Bob, my wife continually tells me that there is no such thing as "good grief".
I say there is. But she keeps correcting me.
I'm gonna show her this
Here is where is came from:
, M.A. Linguistics & Opera, Tel Aviv University (2017)
It’s a good example of the euphemistic cycle that oaths undergo, especially with the social taboo on words relating to god*: it began as “Good Lord” as a quote from the Litany “Good Lord, deliver us” (basically a miserere mei
), then the taboo turned it into “Good God” and then cyclically tabooed it as well, replacing “god” with another word that begins with /g/ and also relates to the function
of the oath as an expletive (similar to replacing “****” with “shoot”) you got “Good grief!”.
People often repeat the “fact” that this term was coined by the characters on the show Charlie Brown / Peanuts
, but it merely brought into the mainstream language an oath that was marginal and dialectal.
*This stems in great part from misunderstanding/mistranslating the commandment commonly termed “thou shalt not bear God’s name in vain”, or in Hebrew: “לֹא תִשָּׂא אֶת שֵׁם ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַשָּׁוְא”. This has been taken to mean, by both Christians and Orthodox Jews, that there’s a prohibition on using god’s name (for the record, the main god’s name is Yahweh
יהוה) and then further underwent the taboo cycle and transformed into a prohibition on using the word for god itself: note the hilarious usage of “g-d” - in their minds they fooled the great Almighty with a simple dash! this g-d character is easy to trick indeed. -- (Ach, no one still does that, do they?)
However, the actual point of the third commandment is to proscribe bearing false testimony (which would require swearing which in turn requires calling on god). The people depicted in the Bible had no
problem naming the main god or any of the others. The taboo on naming gods is, however, cross-cultural.