Sunday, March 20, 2011

Good Lord! Choke!

That famous invective of my post title is, of course, an often repeated phrase seen in many EC comics. Like many phrases, it is part of the cultural dictionary that we all have learned over the years. It is not, obviously, limited to what we see in comics, but what we hear in other media and what surrounds us in our developmental years. I picked up more than a few turns of phrase from my father that have been known to catch people off guard when I use them today. In fact, I stopped a discussion at work cold last week when I threw out "wonky" in talking about some technical problems we were having with our servers.,

But some of those phrases have meanings that are not really appropriate for me. "Good Lord!" is one of them. "God bless you" is another. It seems intellectually dishonest to me to use those phrases, regardless of how widespread and seemingly innocuous they might be. I say intellectually dishonest because I am an atheist and do not believe in a supreme being of any sort. Invoking the name of God (or any other deity) for any purpose other than speaking specifically about those concepts is not blasphemous to him/her, but just disingenuous to myself. I do not believe there is any sort of higher power to ask for anything, so calling upon such a being, even in the most inane capacities, is hypocritical.

The trick, then, is to replace those phrases that have become so much a part of our cultural mileu as to have been automatic and reflexive. "Gesundheit" is a rather easy replacement since it's reasonably well accepted already. (It has the more benign "to your health" meaning.) But replacing "Oh, my God!" or "Jesus Christ!" or whatever is decidedly more complicated as there are not really any commonly accepted alternatives. At least, not many that do not include swearing.

I opted to go back to my comic roots for one, though. The classic "good grief" from Charlie Brown usually serves my purposes well when a curse word would be a tad too inappropriate. It's well known enough that people are familiar with it, but so limited in useage -- pretty much just Charlie Brown -- that people are more surprised I use it than teasing because of the anachronism.

As I said, it is mostly just a way to be intellectually honest with myself, but I point it out here with the bought that it might be interesting to examine the words and phrases you yourself use.

1 comment:

Matt K said...

Y'know, I run into the same issue. And it just seems like, as you say, nothing else really sounds the same.

The late "Voice of the Cyclones," Pete Taylor, often turned to the phrase "good night!" In a Charlie Brown, "good grief" style. I don't use it much, myself, though it frequently comes back to mind whenever I'm watching ISU pee away another lead. ;-)