“God” is not really a name, like “Yahweh” or “Allah” or “Jesus”. Of these three, the only one you would ever hear as an expletive in impolite society is “Jesus Christ !” – with a slow, emphatic detonation of the two words separately. Originally it was meant as an oath. Today, used indifferently by atheists and non-atheists, it is a knee-jerk expression of surprise or frustration, with no offence or lèse-majesté intended. “OMG” is used to assert that one is “cool” or “with it” – or, as dinosaurs like me used to say – “in the groove”.
Most abbreviations for expressions like “O my God !”, which fill tweets and textos, are already incomprehensible to old fogies and visiting Martians. But before long they will replace prose entirely. One day you will get a mail or a tweet which reads : “GYM. WTF ! DGAR. LOL”. (“Got your mail. What the f- – – ! Don’t give a ratz. Laughing out loud” (or “Look out, love !” or “Little old ladies”, or whatever).
But I find it fascinating that relics of religion continue to pepper our prose. In France, eldest daughter of the Church, home of the brave (iconoclast) and land of the free (thinker), “Jésus, Marie, Joseph !” is still commonly heard, as are “Bon Sang !” (a genuine oath evoking Jesus’ blood either on Calvary or in the chalice at Mass) and the omnipresent “Mon Dieu !” – the original OMG ! Such expressions are in fact devoid of any intended religious connotation. People who use them might be surprised and/or amused if you had the gall to suggest they express disrespect for religion. Apart from traditionalist Catholics, practising Jews or devout Muslims, few people give a ratz about religion and its linguistic relics.
Having grown up in a ferociously Catholic environment where kids actually confessed in the Sacrament of Penance the sin of “swearing”, “using bad language” and “taking the name of the Lord in vain”, it is refreshing to realize that for many, in France at least, while religion is not (yet) extinct, it might just as well be, and one day, D.V. (“Deo Volente”), will be.
RIDENDA, DELENDA RELIGIO