Idiom question -- Re: holy expletive batman!

James Smith jsmithjamessmith at YAHOO.COM
Thu Jan 20 20:23:29 UTC 2000

I've been told, by someone who used it in the wrong
place (England) and was strongly reprimanded, that
"holy cow" is an insulting (no kidding!) reference to
the Queen of England.


--- Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM wrote:
> 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!
> [snip]
> [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
> blasphemy.
> 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?
> --M.
> -- 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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