exclamation of amazement [non-Christian]

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meijin

Senior Member
Japanese
A long time ago I heard that Americans find it odd or annoying when Japanese people use the English expression "Oh my God (or god)" because most of them (Japanese) aren't Christians (or don't believe in any god). For this reason I've never use the expression, and have recently learned that similar expressions, such as "Blimey" (BE), "Cripes", "Crikey" (BE), "Crumbs" (BE), let alone "Oh my gosh/goodness", are all euphemism for expressions using God or Jesus Christ. The majority of English speakers who are Christians probably don't mind when English learners who aren't Christians use these widely used minced oaths, but I prefer not to annoy those who do, so I'm wondering what expression I should use when I'm amazed by someone's comment etc.

The expressions such as "What?", "Really?", "No kidding", etc. don't mean the same as the above expressions, and "Blow me", which is listed among the above minced oaths in a book about British English I have, seems to have a couple of different meanings (e.g. I can't be bothered), so I probably shouldn't use it. Any expression similar to the minced oaths above non-Christian, non-native English speakers can safely use? Below is an example situation where I would want to use such an expression.

A: I've just bought a one million dollar watch.
B: Cripes...
 
  • meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Does "Cripes..." mean the same as "Wow!" in that context? I thought it meant like "Unbelievable..." or "You're crazy..."
    When I look up "amazed" in my English-Japanese dictionaries, I see two meanings. One is "surprised/astonished", and the other is like "I can't believe you did such a stupid thing". Maybe the dictionaries are wrong.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    A: I've just bought a one million dollar watch.
    B: Get outta here!/You're kidding!

    Edit: I just realized you wanted a short expression. The suggestions above are probably not short enough.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    No BE speaker is going to object to "Gosh!" Despite its etymology it has no religious connotation in current BE.

    The expression "Oh my God!" is now widespread in Britain too, mostly said by young women ("young" being up to about 40) who have no or little religious belief. It drives me up the wall. "Cripes" is very dated - children's books from the 1950s is about the most recent use. I think "crumbs" is about as up-to-date as "cripes".
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The expression "Oh my God!" is now widespread in Britain too, mostly said by young women ("young" being up to about 40) who have no or little religious belief. It drives me up the wall.
    :thumbsup: Me too. And especially when the text version 'OMG' is spoken, and pronounced "Oh em gee". :(
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    "Oh my god!" and OMG are very common in the US, among atheists. It is probably a more common saying among people who do not believe in God.

    It is very common, and often spoken on TV dramas, so is clearly acceptable nowadays.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    No BE speaker is going to object to "Gosh!" Despite its etymology it has no religious connotation in current BE.
    That's good to know. "Gosh" isn't BE-only, so I can use it in other countries too.

    "Oh my god!" and OMG are very common in the US, among atheists.
    I'm just curious. How do you know that many of those who use "Oh my god!" or OMG are atheists? Maybe your friends, acquaintances, etc. who are atheists use the expression a lot more than others do?

    It is very common, and often spoken on TV dramas, so is clearly acceptable nowadays.
    But would you find English learners from Japan using the expression acceptable too? Are people in the US aware that the vast majority of people in Japan are non-religious or Buddhists?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    But would you find English learners from Japan using the expression acceptable too?
    Yes. If it is commonly said on TV, it isn't offensive.

    Are people in the US aware that the vast majority of people in Japan are non-religious or Buddhists?
    I don't think any US people think of Japan as "mostly Christian". Most have heard of Shinto and seen photos of Japanese shrines and temples. Zen Buddhism is famous in the US, and it came to the US from Japan, so is thought of as Japanese.

    I didn't know that most Japanese are non-religious. I am aware that some are Christians, but I've never researched the percentages.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I have American friends of many religions. I don't think being, or not being, Christian has anything to do with using exclamations that involve God, Jesus, etc. However:

    1. Truly devout people of different religions, not just Christians, object to this usage because the Third Commandment is not to take the name of God in vain. It has to more with how strongly someone believes in the Ten Commandments than with whether or not he/she happens to be Christian.

    2. It is very, very difficult for a non-native speaker to use exclamations (and to curse) correctly, no matter how fluent that person is in another language. It has been said that, if you learn a language after the age of 11 or so, you will never be able to curse properly in it. Perhaps the reactions you have seen to Japanese people using such exclamations has to do with their using them incorrectly or unnaturally, not with anything having to do with God or with anyone's religion.

    (By the way, I have Japanese family members through a son's marriage. One of them, my son's father-in-law, has lived in the U.S. for about 50 years. He's a wonderful person whom I would want as a friend if he wasn't already a relative. Still, he doesn't get this right either.)
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    In the example dialog, I would say...

    "Wow" if I was impressed, and "Yikes" if I was taken aback. "Yikes" does not have any religious etymology: Yikes! Where did it come from? I can pretty much guarantee that "wow!" and "yikes!" will not offend anyone in the US.

