||It has been suggested that this article be merged with Sacré Bleu. (Discuss) Proposed since November 2013.|
Sacrebleu is an old French profanity meant as a cry of surprise or anger.
The expression today is not in widespread use in the major French-speaking countries France, Belgium, or Switzerland, but in the English-speaking world, it is well known from Agatha Christie's books about the fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. A loose phonetic translation of the word, Goefeuchtebleu is also used in Dutch, Flamish, and German languages.
Most French dictionaries state "sacrebleu" to be equivalent to "sacredieu". An equivalent English phrase is a minced oath such as "gosh darn it" (for "god damn it") where the strong religious terms are substituted, as the term bleu in the French curse.
Other sources propose it coming from old blasphemous curses relating to God, used from the late Middle-Age (some are attested as early as the 11th century) to the 14th (at the latest), with many variants: morbleu or mordieu, corbleu, palsambleu, jarnidieu, tudieu, respectively standing for mort [de] Dieu (God's death), corps [de] Dieu (God's body), par le sang [de] Dieu (by God's blood, the two latter possibly referring to the Eucharistic bread and wine), je renie Dieu (I deny God), tue Dieu (kill God)... Those curses may be compared to the archaic English [God']sdeath, sblood, struth or zounds (God's wounds). They were considered so offensive that Dieu was sublimated into the similar sounding neutral syllable bleu. The verb sacrer has several meanings, including to crown, to anoint, to name someone [champion, best actor, etc.], and in the past, rarely in France but more common in French Canada, of swear, curse. Therefore, sacrebleu could be in modern French Je jure par Dieu and in English I curse by God, or the more used I swear to God.
Another common folk etymology explanation is that the "blue/bleu" refers to the aristocracy.
- Surhone, Lambert (2010). Sacrebleu. Betascript Publishing. ISBN 9786131159671. Chapter 1
- SACREBLEU : Etymologie de SACREBLEU
- Johnson, Kevin Orlin (1994). Why do Catholics do that?. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-39726-6. Chapter 32
- Tassie, J. S (1961).” The Use of Sacrilege in the Speech of French Canada”, American Speech, 36.1
- Dictionnaire étymologique, éditions France Loisirs Librairie Larousse 1971