Web Truth

Is it OK for a Christian to Swear?

Is it OK for a Christian to swear or to use euphemisms for swear words (sometimes called ‘minced oaths’)?

Our culture may assert that swearing is “only words”, but Christians should be mindful of the purpose for which God gave words. Language is to be used for what glorifies God. Furthermore, what comes out of one’s mouth is an indication of what is in one’s heart.

The article below by Bob Berry – a Christian gentleman from the UK with a special interest in etymology – lists over 100 words and expressions that should be avoided by Christians. It give us no pleasure to list these words and phrases on Webtruth but, in light of the fact that many of them are used unwittingly by sincere believers, it is surely worth briefly explaining what they really mean so that it may be true of us, in the words of Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt word go out of your mouth” (Eph 4:29, JND).

The dictionaries from which this information has been sourced are listed at the end of the article.


Isaiah said: “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips”.

That is equally true of us today, and Christians should be on guard to ensure that their speech is always wholesome. Sometimes worldly expressions are used without realising their underlying meanings. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” says James 3:11. And Psalm 14:3 says: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips”. This article sets out some of the commonest expressions, and believers are invited to consider whether any of these should be found in their conversation.

Many are euphemisms, i.e. words substituted for intended words. Often the intended word is hinted at by teasingly lengthening out the beginning of the word – for example: s-ugar. Some are back-formation, e.g. Mick Bliss (rhyming slang for piss) is shortened to Mick to give “taking the Mick”. Often this results in the original meaning being completely obscured. The most obvious examples of bad language are left out, which surely no Christian would include in his or her vocabulary.

In addition to the listed examples we do well also to consider more wholesome expressions like: “to tell you the truth”, and “to be quite honest”, which convey that our speech is not always truthful and honest.

A
All that jazz – from sexual intercourse, 1950s.

B
Balderdash – euphemism for male genitals 16-17c.
Beggar, silly, little, etc. – euphemism for sodomite. 19c.
Berk – back formation rhyming slang from Berkeley Hunt for female genitals. 1930s.
Blazes! what the; get the – hell. 19c.
Bleeding – euphemism for bloody. Mid 19c.
Blimey! Gor blimey! – abbreviations for God blind me! Late 19c.
Bloody – orig. uncertain, but meant offensively. Late 17c.
Blooming – alliterative euphemism for bloody. Late 19c.
Blow! Blow me down! – veiled oath. 19c.
Blow a raspberry – back formation rhyming slang from raspberry tart for breaking wind. Late 19c.
Bottle, have the, or lose one’s – back formation rhyming slang from bottle and glass for anus. 1950s.
Bugger – sodomite. 18c.
Bull – euphemism for bull excrement. 1910s.
Bunk – used to be unacceptable. 20c.
Bush whacked – very drunk. 1960s.
By! – abbreviation for By God! 16c.
By George! – euphemism for By God! 1842.
By Jingo! – euphemism for By Jesus! Mid 19c.
By Jove! – pagan substitute for God. 16c.

C
Care a stuff! – copulation. 1970s.
Care a toss! – masturbation. Mid 18c.
Charlie, look a – back formation rhyming slang from Charlie Hunt, for female genitals. 20c.
Clappers, go like – rhyming slang. Clappers = bell = hell. 1940s.
Cobblers – back formation rhyming slang from cobblers’ awls for male genitals. 1930s.
Cock-up – copulation. 1920s.
Cor! – euphemism for Christ/Lord! 1920s.
Crap – excrement. Late 19c.
Cream-crackered – rhyming slang for knackered (which see). 20c.
Crikey! – euphemism for Christ! Mid 19c.
Cripes! – euphemism for Christ! 20c.
Crud – euphemism for excrement, 1950s.
Crumbs! – euphemism for Christ! 1930s.

D
Dang! Darn! Dash! – euphemism for Damnation! Mid 19c.
Deuce! What the – euphemism for the Devil. 17c.
Devil! What the – self explanatory. 17c.
Dickens! – probably euphemism for the Devil. Late 16c.
Dickhead – from male genitals. 1960s.
Doggone – euphemism for God damn. 1851.
Dork – from male genitals. 1960s.
Drat! – euphemism for God rot! 1844.

E
Ee by gum! – euphemism for By God! Early 18c.
Eff off! – euphemism for copulation. 1920s.

F
Fanny Adams – euphemism for copulation. 1910s.
Feel the vibes – occult. 1960s.
Fiddlesticks! – euphemism for male genitals. 17c.
Flaming – from hell; euphemism for copulation. 1920s.
Flipping – euphemism for copulation. 1910s.
For crying out loud! – euphemism for For Christ’s sake! 1920s.
For heaven’s sake! – euphemism for For God’s sake!
Frigging – euphemism for copulation. 18c.