    I agree with Egmont that the offensiveness of "Oh my God" isn't about the non-religious nature of the speaker, but about the vain use of God's name, so just avoid saying "God" (or "Lord" or "Jesus" probably) when exclaiming and you will avoid that form of offense.

    I also agree with Egmont that it's difficult for non-native speakers to get the context of exclamations right. But few will be offended if you don't. It's not expected of non-native speakers. Avoid the offensive ones and you'll be OK... there are going to be offensive ones if you randomly peruse lists. Never use "Blow me" with Americans to mean "can't be bothered" unless you want to risk offense, it's pretty vulgar (literally means, give me oral sex). Though most of us would find it more funny than offensive
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    A: I've just bought a one million dollar watch.

    B: Seriously!?
    B: No way!
    B: Yowza! (not so common, but can be said with a twinkle in the eye for exaggerated effect)

    My experience with "cripes" (via my father) is more that it's an expression of frustration, i.e. more like "I can't believe this is happening/going wrong" than it is about "I can't believe the information you just told me."
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I think your safest choice is "Wow!" It's easy to pronounce and it's appropriate for various degrees of surprise or strong impression.
    I have a female Japanese friend whose exclamation of choice is "Wow!", and it doesn't sound out of place.
    For some people, "Oh my god!" is only for extremely serious situations, like someone bleeding to death.

    A: I paid $50 for these shoes. Can you believe that?!
    B: Wow! (I don't even know whether you think that's a high price or a low one.)
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Blow me", which is listed among the above minced oaths in a book about British English I have, seems to have a couple of different meanings (e.g. I can't be bothered)
    Well, I've never heard anyone say "Blow me!" to indicate that they couldn't be bothered. My father uses it to express surprise/amazement, but I don't recommend that you copy him, because he's ancient, and I assume that you are not - and in any case, it's a BrE-only expression.

    "Wow!" remains too AmE for me, but I don't see any reason why you shouldn't use it.

    I use "Goodness!" a bit. I don't detect any religious connection.

    Expressions are like everything else: It's difficult to please all the people all the time.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Does "Cripes..." mean the same as "Wow!"
    It is about 60 years since I read "Cripes!" "Crikey" or "Crumbs", (Beano 1957, Biffo the Bear speaking to "The Parkie") and I have never heard them said in current English. You can consider all of them to be outdated.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There's a lovely expression I learnt from an old friend from the north of England, where I believe it's quite well-known: 'Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs!'. It sounds better in a Yorkshire accent than my southern one, but I enjoy using it.

    It can be used in place of more or less any of the above expressions. Whether you'll be understood is another matter.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There's a lovely expression I learnt from an old friend from the north of England, where I believe it's quite well-known: 'Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs!'. It sounds better in a Yorkshire accent than my southern one, but I enjoy using it.

    It can be used in place of more or less any of the above expressions. Whether you'll be understood is another matter.
    I like it! However, I probably won't use it because I doubt that more than five percent of the people I might say it to would have any idea what it means.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I didn't know that most Japanese are non-religious. I am aware that some are Christians, but I've never researched the percentages.
    I just did a fact check to see if I'm mistaken. According to a survey of 1,200 Japanese people conducted by NHK (Japan's national public broadcasting organization) in 2008, the percentage of respondents who answered "Yes" to a question "Do you follow any religion?" was 39% (Buddhism: 34%, Shintoism: 3%, Christianity: 1%, Other: 1%).

    On the other hand, the percentage who answered "Definitely" or "Probably" to a question "Do you think there is an afterworld?" was 44%. The results by gender and age were as follows.

    Age 16-29: Men 48%, Women 65%
    Age 30-39: Men 37%, Women 71%
    Age 40-49: Men 40%, Women 60%
    Age 50-59: Men 36%, Women 42%
    Age 60+: Men 29%, Women 34%

    According to the source by NHK, the percentage who answered "Definitely" or "Probably" to the same question "Do you think there is an afterworld?" in 1998 (10 years earlier) was 37%. This, as well as the results by gender and age above, means that the number of people who think there is an afterworld largely increased during the 10 years. The reason is obvious, spiritualism was very popular during this period, especially between 2005-2008. So, the number of people who are SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious, which I learned from a radio program by ABC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation) increased around that time.

    1. Truly devout people of different religions, not just Christians, object to this usage because the Third Commandment is not to take the name of God in vain.
    Excuse me if I'm ignorant, but does this mean that they object to exclamations that use "(Jesus) Christ" (which is the name of God) such as "Jesus Christ!" and its variations like "Crikey!", "Crumbs!" but NOT to exclamations that use "God" (which, I think isn't a name of God) such as "Oh my God!" etc.?

