6 April 2021

Gosh

Not every reader of this post will be familiar with term "etymology". Etymology concerns itself with the origins of words and how and when they came into being. Etymologists track back and explore the history of words, their usage and development.

This morning as I was cleansing the crevices of the fleshy Yorkshire Pudding receptacle in the shower, I found myself reconsidering two words that are in fairly common usage - "gosh" and "heck".

It seems that "gosh" emerged in the mid-eighteenth century as a semi-polite replacement for "God" when in exclamatory mode. By using "gosh" people were avoiding taking the name of their lord in vain. Better to say, "By gosh I am thirsty!" than "By God I am thirsty!". "Gosh" got little traction at first but its usage increased significantly in the twentieth century  and in this new century its popularity has increased quite noticeably.

"Heck" is used commonly in Yorkshire. There is even a village twenty five miles north of here called Great Heck. It entered our language long after "gosh" but just like "gosh", its popularity has grown steadily through the last hundred years. It began as a socially acceptable replacement for the term "hell" as used in exclamations. Better to say, "What the heck is going on?" than "What the hell is going on?"

"Hell" was a jarring curse word in refined company but "heck" was quite mild in  comparison. You could get away with "heck".

I guess that "gosh" and "heck" both owed much to the rise of Methodism in an industrialising  world with increasing social pressures to live and speak decently in a god-fearing world policed by the whispers of one's neighbours.

Now the etymology of the "f" word with which we are all so familiar is one that for reasons of propriety I shall not explore in this blogpost. However, Wikipedia examines the word in dispassionate and fascinating detail should you be interested.

46 comments:

  1. I researched that word a while back after an interesting conversation with an old editor. My sister says H-E-double toothpicks a lot. I have been known to bewail 'summer ditches'. On the flip side I once had an unfortunate outburst in a sacristy.

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    1. I hope you had some tissues with you Debby.

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    2. Well I was more in need of a fire extinguisher maybe.

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  2. Flippin' 'eck. My friend Bad Mother Tucker will be impressed.

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    1. Did you ever hear that nursery rhyme - Little Tommy Tucker?

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  3. I used to know a VERY Christian man and was in several plays with him when I did that sort of thing. Another friend, although a robust Episcopalian, had no fear of using the Lord's name in vain and so on. He was telling the Christian guy once that his use of words like "gosh" and "heck" were simply substitutes for the real words so what was the point? The Christian guy totally defended his mild word choices and swore (in a very Christian way) that the words he used were NOT substitutes at all. He then proceeded to tell the Episcopalian guy that he should read the Left Behind series of books about the Rapture. Episcopalian Guy just said, "No." I'm still laughing.

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    1. Well, I never knew that you were an actress. As your fellow actors were Christians may I assume that you often played the part of a nun? Sister Mary has a nice ring to it.

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    2. "Left Behind"? Oh, Jesus!

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    3. Ah- go back some years in my blog. It was quite a thing in my life, Mr. P. I loved it. Not so much the performances but the thrill of making the words on a page come to life with other people.

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  4. Flipping heck. You learn something new on your blog YP. I have known the expression to be used in the red rose county too.

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  5. I knew a very Christian guy that used to exclaim: "SON OF A BEE STING!" when he was feeling vexed about something. Ha.

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    1. Oh duck off Jenifer! I can't trucking believe you.

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  6. As I began to read above about etymology in the shower I was about to suggest silverfish.

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    1. Silverfish in your shower? Who ya goin' to call? Silverfish Busters.

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  7. Lots of words have interesting origins - including blogging which I was researching recently for my next book - on blogging of course! Sometimes we lose the meaning of words too - like jealous and envy which we now use interchangeably but originally had very different meanings. Envy was to covet something which someone else has (which is how we use the word jealous today) whereas originally to be jealous was to 'hold on to something you already had' - we still use this meaning when we say 'jealously guard'. So for example a person might be jealous of their girl friend's affections while being envious of her new car!
    Enough - words are interesting through as you say.

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    1. Thanks for clarifying "envy" and "jealousy" TBS. It is good to use words with clarity and understanding - as far as possible anyway.

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  8. What about "hechy thump" then YP? I have a friend who hails from your part of the world, and when she was frustrated, she would always say hecky thump! As youngsters, we though it was a splendid way to swear.

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    1. Thanks to Martin J. Pitt:-
      There are three components:

      (H)eck ee thump.

      Heck is a euphemism, a substitute for the word hell, when the latter was considered a severe swear word. Saying “what the h-” suggests you are going to use the forbidden word, but the euphemism is there instead. With prolonged use the h has dropped out in some dialects. (Similarly the expression “for crying out loud!” normally with the word for being said fuh appears to be the start of fuck.)

