WARNING! This post contains NEARLY-ALMOST SWEARS. if you are VERY easily offended. stop reading now. Still reading? Well, you brought this on yourself.
The phrase ‘minced oaths’ sounds like a breakfast cereal to me.
‘Want the goodness of whole oaths but without the inconvenience of chewing? Try new Minced Oaths in Original and exciting Dog Egg flavour- watch as the milk turns chocolatey. Aids intestinal transit.’
Minced oaths are in fact nothing to do with dietary fibre or starting your day with something warm inside you. They’re words and phrases used to replace swear words.
Now, you may be the kind of person who doesn’t think it necessary to ever censor yourself. I’ve heard your type on the bus, using so many swear words you’d think they were a newly invented punctuation mark. Or you might be the kind of sane, meditative, well-adjusted person who sails calmly through life’s travails, batting aside the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, never feeling the need to cuss at what life has to throw at you. But, hey, even Ned Flanders has been known to swear and if it’s good enough for Nedly, then it’s good enough for me.
I admit as I’ve got older, I do swear less. Having spent the last ten years trying to be a good example to a man-child, I’ve become pretty adept at minced oaths. You will hear me slip the odd ‘crikey’ into my speech. ‘Gosh’ has been known to pass my lips, and trust me, I don’t come from a ‘gosh’ kind of background. My youth was more snakebite* and Scampi Fries than champagne and Beluga.
Some of these not-quite-swears are a bit bland, some wildly imaginative, some just weird, but I love the way humans tie themselves in knots to avoid using sounds we’ve given negative associations. Here are some of my favourites.
Replacing the S word: Shut the front door/ sugar/ shine a light.
Replacing the F word: flipping heck/ feck / fudge/ fracking/ freaking/ chuffing. And my personal favourite- effing and jeffing to describe someone swearing e.g ‘He was effing and jeffing like a Navvy’. Where does the ‘jeffing’ come from, what did poor old Jeff do to have an almost-swear named after him? Nothing. But it rhymes with ‘effing’ and we love a rhyme, don’t we?
Blimey is apparently a replacement for ‘blind me’ which I had no idea was offensive to anyone.
Replacement for Damn: dang/ dagnabit.
For God’s truth there’s strewth.
Bleeding heck replaces bloody hell, which hardly seems to be classed as a swear at all these days- the Harry Potter books are strewn with ‘bloodys’.
For by God we have begorrah and finally my favourite… Zounds (pronounced zoonds). It’s fallen out of favour but was popular during the Tudor era and was an abbreviation of God’s wounds. This one definitely needs a revival. Just imagine it,
‘Zounds, but City were flipping pants at the weekend.’ Or ‘Zounds, who’s got the chuffing remote- Strictly’s on.’
I think Ned would be diddly-dong-doodle delighted with us all.
To find more Minced Oaths visit http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/minced-oath.html
* Half cider, half lager. With the addition of blackcurrant cordial we used to call it a ‘Jellybean’, though I’ve heard it called other things. One memorable night, a boyfriend of mine regurgitated several pints of this sophisticated cocktail on a friends kitchen floor. The effect was colourful and disturbing.
Thanks as always to Kittykat for the prompt.