G
Gee! Gee Whiz! – euphemism for Jesus! 19c.
Get one’s finger out – sexual connotation. 1940s.
Get stuffed! – copulation. 1940s.
Git – bastard. 1940s.
Give a Friar Tuck – rhyming slang for copulation. 1940s.
Give a monkey’s – buttocks. Late 19c.
Golly! – euphemism for God! Mid 18c.
Good grief! – from Christ’s sufferings. 1930s.
Good heavens! – euphemism for Good God. Late 19c.
Goodness! – euphemism for God! 19c.
Goodness me! – euphemism for My God! 19c.
Gor! – euphemism for God. 1920s.
Gordon Bennett! – euphemism for God! Late 19c.
Gosh! – euphemism for God. Mid 18c.
Gracious! – euphemism for God! 18c.
Great Scott! – euphemism for God! 1884.

H
Heck – euphemism for hell. 18c.
Hocus Pocus – garbled Latin for “This is the body” (hoc set corpus) late 17c.
Holy cow! – euphemism for Holy Christ! 1920s.
Holy smoke! – euphemism for Holy Spirit! 1920s.

I
I bet – gambling term.
I wager – gambling term.

J
Jeepers! – euphemism for Jesus! 1920s.
Jeez! – euphemism for Jesus! 1920s.
Jerk – from ejaculation of sperm. 1930s.
Jesus wept! – irreverent use of holy scripture. 1922.
Jiggered – from sexual intercourse, male genitals. Mid 19c.
Jiminy Cricket! – euphemism for Jesus Christ! 1922.
Judas Priest! – euphemism for Jesus Christ! 1922.

K
Knackered – from male genitals. 1950s.

L
Like Billy-o! – possible reference to the Devil. Late 19c.
Like blazes! – euphemism for hell. Early 19c.
Lost his marbles – euphemistic for male genitals. 1920s.
Lumme! – Lord love me (taking His name in vain). Late 19c.

M
Mind-blowing – from hallucinogenic drugs. 1960s.
My! – abbreviation for My God!
My godfathers! – euphemism for My God!
My word! – euphemism for My God! Mid 19c.

N
Naff off! – euphemism for copulation. 1950s.
Nuts! – from male genitals. Mid 19c.

O
O Lor’! – Oh Lord! Mid 19c.
Oh my giddy aunt! – euphemism for O my God!
On the cards – from fortune-telling, tarot reading. Mid 19c.

P
Pillock – from male genitals. 14c.
Play gooseberry – play the devil. Mid 19c.
Plonker – from male genitals. Mid 19c.
Poppycock – excrement. Mid 19c.
Prat – buttocks. 1960s.
Prick – male genitals. Late 16c.

R
Rollicking – euphemism for male genitals. 1920s.
Ruddy – rhyming slang for bloody. 1910s.

S
Screw up, screw someone – copulation. 1940s.
Sheesh! – euphemism for Jesus or excrement. 1950s.
Sherbert! – euphemism for excrement. 1934.
Short and curlies – public hair. 1990s.
Shove it, Shuff off – anal copulation. 1940s.
Shucks! – euphemism for excrement. Mid 19c.
Sod – homosexual. Mid 19c.
Squirt – from diarrhoea. Mid 19c.
Stick it, you can – anal insertion. 1940s.
Strewth! – God’s truth! Late 19c.
Stuff that! Get stuffed! – copulation. 1930s.
Suffering cats! – euphemism for Suffering Christ. Late 19c.
Sugar! – euphemism for excrement. Late 19c.
Sweet Fanny Adams/Sweet FA – euphemism for copulation. 1910s.

T
Take the Micky – back formation rhyming slang from Mick Bliss for urine. 1930s.
Talk of the Devil! – self-explanatory. 20c.
Tarnation! – euphemistic for damnation, Late 18c.
Teed off – substitute for peed off. 1950s.
Tosser – masturbator. 1970s.
Twat – female genitals. 1920s.

U
Up the creek (without a paddle) – euphemism for anal copulation. 1930s.
Up yours! – anal insertion. 1950s.

W
Wazzock – masturbator. 1990s.
Well I’ll be – abbreviation for I’ll be damned. 15c.
Wham bam thank you Ma’am! – perfunctory sexual intercourse. 20c.
Wick, get on my – back formation rhyming slang form Hampton Wick for male genitals. Late 19c.

Y
You know where you can put it! – anal insertion. 1920s.
You know what you can do with it! – anal insertion. 1920s.

Sources:
A Dictionary of American Slang – Wentworth and Flexner, 1975.
A Dictionary of Sailors’ Slang – Wilfred Granville, 1962.
A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English – Eric Partridge, 1984.
A Dictionary of the Underworld – Eric Partridge, 1968.
Oxford Dictionary of Slang – John Ayto & John Simpson, 1999.
Slang and its Analogues – John S Farmer & W. E. Henley, 1890.
Swearing – Geoffrey Hughes, 1998.
The Cassell Dictionary of Slang – Jonathon Green, 2000.
The Collins English Dictionary – 1989.
The Faber Dictionary of Euphemisms – R.W. Holder, 1989.
The Underground Dictionary – Eugene E. Landy, 1967.
Yale Book of Quotations – F R Shapiro, 2006.

Copyright: Bob Berry (2008)