      Ee or eeh is an exclamation, like oh. Common in Lancashire.

      Thump is another euphemism, in fact a general term to replace other swear words. Thus: “What the thump have you done!”, “thumping heck” “Did he do it right? Did he thump!”

      Thus it is a combination of three terms expressing surprise or alarm, none of which are strictly objectionable, more expressive than using just one.

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    2. Oh, I'm glad we didn't know that when we were young - we might have looked for something less acceptable to use!

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    3. Eck ee thump Lass! Tha shoulda washed thy gob oot wi salt n' watter!

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  9. I love to swear and swear often. I find it very satisfying. Thought you might enjoy this video on the many uses of "fuck".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86zlSplwK2A

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    1. Thanks for sharing the video Lily and for enhancing my ****ing language skills.

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  10. Like what happened with God and hell, we have softer ways of using the 'f' word but none have quite the impact of the original.

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    1. I didn't think that Australians were in the least bit interested in swearing!

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  11. Can't remember when I said gosh or heck but I am a keen swearer.

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  12. An eighty-something member of my craft group uses both the F word and her own made up euphemism "bad word! bad word!" to express herself. I am constantly confused as to how she can justify using both.

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    1. Do you curse yourself Jenny? Which words do you use?

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    2. https://bluebirdofbitterness.com/2021/04/07/hooked-on-phonics-2/

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  13. My mother-in-law often says "flippin' 'eck" when she tells me about something that upset her. In constrast, Steve used the original f-word freely.
    Etymology is one of the most fascinating subjects for me. O.K. and I often compare notes, being from different parts of Baden-Wuerttemberg - he is from Baden and I am from Wuerttemberg. His area being so close to the French border, they have more French in their dialect than we do. I love to learn about place names in particular, and like all the Danish/Norse sounding Yorkshire place names such as Thirsk.

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    1. I am also fascinated by place names. The suffix -by for example is far more prevalent in Yorkshire than in the south of England - a pointer to our Viking connections of long ago.

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  14. All interesting, comments included. swearing is of course a verbal release of pent up frustration, what you choose on the scale of 1 to 10 is really up to the problem you are facing. Never used 'gosh' too upmarket;)

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    1. No - I have never used "gosh" myself. I prefer earthy Anglo Saxon epithets instead. The real thing.

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  15. I guess I always assumed gosh was polite shorthand for God, and heck for hell. Just as darn is polite shorthand for damn. And then there are combos like gosh darnit!

    I pretty much gave up being polite about my cursing, and now I just curse. Unless I'm writing my blog. For some reason I don't like putting curse words in writing!

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    1. You may have noticed that I am also averse to using swear words in this blog.

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  16. We don't use "gosh" or "heck" here. Interesting to know their beginnings. "Aiyoh" is common here and "Alamak!" Reading your post, I had to go to Wikipedia and read about THAT word.

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    1. I just looked your two words up. They do not appear to be swear words - just exclamations of annoyance or exasperation.

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  17. There are certain words, most of them Anglo-Saxon, which never pass my lips. Whether they are curse words or merely ‘earthy’ and vulgar may be up for discussion but I will never say them. A neighbor woman once told my mother, ‘He wouldn’t say “s—t” if he had a mouthful’.

    Tthe discussion upthread about how the meanings of envy and jealousy have changed reminded me that the deaf community hate the phrase ‘deaf and dumb’ because dumb has come to mean stupid whereas it once meant non-speaking (as in the Bible verse “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth”). The deaf community prefer the phrase ‘deaf and mute’ instead.

    It follows as the night the day if ‘we are from different parts of Baden-Wuerttenberg’ that he would be from Baden and she would be from Wuerttenberg. That made me laugh out loud!

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    1. I know you are a student of words. Living in different parts of America, I guess you have noticed some linguistic differences.

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  18. I have recently read a wonderful book called The Dictionary of Lost Words which I think you would enjoy. Set in a background of the compilation of the first Oxford Dictionary and the fight for the vote for women it gives a wonderful insight into the mechanics of making a dictionary and defining the meanings of words.

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    1. Thank you Helen. That certainly sounds like a book that would captivate me.

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  19. I have recently "read" a wonderful book called The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams which I think you would enjoy. Set in a background of the compilation of the first Oxford Dictionary and the fight for the vote for women it gives a wonderful insight into the mechanics of making a dictionary and defining the meanings of words.
    I actually listened to it as an audible book which really brought the different characters to life. cheers

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  20. OOps, pressed send without realising it so it went twice !!

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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