How to Swear Around the Kiddies

We have a lot of crazy sayings in our fine American dialect.  Phrases we say without thinking of the origin.   Words are modified that have already been diluted with variations.  If we ever stop and think about what we’re saying, we might be surprised.  For example, who is Pete?  Poor Pete.  If he ever wanted to remain anonymous, he’s doing a lousy job.  We shout in frustration, for the love of Pete!  And we yell, for Pete’s sake!  Who exactly is Pete and how did he score two phrases in our vernacular?

Oh, Google, can you help  us out?

According to EnglishforStudents.com, “This phrase and phrases like for Pete’s sake are euphemisms for the phrases for the love of God/Christ or for God’s/ Christ’s sake and hail from a time when those phrases were considered blasphemous. Nowadays phrases like for the love of god are commonly used, but the euphemisms are still used.

Why Pete? Most likely it is a reference to the catholic Saint Peter.”

Criminitly! That is an old saying.  Wait, what exactly is a criminitly?  UrbanDictionary.com can help us out with this one.  “An old saying used to express surprise or shock.  As used by ‘The Honorable Sheriff of Nottingham’ in the Walt Disney Film ‘Robin Hood’.”  So, is it old as if in the golden age of Walt Disney or old as if in the actual Robin Hood era?  Funtrivia.com explains, “It’s certainly a mild exclamation or cry of astonishment or annoyance, now much weaker in force than when it was first used, back in the seventeenth century, when it was usually spelled crimine or criminy. Most dictionaries that include it spell it criminy, though many variant forms exist, such as criminey, crimany, criminee and crimeny. These variations show that the word has usually been transmitted orally rather than in writing.

The usual explanation is that it is a form of Christ, much like another somewhat dated mild expletive, crikey, which came along later; but the Oxford English Dictionary suggests that it might just be a variant form of crime.

There is also an elaborated version, crimanetly, known regionally in the US, which also turns up in numerous variations, such as criminetlies, criminetly and crimanightie. The Dictionary of American Regional English has a map showing where its researchers have found these expanded versions — mainly in the northern states of the central and western US, together with California.”

Hmm, I’m noticing a trend.  We come up with some crazy sayings to avoid swearing.  Does it take the swear out of a word if we change the words?  What if we use a derogatory word from another language?  Nutter in American English is someone who gathers nuts.  But using it in England and it’s the equivalent of the American version of retard. A no-no.

Geez Louise is nothing safe?  Not geez Louise, according to UrbanDictionary.com, “A mild oath. Roughly equivalent to saying ‘Jesus Christ’ as an oath, but less severe, and used so as not to get stricken down for blasphemy.”

For cryin’ out loud!  I need to stop.

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5 thoughts on “How to Swear Around the Kiddies

  1. Watch your language! 😉 I thought there would be some other reason for some of the phrases but they all seemed to be covert swear words. Hmm. Our ancestors were pretty creative!

  2. For the most part, it seems many of these phrases were invented (or derided) from an aversion to burning in hell (lord’s name in vain and all that). I’m always fascinated by cross-atlantic translations; I couldn’t believe there was such a thing as a “fanny-pack” when I first moved to the US. That’s an infinitely ruder word in England!

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