Printable Version
Pronunciation: gahsh Hear it!

Part of Speech: Interjection

Meaning: 1. An expression of surprise, as in "Gosh, you're beautiful!" 2. An emphatic term, as in "Do it now, by gosh!"

Notes: The names of gods in all languages rank high on the list of taboo words, words we are forbidden to utter. Taking the name of the Judeo-Christian God in vain is even a violation of the Fourth Commandment, to which all Jews and Christians must adhere. Clever creatures that we are, though, humans have invented euphemisms to circumvent this stumbling block: God became gosh or golly in our ordinary speech, thereby making today's Good Word a euphemistic interjection.

In Play: Today's Good Word is expressed most often when we are surprised: "Gosh, I didn't realize that!" Harvey exclaimed when May O'Naise mentioned that his nose was dripping in his soup. Gosh may also be included in compound adjectives as an emphatic modifier: "What a gosh-awful mess you've made of the car! I said paint the porch, not the Porsche!"

Word History: The origin of today's word is obvious from the phrases it has appeared in since the mid 19th century. In phrases like by gosh and gosh darn, it now holds places where God was heard in vulgar conversations. Golly actually has too many syllables, so it is often shortened to gol, as in gol-darn(ed). The fearsome GD expression has also been subjected to folk etymology, resulting in doggone (it) and dagnab (it). The name Jesus spawned Geez or gee whiz, and other four-letter words have undergone similar transformations. That is the origin of darn and dang; euphemisms for damn that arose before that word became a household expression. Heck is the polite alternative for the word referring to the home of the devil or, euphemistically speaking, the dickens. (Gosh, no one suggested today's Good Word. Doggone it! I had to think it up all by myself.)

Dr. Goodword,

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