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Gospel Gazette Online

Vol. 11 No. 7 July 2009

Page 13


Euphemisms

Tim CanupJames said, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). In the third chapter of James, he gives us a clear picture of the power and danger of an uncontrolled tongue. Any student of the Holy Scriptures should be able to realize the need to watch and control the tongue. We should be aware of the fact that the words we use (and how we use them) will be brought into judgment (Matthew 12:36). Therefore, we should be careful about the words we use, but how about euphemisms? Many Christians use euphemisms for the name of God, and perhaps it is because we simply have not been properly educated about them. However, we need to remember, ignorance in this area is not an excuse.

What is a euphemism? Webster states: “the use of a word or phrase that is less expressive or direct but considered less distasteful, less offensive, etc. than another; a word or phrase so substituted” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition, 490). An example of a euphemism would be the word “remains” for the word “corpse.” The Bible often uses euphemisms. For example, Peter said, “…for since the fathers fell asleep…,” which is a euphemism for having died. The question then arises, “Are all euphemisms wrong to use?” If not, which ones are?

Moses was given the commandment on Mount Sinai, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Concerning this, Guy N. Woods wrote:

Jehovah has ever regarded, with the greatest displeasure, any disposition on the part of man to use his name in flippant, frivolous and profane fashion. The first commandment of the decalogue was designed to protect the sanctity of God’s being; the second forbade man to approach him through some human device; and, the third (“Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain…”) was formulated to guarantee respect and reverence for his name (Deut 5:7-11).

One is profane who uses sacred things in an irreverent and a blasphemous manner. The word vain, in the third commandment of the decalogue, is translated from a word which means in a light, flippant, and contemptuous fashion (Woods, Questions and Answers – Open Forum, Vol. I, 181 – italics in original, bold added for emphasis).

When a person uses the words, “God,” “Jesus,” “Lord” or any other variation of the name of God in an interjectorily exclamation such as when one is surprised, shocked, in wonder, protest, etc., then he has used the name of God in vain (in a flippant, frivolous or profane way). Such use displays the highest disrespect to the Almighty Creator of us all!

How about the use of euphemisms that replace the words for “God,” “Jesus,” and “Lord”? If one will review the definitions found in the dictionary, such words will reveal that even those outside of the church recognize such. Listed below are some words (with definitions taken from Webster’s New World Dictionary) commonly used as euphemisms for the name of God or Jesus:

    1. Gosh – “used to express surprise, wonder, etc.: orig. a euphemism for God.”
    2. Golly – “used to express surprise, wonder, etc.: orig. a euphemism for God.”
    3. Gee – “[euphemistic alternation of Jesus] – [slang] used to signify surprise, wonder, etc.
    4. Gee Whiz – “[euphemistic alternation of Jesus] exclamation used variously to express surprise, wonder, enthusiasm, protest, etc.”
    5. Jeez (also spelled geez) – [euphemism for Jesus] – used variously to express surprise, anger, annoyance, etc.”
    6. Jeepers – [euphemistic alternation of Jesus] used to express mild surprise or as a mild oath.”

These are just a few of the euphemisms that are used for the name of God and Jesus. Brother Woods listed several others in the above-mentioned work. Why would anyone who professes to be a Christian want to use a word or phrase that would reflect dishonor or disrespect to God in any way? If we are unsure about a word being a euphemism for the name of God, we should avoid it in order to guard our tongues and our souls.

It is sad to realize that some Christians even defend the use of euphemistic expressions for the name of God. Some argue they do not mean “God” or “Jesus” when they use a particular euphemism; however, one then could, by that line of reasoning, use the actual name of “God” or “Jesus.” For example, if someone could use the word “geez” and argue that they did not mean “Jesus the Christ,” then one could just as well say “Jesus” and argue they did not mean “Jesus the Christ,” but another Jesus, for there have been many who have had this name, e.g., a pop singer in the 80’s by the name Jesus Jones). Some argue they do not think it is wrong to use such words. There is a lot at stake just to think we are right. What if we are wrong? Will God just overlook our ignorance? If a person who uses the name of God in a vain or flippant way will be held accountable before God, and a euphemism is the replacing of one word for another to soften it, then the person who uses a euphemism for the name of God will also be held accountable. “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).


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