Idiom question -- Re: holy expletive batman!

Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Thu Jan 20 19:35:10 UTC 2000

This was forwarded to me by my daughter, who saw it on a mailing list. I will
pass any replies back to her. I have deleted her comments; the bracketed snip
and attribution are hers.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Subject: (fwd) Re: holy expletive batman!

[M said:]

j wrote:

> what are the origin of holy fuck, holy shit, and holy cow?
> the last seems possibly like a hindu thing, and maybe the first is either
> the immaculate conception or the virgin conception, but what could holy
> shit possibly refer to?

My gut instinct (which gets better as my gut gets bigger, no?) sez that
"holy shit" is the older of "holy shit" and "holy fuck," with the latter
being invented when the former had lost some of its edge.

Going more out on a limb, "Holy shit," I'd say, is a mixture of a
scatological swearword and a religious term, making it also a
blaspheme.  Thus, two curses in one.  Also, "Holy shit" has a certain
nice contrast to it.

"Holy cow" is probably older than "holy shit," I'd guess.  It'd be a
reference to the Baal cult, probably, not Hinduism.  Plain old

Though of course that lost its edge a very long time ago, and it may be
that "holy shit" was itself invented as an attempt to put some of the
edge back into "holy cow."

Now, do any REAL linguists want to take a crack at it?


-- end of forwarded message --

(Mark Mandel here again.)  I would expect "Holy cow!" to be the oldest, a
euphemism for "Holy Christ!" -- certainly nothing to do with  Hinduism or any
literal cow -- and the others more or less as "M" speculates, based on the
various "Holy X" interjections  like "Holy Christ!" that originated as pious
invocations. Opinions or citations, anyone?

-- Mark A. Mandel

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