minced oath

According to Wikipedia, a “minced oath” is a euphemistic expression formed by misspelling, mispronouncing, or replacing a part of a profane, blasphemous, or taboo term to reduce the original term’s objectionable characteristics.

In other words, you’re cursing but pretending you’re not. Minced oaths have been used from ancient times in the universal art of swearing. They are often religious in nature because it wasn’t acceptable to use the name of a god in everyday speech. People in the media often still include minced oaths instead of profanity in their writing or speech so that they will not offend audiences or incur censorship.

The Cretan king Rhadamanthus is said to have forbidden his subjects to swear by the gods, suggesting that they instead swear by the ram, the goose or the plane tree. Aristophanes mentions that people used to swear by birds instead of by the gods, adding that the soothsayer Lampon still swears by the goose “whenever he’s going to cheat you.”

Common methods of forming a minced oath are rhyme and alliteration. Thus the word bloody can become blooming, or ruddy. Alliterative minced oaths such as darn or dang for damn allow a speaker to avoid saying the prohibited word.

Sometimes words borrowed from other languages become minced oaths; for example, poppycock comes from the Dutch pappe kak, meaning “soft dung.” The minced oath “blank” is an ironic reference to the dashes that are sometimes used to replace profanities in print. By the 1880s, it had given rise to the derived forms “blanked” and “blankety,” which were combined  to give the name of the popular British TV show Blankety Blank. And “bleep” arose from the use of a tone to mask profanities on radio.

Late Elizabethan drama contains a profusion of minced oaths, probably due to Puritan opposition to swearing. Swearing on stage was officially banned by the Act to Restraine Abuses of Players in 1606, and a general ban on swearing followed in 1623.

Though there are still some taboos about discussing certain subjects, we are fortunate in being more able to say what we honestly think, and emphasizing it however we choose. It’s been a long time coming, though. In 1941 a US federal judge threatened a lawyer with contempt of court for using the word “darn.” And just recently, a religious organization was up in arms over an advertisement that used “damn.”

Here are some examples of minced oaths:

Jesus Christ — crikey, criminy, cripes, gee whiz, gee willikers, Judas Priest

By God — by George, gosh, gum, Jove, begorrah 

By Jesus — bejabbers

God blind me — cor blimey

God damn — dagnabbit, doggone, dangnation, gosh darned

God rot it — drat

Good God — good grief, goodness gracious, gosh

For Christ’s sake — For crying out loud

For St. Michael’s sake — For the love of Mike

For St. Peter’s sake — For Pete’s sake

Fucking — freaking 

Fucking hell — flaming heck

Holy shit — Holy spit 


  One thought on “minced oath

  1. Leanne Taylor
    March 15, 2020 at 7:40 am

    By jabbering freaking criminy, you’re hilarious!


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