A minced oath is a euphemistic expression formed by misspelling, mispronouncing, or replacing a part of a profane, blasphemous, or taboo term to reduce the original term's objectionable characteristics. Some examples include "gosh" for God, "darn" for damn, and "heck" for Hell.
The most common methods of forming a minced oath are rhyme and alliteration. Thus the word bloody (which itself may be an elision of "By Our Lady"—referring to the Virgin Mary) can become blooming, or ruddy. Alliterative minced oaths such as darn for damn allow a speaker to begin to say the prohibited word and then change to a more acceptable expression. In rhyming slang, rhyming euphemisms are often truncated so that the rhyme is eliminated: prick became Hampton Wick and then simply Hampton. Another well-known example is "cunt" rhyming with "Berkeley Hunt", which was subsequently abbreviated to "berk". Alliteration can be combined with metrical equivalence, as in the pseudo-blasphemous "Judas Priest", substituted for the blasphemous use of "Jesus Christ".
Minced oaths can also be formed by shortening: e.g., b for bloody or f for fuck. Sometimes words borrowed from other languages become minced oaths; for example, poppycock comes from the Low Dutch pappe kak, meaning "soft dung". The minced oath blank is an ironic reference to the dashes that are sometimes used to replace profanities in print. It goes back at least to 1854, when Cuthbert Bede wrote "I wouldn't give a blank for such a blank blank. I'm blank, if he doesn't look as if he'd swallowed a blank codfish." By the 1880s, it had given rise to the derived forms blanked and blankety, which combined together gave the name of the long running and popular British TV show Blankety Blank. In the same way, bleep arose from the use of a tone to mask profanities on radio.
The Cretan king Rhadamanthus is said to have forbidden his subjects to swear by the gods, suggesting that they swear instead by the ram, the goose or the plane tree. Socrates favored the "Rhadamanthine" oath "by the dog", with "the dog" often interpreted as referring to the bright "Dog Star", i.e., Sirius. Aristophanes mentions that people used to swear by birds instead of by the gods, adding that the soothsayer Lampon still swears by the goose "whenever he's going to cheat you". Since no god was called upon, Lampon may have considered this oath safe to break.
The use of minced oaths in English dates back at least to the 14th century, when "gog" and "kokk", both euphemisms for God, were in use. Other early minced oaths include "Gis" or "Jis" for Jesus (1528).
Late Elizabethan drama contains a profusion of minced oaths, probably due to Puritan opposition to swearing. Seven new minced oaths are first recorded between 1598 and 1602, including 'sblood for By God's blood from Shakespeare, 'slight for God's light from Ben Jonson, and 'snails for By God's nails from the historian John Hayward. Swearing on stage was officially banned by the Act to Restraine Abuses of Players in 1606, and a general ban on swearing followed in 1623. In some cases the original meanings of these minced oaths were forgotten; 'struth (By God's truth) came to be spelled strewth and zounds changed pronunciation (with the vowel as in "found") so that it no longer sounded like By God's wounds. Other examples from this period include 'slid for "By God's eyelid" (1598) and 'sfoot for "By God's foot" (1602). Gadzooks for "By God's hooks" (the nails on Christ's cross) followed in the 1650s, egad for oh God in the late 17th century, and ods bodikins for "By God's bodkins [i.e. nail]s" in 1709.
Although minced oaths are not as strong as the expressions from which they derive, some hearers still find them offensive. One writer in 1550 considered "idle oaths" like "by cocke" (by God), "by the cross of the mouse foot", and "by Saint Chicken" to be "most abominable blasphemy". The minced oaths "'sblood" and "zounds" were omitted from the Folio edition of Shakespeare's play Othello, probably as a result of Puritan-influenced censorship. In 1941 a U.S. federal judge threatened a lawyer with contempt of court for using the word "darn". Zounds may sound amusing and archaic to the modern ear, yet as late as 1984 the columnist James J. Kilpatrick recalled that "some years ago", after using it in print, he had received complaints that it was blasphemous because of its origin as "God's wounds". (He had written an article entitled "Zounds! Is Reagan Mad?" in the Spartanburg Herald for 12 June 1973, and also used "zounds" in June 1970.)
Literature and censorship 
It is common to find minced oaths in literature. Writers sometimes face the problem of portraying characters who swear, and often include minced oaths instead of profanity in their writing so that they will not offend audiences or incur censorship. Somerset Maugham referred to this problem in his 1919 novel The Moon and Sixpence, where he admitted:
Strickland, according to Captain Nichols, did not use exactly the words I have given, but since this book is meant for family reading, I thought it better — at the expense of truth — to put into his mouth language familiar to the domestic circle.
