Puritan euphemisms

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Oct 24 02:19:40 UTC 2012

At 10/23/2012 07:52 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>I took John's point to be precisely that euphemisms for
>*blasphemous* words to avoid taking the Lord's name in vain were
>relatively widespread, from "gadzooks" to "zounds" to whatever
>played the role of "goshdarned" back then, but that you wouldn't
>necessarily expect to find euphemistic substitutes for (what we
>consider) secular obscenity in general, including "pissehouse" (or
>"shite"?), given precisely the distinction you draw above.  Maybe
>I'm missing something (like what the record actually shows).

I can't recall encountering euphemisms for blasphemous words (or for
that matter obscene words).  But where would one think to find them
in 17th or 18th century American writing?  Not sermons or religious
works, which composed the majority of published material.  Not
newspapers.  (More likely, I feel, would be a dashed form -- but I
don't recall any instances either.)  Court records perhaps, but
nothing comes to mind.  Diaries?  Seems unlikely, except for someone
like William Byrd III.  Ephemera, such as broadsides humorous or
satirical?  Perhaps, but they're ephemeral, and my encounters have
been occasional and with the serious and sober -- political or
religious.  I haven't studied colloquial, secular writing, but I
suspect there wasn't much before -- when? the 3rd quarter of the 18th century?


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