    By the way, I have Japanese family members through a son's marriage. One of them, my son's father-in-law, has lived in the U.S. for about 50 years. He's a wonderful person whom I would want as a friend if he wasn't already a relative. Still, he doesn't get this right either.
    That's really interesting and worth remembering.

    "Wow" if I was impressed, and "Yikes" if I was taken aback.
    I think your safest choice is "Wow!"
    "Wow!" remains too AmE for me, but I don't see any reason why you shouldn't use it.
    "Wow!" sounds too AmE for me too. Actually, when I hear other Japanese use "Wow!", I just feel uncomfortable. It just feels the expression doesn't suit them, unless they are very extroverted. I'm quite......introverted. :oops:

    Yowza! (not so common, but can be said with a twinkle in the eye for exaggerated effect)
    Didn't know this word!

    (As a point of reference the word "Goodbye" is contraction of God be with ye 1565–75)
    Didn't know this either! From now on, I'll use "Sayonara" instead of "Goodbye". :rolleyes: (Just kidding. And, as you know, we don't usually say "Sayonara" unless we think we are not going to see that person again.)

    Well, I've never heard anyone say "Blow me!" to indicate that they couldn't be bothered.
    Maybe that's an AmE usage. Good to know that "Blow me!" for expressing a feeling of surprise is BE-only.

    It is about 60 years since I read "Cripes!" "Crikey" or "Crumbs", (Beano 1957, Biffo the Bear speaking to "The Parkie") and I have never heard them said in current English. You can consider all of them to be outdated.
    I recently heard "Crikey" in BBC Learning English - The English We Speak / A close shave. They shouldn't have used it.

    Rob: I was cycling into the office and some idiot ran out in the road, right in front of me.
    Feifei: Crikey - did you hit him?


    I use "Goodness!" a bit. I don't detect any religious connection.
    This expression is common: Amazing!
    Considering all of the above, I'll probably use either of these. I prefer to use an expression that suits me and can be used excitedly ("!") or quietly ("...").

    e.g.1
    A: I've just bought a one million dollar watch.
    B: Amazing! / (My) Goodness!
    (=I'm surprised!)

    e.g.2
    A: I've just lost 3,000 dollars at the casino.
    B: Amazing... / My goodness...
    (=I can't believe you did such a stupid thing...)
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It is about 60 years since I read "Cripes!" "Crikey" or "Crumbs", (Beano 1957, Biffo the Bear speaking to "The Parkie") and I have never heard them said in current English. You can consider all of them to be outdated.
    Tony Blair* used "Crikey" all the time. I'm sure I've heard it since his defenestration too, from non-Westminster types, possibly members of my family.

    * British prime minister at the turn of the millennium
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Excuse me if I'm ignorant, but does this mean that they object to exclamations that use "(Jesus) Christ" (which is the name of God) such as "Jesus Christ!" and its variations like "Crikey!", "Crumbs!" but NOT to exclamations that use "God" (which, I think isn't a name of God) such as "Oh my God!" etc.?
    This is not so - "God", is the name of God should not be used "in vain1"

    As context, "God" is the name of the Christian god - He also has other names (Lord, Yahweh; Adonai, El, El Shaddai, Abba, etc.) all of which are epithets with a meaning.

    The Bible is divided into two parts: the first is the Old Testament, which is basically the history of the area around modern-day Israel in the period prior to the alleged appearance of Christ on earth. In this part, God is most insistent that He is the only deity who should be worshiped by the Israelites (basically, the Jews), although there are mentions of other deities.

    The second part of the Bible is the New Testament - this covers the time from the conception of Christ, who is said to be the Son of God by a human woman; His 'death' by crucifixion; His coming back to life (the Resurrection); His going to Heaven, and the events following this until about about 300AD.

    In the New Testament, two theological problems arise: Christ becomes considered as a deity, and "The Holy Spirit" (the embodiment or personification of God's power) appears. However, because the Old Testament was very clear on the idea that there was only one God, these three (God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit) are considered to be one 'indivisible' deity, known as "the Holy Trinity". This is a complete paradox and has never been really explained, however, Christians, by and large, accept this to be the case.

    The consequence of this is that needless utterance of any of the names or titles of any of the Trinity is considered by fervent believers to be objectionable.
    Didn't know this either! From now on, I'll use "Sayonara" instead of "Goodbye". :rolleyes: (Just kidding. And, as you know, we don't usually say "Sayonara" unless we think we are not going to see that person again.)
    That is interesting, as that is the meaning of "goodbye" - as opposed to most other languages that only have an expression meaning "until we meet again."

    I recently heard "Crikey" in BBC Learning English - The English We Speak / A close shave. They shouldn't have used it.

    Rob: I was cycling into the office and some idiot ran out in the road, right in front of me.
    Feifei: Crikey - did you hit him?
    :D It simply sounds funny.

