Most folks don’t know it, but many of the exclamations we use today date back for centuries.
Colonial Americans used the F word, and they were not afraid to call somebody a bastard, back when being illegitimate was something to be ashamed of.
Today, being a bastard carries no shame, and I've never understood why people don't understand that un-wed parents should be scorned.
Liberals celebrate bastards, from presidents to movie stars
Under stress, everybody uses colorful words.
When George Washington saw his troops retreating, he was heard to exclaim "God Damn it"!
I've read a few biographies of George Washington and he had quite a temper, a real-deal badass. Washington was cold-blooded and he once had his assistant executed because he thought that he was planning to poison him! He also threatened that he would kill his soldiers himself if they did not start killing more British people.
George Washington had been known to swear a crimson oath
Swearing a Crimson Oath!
In the classic "The Red Badge of Courage", Crane refers to profane exclamations as "oath".
Crane refers to exclaimations as "crimson oaths", "cross oaths", and "complicated oaths", quite creative in the Victorian era, back when you could not call a spade a spade:
- "He swore a complicated oath at himself."
- "The youth's reply was an outburst of crimson oaths."
- "he never drunk a drop of licker in his life, and seldom swore a cross oath"
The Red Badge of Courage: One of the best books ever written
Stephen Crane got the material for his classic book by hanging around veterans of the Fredricksburg campaign, and I'm hear to tell you that nobody can uses more colorful words than a combat veteran!
To this day, I seek out war veterans to hear their colorful war stories, very entertaining, even when they are total bullcrap.
First, we need to distinguish a real excited exclaimation from casual cursing and cussing, which is not motivated by extreme stress.
A true exclaimation happens when you hit your thumb with a hammer, an excited utterance of colorful language like the famous confession of the butthole bandit:
- "I would not have stolen them if I knew they was a**holes!”
In my notes on American Slang, I note that slang comes and goes, but “excited utterances” are also subject to the test of time.
For related archaic words of wisdom, see my collection of old Southern Sayings.
Here is my list of obsolete exclamations, expletives from years past.
dammit to hell
great caesar’s ghost (from the tv show “superman”)
jesus h. christ
snake oil salesman