or any other adjective or adverb. To say “that dratted virus” or “that freaking thing!” enables the speaker to inject more force and emotion into their statement without actually offending anyone.
21st century English is full of minced oaths.
Darn. Dang. Dagnabbit. Gosh. Golly. Jiminy. Jeepers Creepers. OMG. Geeze Louise. Heck. Holy Moly. Shut the front door.
If we tried to list them all, we’d be here all day.
Some are closer to actual swearing than others — in fact, some come painfully close — but most are used without causing any real offence to most people.
When I was a kid, my parents never allowed me to say anything that approximated ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ because they believed it was just as bad as using those names as blasphemy. My friends and I used to joke that “heck is where you go if you don’t believe in gosh or jeez’, but we still wouldn’t use those terms around our parents. In contrast, kids now are shocked to discover that those are the origins of their common expressions.
It’s all part of the way in which language evolves and adapts to suit different purposes and situations.
Holy Moly, It’s A Minced Oath!Tweet
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One thought on “Holy Moly, It’s a Minced Oath!”
“Toilet” is a euphemism also. It come from the French word “toilette” (ultimately from “toile” meaning “fabric”); a toilette was a small room connected to your bedroom where people would get dressed (for additional privacy, since servants could go in and out of your bedroom).