If we needed any more proof that swear words are a legislative and judicial Pandora’s Box of insanity, Jay Wexler brings up the recent hilarious Supreme Court case between the FCC and Fox TV. Justice Scalia made this curious remark:
“Don’t use golly waddles instead of the F word.”
Wexler suspected that Scalia improvised “golly waddles” and consulted language expert and Harvard Psych prof Steven Pinker, who confirmed the invention, and who then proceeded to let loose this handy list of polite and/or archaic euphamisms for such things.
“I am pretty sure that Scalia made up ‘golly waddles’ on the spot. He needed a hypothetical term that was not “f*ck,” and so used that; I don’t think it was an allusion to any commonly used euphemism. On the other hand he was certainly influenced by the truncated profanities for “God” that are ubiquitous in polite speech, such as golly, gosh, egad, gad, gadzooks, good grief, goodness gracious, Great Caesar’s ghost, and Great Scott. Similar truncations pop up for just about every taboo term, including Jesus (gee, gee whiz, gee willikers, geez, jeepers creepers, Jiminy Cricket, Judas Priest, Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat), sh*t (shame, sheesh, shivers, shoot, shucks, squat, sugar), and f*ck (fiddlesticks, fiddledeedee, foo, fudge, fug, fuzz, flaming, flipping, freaking, frigging, effing). I’m not sure why he felt he needed a second word in his hypothetical euphemism, but it may have been inspired by the prevalence of two-part euphemisms for bullsh*t, like applesauce, balderdash, blatherskite, claptrap, codswallop, flapdoodle, hogwash, horsefeathers, humbug, moonshine, poppycock, tommyrot.”
Truly amazing is the human capacity for human linguistic invention, especially in finding safe alternatives for the “magic” words. I wonder if any of the outmoded examples were as weighty in their heyday. People forget that a lot of swear words from a hundred years ago are teethless and innocuous today.
UPDATE: After ruminating on “golly waddles” I think Scalia may have meant “mollycoddles.”
1.) Of course, Scalia is old as the hills, so you never know if he’s using some Depression-era Jersey slang.