Minced oath
A minced oath is an expression based on a profanity
Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

 or a taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

 term that has been altered to reduce the objectionable characteristics.

Many languages have such expressions. In the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, nearly all profanities have minced variants.

Examples include darn or dang instead of damn
Damnation is the concept of everlasting divine punishment and/or disgrace, especially the punishment for sin as threatened by God . A damned being "in damnation" is said to be either in Hell, or living in a state wherein they are divorced from Heaven and/or in a state of disgrace from God's favor...

; shoot or shucks instead of shit
Shit is usually considered vulgar and profane in Modern English. As a noun it refers to fecal matter and as a verb it means to defecate or defecate in; in the plural it means diarrhea...

; heck instead of hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

; flipping, freaking, fluffing, frigging, effing, fricking, farging, frakking
Frak (expletive)
Frak is a fictional version of "fuck," "shit" or "damn" first used in the original Battlestar Galactica series. It continues to be used throughout different versions of the franchise as an expletive....

, fecking
Feck has several vernacular meanings and variations in Hiberno-English, Scots and Middle English.-Modern Irish English:*Verb meaning 'to steal'...

, or funking/phunking instead of fucking
"Fuck" is an English word that is generally considered obscene which, in its most literal meaning, refers to the act of sexual intercourse. By extension it may be used to negatively characterize anything that can be dismissed, disdained, defiled, or destroyed."Fuck" can be used as a verb, adverb,...

; beotch, beach, biatch or beech for bitch;goodness, golly, gosh, or gad instead of God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

; gee, geez, geeze, or jeez instead of Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

; and crikey or cripes instead of Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

. Profanity-containing or otherwise objectionable phrases may also be minced: Criminy or crimony is an alteration of Christ's money, the thirty pieces of silver
Thirty pieces of silver
Thirty pieces of silver was the price for which Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew 26:15 in the Christian New Testament. Before the Last Supper, Judas went to the chief priests and agreed to hand over Jesus in exchange for 30 silver coins...

 in exchange for which Judas
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

 betrayed Jesus; gadzooks literally means God's hooks and refers to Jesus being nailed to the cross; and zounds is an alteration of God's wounds, the injuries
Stigmata are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, such as the hands and feet...

 that Jesus suffered while being crucified.


The most common methods of forming a minced oath are rhyme
A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. The word "rhyme" may also refer to a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or other brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes.-Etymology:...

 and alliteration
In language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of Three or more words or phrases. Alliteration has historically developed largely through poetry, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant in any syllables that, according to...

. Thus the word bloody can become blooming, or ruddy. Alliterative minced oaths such as darn for damn allow a speaker to begin to say the prohibited word and then change to a more acceptable expression. In rhyming slang, rhyming euphemisms are often truncated so that the rhyme is eliminated: prick became Hampton Wick
Hampton Wick
Hampton Wick is a Thames-side area, formerly a village, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in London, England.Famous for its market gardens until well into the twentieth century, it is now commuter-belt territory, housing developments having been built on these areas...

and then simply Hampton. Another well-known example is "cunt" rhyming with "Berkeley Hunt
Berkeley Hunt
The Berkeley Hunt is a fox hunt in the west of England. Its country lies in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire, between Gloucester and Bristol.-History:...

", which was subsequently abbreviated to "berk". Alliteration can be combined with metrical equivalence, as in the pseudo-blasphemous "Judas Priest," substituted for the blasphemous use of "Jesus Christ".

Minced oaths can also be formed by shortening: e.g., b for bloody
Bloody is the adjectival form of blood but may also be used as an expletive attributive in Australia, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Singapore, South Africa , New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Anglophone Caribbean and Sri Lanka...

or f for fuck. Sometimes words borrowed from other languages become minced oaths; for example, poppycock comes from the Low Dutch pappe kak, meaning "soft dung".
The minced oath blank is an ironic reference to the dashes that are sometimes used to replace profanities in print. It goes back at least to 1854, when Cuthbert Bede wrote "I wouldn't give a blank for such a blank blank. I'm blank, if he doesn't look as if he'd swallowed a blank codfish." By the 1880s, it had given rise to the derived forms blanked and blankety. In the same way, bleep arose from the use of a tone to mask profanities
Bleep censor
A bleep censor is the replacement of profanity or classified information with a beep sound , in television or radio...

 on radio.


The Cretan king Rhadamanthus
In Greek mythology, Rhadamanthus was a wise king, the son of Zeus and Europa. Later accounts even make him out to be one of the judges of the dead. His brothers were Sarpedon and Minos . Rhadamanthus was raised by Asterion. He had two sons, Gortys and Erythrus. Other sources In Greek mythology,...

 is said to have forbidden his subjects to swear by the gods, suggesting that they swear instead by the ram, the goose or the plane tree
Platanus is a small genus of trees native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are the sole living members of the family Platanaceae....

. Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 favored the "Rhadamanthine" oath "by the dog," with "the dog" often interpreted as referring to the bright "Dog Star," i.e., Sirius
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name "Sirius" is derived from the Ancient Greek: Seirios . The star has the Bayer designation Alpha Canis Majoris...

. Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 mentions that people used to swear by birds instead of by the gods, adding that the soothsayer Lampon still swears by the goose "whenever he's going to cheat you". Since no god was called upon, Lampon may have considered this oath safe to break.

The use of minced oaths in English dates back at least to the 14th century, when "gog" and "kokk", both euphemisms for God, were in use. Other early minced oaths include "Gis" or "Jis" for Jesus (1528).

Late Elizabethan drama contains a profusion of minced oaths, probably due to Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 opposition to swearing. Seven new minced oaths are first recorded between 1598 and 1602, including 'sblood for By God's blood from Shakespeare, 'slight for God's light from Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

, and 'snails for By God's nails from the historian John Hayward. Swearing on stage was officially banned by the Act to Restraine Abuses of Players in 1606, and a general ban on swearing followed in 1623. In some cases the original meanings of these minced oaths were forgotten; 'struth (By God's truth) came to be spelled strewth and zounds changed pronunciation so that it no longer sounded like By God's wounds. Other examples from this period include 'slid for "By God's eyelid" (1598) and 'sfoot for "By God's foot" (1602). Gadzooks for "By God's hooks" (the nails
Nail (relic)
Relics that are claimed to be the Holy Nails with which Christ was crucified are objects of veneration among some Christians, i.e., among Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. In Christian symbolism and art they figure among the Instruments of the Passion or Arma Christi, the objects associated with...

 on Christ's cross
Christian cross
The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is the best-known religious symbol of Christianity...

) followed in the 1650s, egad for oh God in the late 17th century, and ods bodikins for "By God's bodkin
Bodkin point
A bodkin point is a type of arrowhead. In its simplest form it is an uncomplicated squared metal spike, and was used extensively during the Middle Ages. The typical bodkin was a square-section arrowhead, generally up to 4½" long and ⅜" thick at its widest point, tapered down behind this initial...

s [i.e. nail
Nail may refer to:* Nail , toughened keratin at the end of an animal digit* Nail , a plate of hard horny tissue at the tip of some bird beaks* Nail , the pin-shaped fastener used in engineering, woodworking and construction...

]s" in 1709.


Although minced oaths are not as strong as the expressions from which they derive, some still find them offensive. One writer in 1550 considered "idle oaths" like "by cocke" (by God), "by the cross of the mouse foot", and "by Saint Chicken" to be "most abominable blasphemy". The minced oaths "'sblood" and "zounds" were omitted from the Folio edition of Shakespeare's play Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

, probably due to Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

-influenced censorship. In 1941 a U.S. federal judge threatened a lawyer with contempt of court
Contempt of court
Contempt of court is a court order which, in the context of a court trial or hearing, declares a person or organization to have disobeyed or been disrespectful of the court's authority...

 for using the word "darn". Zounds may sound amusing and archaic to the modern ear, yet as late as 1984 the columnist James J. Kilpatrick
James J. Kilpatrick
James Jackson Kilpatrick was an American editorial columnist and grammarian. He was a legal abstractionist, a social conservative, and an economic libertarian according to Harvard ....

 recalled that "some years ago", after using it in print, he had received complaints that it was blasphemous because of its origin as "God's wounds". (He had written an article entitled "Zounds! Is Reagan mad" in the Herald-Journal for 12 June 1973, and also used "zounds" on 11 June 1970.)

Literature and censorship

It is common to find minced oaths in literature. Writers sometimes face the problem of portraying characters who swear, and often include minced oaths instead of profanity
Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

 in their writing so that they will not offend audiences or incur censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

. Somerset Maugham referred to this problem in his 1919 novel The Moon and Sixpence
The Moon and Sixpence
The Moon and Sixpence is a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, told in episodic form by the first-person narrator as a series of glimpses into the mind and soul of the central character, Charles Strickland, a middle-aged English stockbroker who abandons his wife and children abruptly to pursue his desire...

, where he admitted:

Strickland, according to Captain Nichols, did not use exactly the words I have given, but since this book is meant for family reading, I thought it better — at the expense of truth — to put into his mouth language familiar to the domestic circle.

See also

  • Blasphemy
    Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

  • Bowdlerization
    Expurgation is a form of censorship which involves purging anything deemed noxious or offensive, usually from an artistic work.This has also been called bowdlerization, especially for books, after Thomas Bowdler, who in 1818 published an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's work that he...

  • Euphemism
    A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience...

  • Expletive deleted
    Expletive deleted
    The phrase Expletive Deleted refers to profanity which has been censored by the author or by a subsequent censor. It became popular when transcripts of Richard Nixon's internal tapes were made public. The phrase was put into the court record when the notoriously profanity-laced discussions with H....

  • Fuddle duddle
    Fuddle duddle
    In Canadian English, fuddle duddle is a euphemistic substitution for "fuck" or "fuck off", a notable use of which was by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, during his time as Prime Minister of Canada....

  • Profanity
    Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

  • Four letter word
    Four-letter word
    The phrase four-letter word refers to a set of English-language words written with four letters which are considered profane, including common popular or slang terms for excretory functions, sexual activity and genitalia, and sometimes also certain terms relating to Hell and damnation when used...

  • Eggcorn
    In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect. The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers' disease" for...

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