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Examples in English include but are not limited to:
Original term Minced oath Notes God goodness, gosh, golly, gad, gor Jesus gee, geez, geesh, jiminy Christ crickets, crikey or cripes Jesus Christ (two words) Jiminy Cricket or Jiminy Christmas, Judas Priest, Jeepers Creepers, Cheese and Rice, Geez Louise Hell Heck, H-E-double-toothpicks, H-E-double-hockey-sticks damn darn, dang, dern goddamn doggone, dadgum, goodnessdarn, goshdarn, goshdang, goshdern, gotdang damnation tarnation, dangnation God blame me, God blind me blimey what the Hell what the heck, what in the World, what in Sam Hill, what the hay bastard bar steward fucking flipping, freaking, fricking, frigging, fudging, effing, fracking, frilling, fecking "Fecking" is widely used in Ireland, but it has a different etymology and is not simply a minced version of "fucking". motherfucker mother-father, melon-farmer, monkey-fighter, mussel-shucker, further-mucker, mothertrucker, motherlover, mofo The term 'melon-farmer' was frequently used in movies in the 1980s and 1990s to replace 'motherfucker', thereby making the movie suitable for younger audiences. For similar reasons, FX's TV edit of Snakes on a Plane employed the noun-noun compound "monkey-fight" in its infinitive form as an attributive verb. shit shoot, sugar, shucks, sheesh, ish, shat, shite "sheesh", prob. from German "Scheiße" (Scheiss) = "shit" nuts nerts, bananas bitch beach, beyotch, witch son of a bitch son of a gun, son of a pup, son of a biscuit, son of a preacher man, so-and-so Many different etymologies have been proposed for "son of a gun," which may have an independent origin from "son of a bitch." Christ's money criminy, crimony The thirty pieces of silver in exchange for which Judas betrayed Jesus. pissed off ticked off prig, prude, bitch, or sissy ticked off prissy Wanker Merchant Banker
Examples in other languages:
Original term Minced oath Notes sacre Dieu sacrebleu A French minced oath Carlos Menem Carlos Méndez A modern Argentinian use of minced oath: ex-president Menem had a fame of bringing bad luck (especially in sports), to the point that many in his country avoided pronouncing his surname and replaced it with the euphemistic Méndez.
Other religious examples 
- God's will and God's peace (see, e.g., the St. Crispin's Day Speech in Shakespeare's Henry V)
- blimey, short for "[God] blind me."
- criminy or crimony, an alteration of Christ's money, the thirty pieces of silver in exchange for which Judas betrayed Jesus
- gadzooks, originally a dialectal pronunciation of God's hooks, the nails with which Jesus was affixed to the cross
- zounds, a contraction of God's wounds, the injuries that Jesus suffered while being crucified
- substitute invocations of nominally divine beings (e.g., pagan deities) presumed to be nonexistent by the speaker and his/her audience:
- egads or egad, itself an alteration of ye gods intended to placate those who consider ye gods blasphemous in that its literal meaning constitutes an appeal to non-Abrahamic deities and thereby violates stricter interpretations of the First Commandment in Judeo-Christian tradition
- ye gods (marked as a reference to non-Christian deities by the plural form indicating polytheism)
- "oh, my goddess" as in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the term is not used
- by Jove, jumping Jupiter, etc.
See also 
- Hughes, 12.
- Hughes, 7.
- What does "Judas Priest" mean? (10 May 1996)
- Hughes, 16–17.
- Hughes, 18–19.
- prep. by J. A. Simpson ... (1994). Oxford English Dictionary 1 (2 ed.). Oxford Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8. definition 12b for blank
- Echols, Edward C. (1951). "The Art of Classical Swearing". The Classical Journal 46 (6): 29–298. JSTOR 3292805.
- Dillon, Matthew (1995). "By Gods, Tongues, and Dogs: The Use of Oaths in Aristophanic Comedy". Greece & Rome, 2nd Ser. 42 (2): 135–151. JSTOR 643226.
- Hughes, 13–15.
- Hughes, 103–105.
- Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
- Hughes, 13.
- Lund, J.M. (2002). "The Ordeal of Zeal-of-the-Land Busy: The Conflict Over Profane Swearing and the Puritan Culture of Discipline". Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 25 (3/4): 260–269.
- Kermode, Frank (2001). Shakespeare's Language. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 166. ISBN 0-374-52774-1.
- Montagu, Ashely (2001). The Anatomy of Swearing. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 298. ISBN 0-8122-1764-0.
- Leland, Christopher T. (2002). Creative Writer's Style Guide: Rules and Advice for Writing Fiction and Creative Nonfiction. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. p. 207. ISBN 1-884910-55-6.
- Kilpatrick, James J. (1984). The Writer's Art. Fairway, Kansas: Andrews McNeel Publishing. p. 83. ISBN 0-8362-7925-5.
- Herald-Journal: "Zounds! Is Reagan mad", 12 June 1973
- Herald-Journal: "Zounds! 5 cents a bottle, 11 June 1970
- Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, ch. 47; quoted in Hughes, 187.
- El País: La derrota refuerza la fama de gafe de Carlos Menem (The [team's] defeat reinforces Carlos Menem's reputation of being a jinx.
- Hughes, Geoffrey (1991). Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-16593-2.
- prep. by J. A. Simpson ... (1989). Oxford English Dictionary (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8.