Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oh Great Godfrey Daniels

Lately I've taken up the habit of saying 'Oh Great Godfrey Daniels.'  You know, like when I get almost all the way home and I realize I forgot to buy bread.  Or when I see something so totally stupid on the news.  (Anyone else hear the phrase 'testimony error' last week?  In my dictionary, it means 'oh, great godfrey daniels, he lied'.)

Well, yesterday Daughter pointed out my frequent use of the phrase and asked me what it meant.  And you know what?  I had no idea.  In fact, I had no idea where I'd even heard the phrase or why it's been so prevalent in my speech these days.  (I mean other than that there are so many D'oh moments I have to say something, and this phrase tickles my fancy for some reason.)

Enter my favorite time-wasting activity: RESEARCH

Turns out the phrase was popularized by one of my favorite actors when I was a child: W.C. Fields.

It also turns out that Godfrey Daniel is what is referred to as a Minced Oath - or "a sub-group of euphemisms used to avoid swearing when expressing surprise or annoyance."  You've probably used one or many of the typical minced oaths at some point in your life - saying darn instead of damn is probably the one that most people run across.

The site linked above says 'Godfrey Daniel' simply means 'God', but I'm more inclined to think it was created as a substitute for God Damn.  (Notice the two word and beginning sound similarities.)  Now, of course, saying 'Oh great god damn' doesn't really have much meaning, but I'm still sticking with Godfrey Daniels.

Some of the other fun minced phrases are:

Jiminy Cricket = Jesus Christ (and I'm pretty sure it meant that before Disney gave him fame)
Odds Bodkins = God's sweet body
Sufferin' Succotash = Suffering Saviour (oh, Sylvester, what a potty-mouth you were)
Gadzooks = God's hooks (which is a way of referring to the nails from the cross)

Another oft-used phrase of mine is 'What in the Sam Hill?' which I now know means What in the Damn Hell?  I like my version better.  It's more vibrant and colorful.

Not that I don't swear, but the more different ways I can say something rather than throw out a typical curse word, the better I feel about myself as a writer.  I mean anyone can swear - and sometimes I think some people throw curses out for affect. Those farging iceholes.  But the better man is one who finds a way to say what he needs in a different way.  ;o)

Do you use any minced phrases in your life?  Are there any other colorful phrases you'd like to share?


  1. How fun! I hadn't heard of some of these.

    The only one I can think of at the moment is: Dagnabit. I use it as a stronger version of darn, but I haven't found its origins.

    Oh, and Tarnation. I don't know anything about it, either.

  2. Heh, well apparently Canadians like to curse. Lots. Nothing else to do all winter I suppose. Even then, I tend to use nicer phrases...

    Son of a beaver -- yep, Canadian.

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph-- I don't know why...


    That's all I can think of at the moment. However, I know I use more.

  3. In my family we had an extended version of this: Great Godfrey Daniels, Dam, Blast and Furnaceworks!

  4. This is so great and informative!

  5. I had a second cousin who always used to say Judas Priest when he was exasperated. I was just watching W.C. Fields in The Golf Specialist, where is uses the phrase.