What is a euphemism?
Webster’s Dictionary has this definition of euphemism: “The use of a less direct word or phrase for one considered offensive.”
Some examples of English euphemisms include “powder your nose” for go to the toilet, “negative cash flow” for broke, and “passed away” for died.
Examples of euphemisms in the Bible
The King James Version says King Saul went into a cave “to cover his feet” (1 Samuel 24:3). This is a euphemism for, how shall we say it, to powder his nose? The New King James Version says “attend to his needs,” which you could say is another English euphemism for defecation.
Many times the Bible describes someone who died as being asleep. For example, Jesus told His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (John 11:11). Since they misunderstood, He had to tell them plainly, “Lazarus is dead” (verse 14).
Though sleep is a euphemism for death, we also learn that from God’s perspective, death is like sleep since the dead person is unconscious and God has the power to wake the dead through the resurrection from the dead.
Euphemisms misusing God’s name
The Third Commandment states, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11).
“In vain” literally means to use God’s name in an empty or trifling way, without appropriate reverence for God.
In our modern world we hear this commandment violated overtly and frequently all around us, with “God,” “Jesus,” “Christ” or “Lord” uttered merely as filler words, exclamations, expressions of anger or contempt or in conjunction with cursing or profanity. One of the most pervasive abuses of the name of God is the phrase “oh my …!,” which has become so commonplace it now has its own abbreviation (OMG) for text messaging.
In addition to blatantly saying God’s names, there are euphemisms that have modified the same names into less explicit or softened forms; but because they are merely modifications of God’s name(s), they likewise are violations of the intent of the Third Commandment.
The euphemism list below is provided to help you identify common euphemisms for God’s name, in order to avoid inadvertently making irreverent references to God’s holy name. (You can find more information in many dictionaries that include slang words and euphemisms.)
Gol, Golly, Gosh, Gad, ye gad/s, by George, by Jove, Almighty
Jesus or Christ
Geez, Gee, Gee-wiz (Jesus-wizard), cripes (Christ), Jeepers, by Jingo, (by Jesus)
initials of Jesus Christ
Jiminy Cricket, Jiminy Christmas, Jeepers Creeper, Judas Christopher, Jason Crisp, etc.
Holy is a word that refers to God’s nature, works or anything God is present or involved in. Any use of this word in conjunction with any other word (outside of its correct and proper context) is a violation of the Third Commandment.
Euphemisms for eternal judgment
Another category of euphemisms that is inappropriate for Christians to use is those asking God to condemn (“damn”) a person or thing. Euphemisms for condemn include darn, durn, dang, doggone (a euphemism for both the words “God” and “damn”) and any other combination of these words with euphemisms for God.
Are the words we speak important to God? Jesus Christ said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).While the Bible teaches that Christians should learn to discern good from evil (Hebrews 5:14), it also teaches that we should not condemn others in the sense of trying to determine their ultimate fate. God the Father has given the judgment of mankind to the Son (John 5:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10), and it is His prerogative to judge—not ours.
Referring to this ultimate judgment, Jesus said: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
Jesus also cautions us: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:2) and “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Every idle word
Are the words we speak important to God? Jesus Christ said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).
Euphemisms that were coined to utter God’s name without proper reverence or to judge another’s ultimate fate are inappropriate for a Christian. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification” (Ephesians 4:29). As lights in a dark world, we are to set the example not only in our conduct, but in pure speech as well.
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