Euphemisms for The Lord’s Name: To Use or Not to Use? That is the Question… for Christians


My sisters in Christ, Dr. John MacArthur is preparing to finish a three-part series, at Grace Community Church (Oct 2011).  One of the titles in the series being “Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.”  I have not heard the first two parts of the series, yet, but can imagine false teaching/teachers have a lot to contribute somewhere in this teaching.  As usual, I am looking forward to diving into this study!  Along with that, Dr. MacArthur’s title above brought to mind a peripheral issue I have given lots of thought to, already.  I’ve been writing this post in my head, so to speak, for at least a year.  Euphemisms for the Lord’s name ~to use or not to use?  That is the question… for Christians.

Certainly, there are many kinds of  words that unleash and express anger, wrath, malice, slander, abuse and false witness (Col 3:8-9) that are clearly sinful and contrary to “putting on the new self” in Christ.  Harsh, vulgar, hate-filled language that believers are called to “put off” in Eph 4, 5 and Col 3, for example.

In Eph 5:4, “and there must be no filthiness, and silly talk, or course jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”

And Eph 4:29, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only that which is good for edification.”

Filthy, crude language, has one variation or another to weaken its unwholesomeness.  They’re called euphemisms, or minced oaths.  However, we know what the undiluted versions are, regardless.  And in some cases, so do our kids.  Now, there’s a thought!  Not only is it a command from the Lord to clean up our verbs, nouns and adjectives as part of putting on the new self; for He is holy and He calls us to be holy, first and foremost (Lev 19:2; 1 Pt 1:16; James 4:4).  But also because our kids are listening and learning from us, more than anyone else, how to be or not be pleasing to the Lord.

So, is it good advice, as is often the case, to use euphemisms instead of the literal word(s)?

The watered-down versions aren’t really much better than the fully concentrated ones.  They are still course, unwholesome, disrespectful and breed aggressiveness. How many of us honestly want our children saying things like:  “What the heck?”  or “Where’s my frickin’ gym shoes?”  or “Our God is so stinkin’ awesome!”  Not that I want to set us up as examples that could possibly be perfect in the here and now. Christ is our perfect example.  Only, let’s persevere, by God’s grace, to not be examples of unrepentant hypocrisy.  As in, “Do as I say, not as I do (or say).”  Striving to be parent-teachers and models of such perseverance in Christ; of godly sorrow, a repentance without regret, which leads to salvation (2 Cor 7:9-11).

Some may be responding to this as being too serious and sober about slang.  Allow me to press further to the slang usage of God’s holy name which is a monumental and delicate issue to Him, in the top 3 of The 10 Commandments!  If it is to Him, then it is to His people as well.

Thus, this question:  Are euphemisms, or minced oaths, of God’s name any more wholesome, or OK for us to employ, because their sharp edge of blatant blasphemy has been dulled? In regards to euphemisms where do we draw the line?  This is a provocative question, to say the least.  I am not aware of this topic ever being openly addressed in the church.  I think it is profitable for us to give their origins our consideration.

For instance,  “Oh my gosh,” is the euphemism for the blasphemous, “Oh my G**!”  Gosh is not God’s name, of course, like we see in the biblical sampling in the picture above, but that is where we got this word, in 1757.  Other euphemisms for “God” are “golly,” “goodness,” and “gad” all equally on the same plane.  Euphemisms for “Jesus” and “Jesus Christ,” include “gee,” “jeez,”  “cheese-n-rice” or “Jiminy Cricket,” which was made popular by The Wizard of Oz and Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.  Sacré bleu,”one meaning being “God’s blood,” is used by Lumière in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and in Disney’s Aristocats.  (Warning-extreme caution–do not click the next link if you don’t wish to inform yourself of the vast variations.  Just skip over it.  Then again you may be saying some of these and not realizing that what you are saying is from the Lord’s name and/or attributes.  That is why I am providing this next research link.  Again, warning, it will be offensive.) These are just some examples among the many minced oaths of God’s holy name.

The LORD God is holy.  This is one of His attributes.  It is how we address, recognize, adore and cry out to our God.  It should  not be used to describe a cow, mackerel, crap, smoke, molé, etc.  Robin, of the Dynamic Duo, made the “Holy ——, Batman!”  interjections popular in the 60’s with a lingering influence to our day, no doubt!  Then there’s the minced oaths of God’s name blended with minced oaths of profanity.  It all makes me cringe to say the least!

Euphemisms for the Lord’s name or attributes, by definition, try to accomplish not being offensive.  They are supposed to be the opposite of a blaspheme, but really are not as we just saw.  Further, there are these “my —-” statements that should be considered as well.  “My word!”  No, it’s not ours, its His.  Or “Oh my stars!” Again, they’re not our stars, they’re His.

Most Christians don’t really think twice about using the watered-down versions of blasphemy since they are such a part of our contemporary language and culture, even in the church.  In fact, it is in the Christian community that we get the impression we are to use them!  Little Johnny’s mother corrects him saying, “Use ‘Oh my gosh!’ instead of ‘Oh my G**!”‘  However, if we research their origins, place that information under the lense of Scripture and pray about it, which is what I want to encourage, not divide over, we may no longer mindlessly use such phrases, desiring to remove them from our vocabularies, altogether.

Our depravity, fallen sin nature, surely is the cause when we’re inclined to respond with interjections like “my” statements and unholy euphemisms of God’s name (watered-down blasphemy).  The only thing we can rightly claim are “filthy rags” (Isa 64:6).  “My filthy rags, my wretchedness” is spot on.  My challenge to us, is to try using something else like “Man-o-man,” “Boy-o-boy” or  “Wow!”  If you start out with “Oh,” it more than likely will not end well.  It will feel unnatural to just leave it at “Oh.”  I promise, if you go with “Oh,” you’re going to say one of the popular euphemisms for God’s name out of sheer habit, “Oh my gosh, golly, gad or goodness” is going to slip right out.

Bottom line:  What is pleasing to the Lord?  Is the use of unbiblical euphemisms, sacrilegious mutations, of God’s name OK with our Holy God?  Does using these man-made euphemisms set us a part somehow from the world’s unwatered-down, hard-core versions?  Or is not using these choice words that are derived from blasphemy one way to please the Lord and be holy as He has called His people to be?   I would submit that it’s a learned habit that believers would be blessed to break, to the glory and blessing of the Lord and His holiness, with our hearts turned to Him; not in vain, shallow appearance.

In conclusion, all our words have origins that they are derived from, Greek, Latin, French, etc., which gives them their meanings.   Since it is “God” that such euphemisms, or minced oaths, are derived from it is clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, without question.  Based on their origins and commands of God in His Word, these irreverent euphemisms are blasphemous at the maximum and at the minimum.  So much so, that one may actually say His holy, biblical name in vain.  Yikes!  If a professing Christian is using the actual name(s) of the Lord, disrespectfully, or without meaning, go and examine your faith (2 Cor 13:5).

Trying to Learn What is Pleasing to the Lord in All Respects (Eph 5:10; Col 1:10),

-Karla Tadler

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