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16 Expletives We Should Definitely Bring Back

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Getty Images / iStock

Some words are just perfect for shouting out in exasperation. These oldies will make you feel better the moment they pass your lips.

1. ZOONTERS!

This one got a little play in the 18th century as a minced oath—a swear that was modified to avoid being offensive. It’s a further mincing of zounds, which was itself a mincing of “his wounds,” as in Christ’s. Keep it handy in case you stub your toe in church.

2. OONS!

If zoonters is pushing it too close to the edge of blasphemy, just cut it down by a few more sounds. Oons was another minced oath formed off zounds.

3. DODGAST!

Much in the way that familiar forms like dagnabbit and doggone are ways to avoid saying God damn it! and God damned!, dodgast takes on the burden of God blast it! and makes it safe for children.

4. ADOD!

Yet another obsolete way to get the satisfaction of a swear without the taking of the Lord’s name in vain, this minced oath from the 17th century stands in for oh God. Its sibling egad! survived longer.

5. CRIVENS!

This one is a creative mashup of Christ! and heavens! It’s put to good use in this line from the 1935 book Shipbuilders: “Holy crivens, I nearly broke my flakin’ back.”

6. I SNORE!

Once you go a little bit out of your way to avoid some blasphemy, no reason not to keep going even further. The exclamation I snore! was an early American way to avoid even saying the word swear. In 1790, the Massachusetts Spy reported that “in one village you will hear the phrase ‘I snore,’—in another, ‘I swowgar.’”

7. BY SNUM!

If snore or swowgar isn’t far enough from offensive for you, there’s also snum. Snum came from vum, which itself came from vow

8. BYR’LADY!

Not to be confused with beer lady!, this one was formed from “by our lady.”

9. RABBIT!

You’ve probably heard of drat! And rats! They started as God rot!, but before that, it was rendered as rabbit—as in “Rabbit the fellow!” from Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews.

10. WHAT THE RATTLE!?

There’s only one citation for this one in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it’s a good one, from 1790: “But what the rattle makes you look so tarnation glum?”

11. BONES OF ME!

This 16th century exclamation could show up as bones of me! or bones of you! The bones are the part of the body with the most staying power after death, so the expression has a force akin to “over my dead body” without the “don’t you dare” part.

12. GOOD LACK!

In addition to good God! And good heavens! There was good lack! Related to alack! and a sense of lack meaning fault or moral failing. It was used to express dismay at a state of affairs.

13. LOVANENTY!

An exclamation of shock and surprise, it’s probably from the phrase Lord defend thee. It also showed up as lockanties, lockintee, and lokins in Scotland.

14. MEGSTIE ME!

Another expression of surprise, it might be related to mighty. Other forms were megsty, maiginty, and megginstie, or meggins for short.

15. STAP MY VITALS!

This one probably started with Lord Foppington, a character in the 1697 comedy Relapse, who had a problem with pronouncing o as a.

16. SUPERNACULUM!

An obsolete exhortation to drink, this was a jokey combination of Latin and German. There was a German phrase auf den Nagel trinken or “drink to the nail,” meaning “drain your glass to the last drop.” Naculum was a play on what Nagel would sound like in Latin. Add super- or “over” to it and you’ve got supernaculum, which you can cry out as you turn your glass over to show you’ve chugged it all.

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Designer Reimagines the Spanish Alphabet With Only 19 Letters
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According to designer José de la O, the Spanish alphabet is too crowded. Letters like B and V and S and Z are hard to tell apart when spoken out loud, which makes for a language that's "confusing, complicated, and unpractical," per his design agency's website. His solution is Nueva Qwerty. As Co.Design reports, the "speculative alphabet" combines redundant letters into single characters, leaving 19 letters total.

In place of the letters missing from the original 27-letter Spanish alphabet are five new symbols. The S slot, for example, is occupied by one letter that does the job of C, Z, and S. Q, K, and C have been merged into a single character, as have I and Y. The design of each glyph borrows elements from each of the letters it represents, making the new alphabet easy for Spanish-speakers to learn, its designer says.

Speculative Spanish alphabet.
José de la O

By streamlining the Spanish alphabet, de la O claims he's made it easier to read, write, and type. But the convenience factor may not be enough to win over some Spanish scholars: When the Royal Spanish Academy cut just two letters (CH and LL) from the Spanish alphabet in 2010, their decision was met with outrage.

José de la O has already envisioned how his alphabet might function in the real world, Photoshopping it onto storefronts and newspapers. He also showcased the letters in two new fonts. You can install New Times New Roman and Futurysma onto your computer after downloading it here.

[h/t Co.Design]

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