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Wednesday 19 September 2018

Nuts and Bolts: Minced Oaths.

Well, I don't know about you, but my day is brighter just for the knowledge that there are such things as minced oaths.

We all use them. If you've ever said gosh or darn or sugar! or fudge! then you were using a minced oath, which is a swear word that's been changed a bit to disguise it.

They're used exactly like normal oaths, and, apart from being less rude than the originals they also mean you're safe from being struck by lightning by an enraged deity, because anything you swear by will be almost certainly non-existent (by Jove!). 

Mind you, you have to be careful. Saying of course I'm telling the blooming truth may seem safe enough, but blooming is a substitute for bloody, which itself may be a stand-in for by-our-lady...and no one wants to upset a lady.

In England, an impetus to create minced oaths came about in 1606, when there was a ban on swearing on stage - and a further, even stronger impetus arrived in 1623, when there was a complete ban on swearing. This is why so many seventeenth century gentlemen went about saying things like Zounds! (short for God's wounds) or Gadzooks (God's hooks, which were the nails on the cross) or Odds bodikins (God's dear body).

So minced oaths have a purpose. 

But be careful. Be very careful. Blimey, for instance, is a disguised version of God blind me.

And no one wants that.

Nuts and Bolts: minced oaths. These are also sometimes called Rhadamanthine oaths, after Rhadamathus, who forbade his subjects to swear by anything but the ram, the goose, and the plane tree. 

Oh ram it! still works rather nicely.

Mince in all its senses is to do with the Latin minūtia, smallness.

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