    Considering all of the above, I'll probably use either of these. I prefer to use an expression that suits me and can be used excitedly ("!") or quietly ("...").

    e.g.1
    A: I've just bought a one million dollar watch.
    B: Amazing! / (My) Goodness!
    (=I'm surprised!)

    e.g.2
    A: I've just lost 3,000 dollars at the casino.
    B: Amazing... / My goodness...
    (=I can't believe you did such a stupid thing...)
    "Amazing!" works - "My goodness" seems rather weak and flaccid. Often the full response will be "Oh!" (or other variant or noise) spoken with an intonation of shock, surprise, sympathy, etc.

    However, in the real world, I don't think that I have ever heard anyone object to "Oh My God!; Jesus!, etc"

    1OED: 6. to take in vain.

    †a. To disregard, to treat with contempt. Obs.

    b. With name as object. To use or utter (the name of God) lightly, needlessly, or profanely; transf. to mention or speak of casually or idly. A literal rendering of [the Latin] assumere (nomen Dei) in vanum in the Vulgate text of Exod. xx. 7.
     
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    Dretagoto

    Senior Member
    Inglés británico
    In Scotland you will sometimes hear "Jings!" or "Crivens!"

    (Both are potentially quite old, but I use them because they amuse me). :D:p
     

    Dretagoto

    Senior Member
    Inglés británico
    Streuth! has a long-established pedigree. It is said to be a shorter version of God's truth, which would hardly be thought offensive.
    That's a word I associate almost exclusively with Australians, but I wonder if that's actually true, or I've been persuaded of that by some advertising campaign or other.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Yes, I noticed that in the OP but nobody had commented on it thus far. I would however contend that this is very much a London (and surrounding area) thing. I still use it on occasion, but I'm not sure if the younger generation still do.

    It also has religious origins (God blind me - Gor blimey - blimey) although I don't know how many people these days realise that.

    Re.: Blow me!: I'm not familiar with that. Blow me down! is what I'd say, but again I doubt very much that it's used by younger people.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    In talking to children, to avoid any offence, I use the terms I remember from my childhood, such as 'My word!' and 'Well, I never!'
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Streuth! has a long-established pedigree. It is said to be a shorter version of God's truth, which would hardly be thought offensive.
    Agreed, but I think it would sound odd from the mouth of a non-native speaker.

    That's a word I associate almost exclusively with Australians, but I wonder if that's actually true, or I've been persuaded of that by some advertising campaign or other.
    I think I use it from time to time. I'm not Australian.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Streuth! has a long-established pedigree. It is said to be a shorter version of God's truth, which would hardly be thought offensive.
    It was popular in Australia (I remember it from the 1960s, when I lived there) , although I think these days it has become a bit of a joke.:) Of course, 'strewth' (London spelling) is orginally a Cockey expression. I was told it came from 'It is truth'.

    My elderly mother still says it.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    As context, "God" is the name of the Christian god - He also has other names (Lord, Yahweh; Adonai, El, El Shaddai, Abba, etc.) all of which are epithets with a meaning.

    The Bible is divided into two parts:
    About a decade ago I read several books about major religions in the word, so I happen to know most of the things you explained about the Bible, but since they were written in or translated into Japanese, I wasn't sure if "God" was actually a name. I was familiar with the name "Yahweh" and thought the capitalized "God" was simply capitalized to be correctly recognized as the Christian god. (I'm familiar with "Lord" too but didn't know either that it was God's name.)

    "Amazing!" works - "My goodness" seems rather weak and flaccid.
    If it's sound rather weak, maybe it suits me. What I like about "My goodness" is that it also works in a situation where someone has just startled you, in which "Amazing" wouldn't work.

    A: "Boo!!!"
    B: "My goodness!!! You made me jump!!"


    However, in the real world, I don't think that I have ever heard anyone object to "Oh My God!
    At least Andy and Heypresto don't like it (see posts #5 and #6), so I'm not going to use it. :)
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My dislike of 'Oh my god' is mostly due to it being currently so ubiquitous. It's especially galling when it's pronounced 'oh em gee'.


    Crossed with PaulQ, with whom I agree. Religious sensitivities don't come into it.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I like "No way!" (kentix ,#12); isn't that short enough?
    I liked it, and I know it's used a lot (at least by people in the US). But I thought maybe it wouldn't work in the following example which I posted in post #22.

    e.g.2
    A: I've just lost 3,000 dollars at the casino.
    B: No way...
    (=I can't believe you did such a stupid thing...)

    Does this work?
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    "Cripes" is very dated - children's books from the 1950s is about the most recent use. I think "crumbs" is about as up-to-date as "cripes".
    Spend a day in my company and you'll hear cripes quite often. I guess repeated exposure to Enid Blyton has scarred me for life!

    I also wonder who these people are who object to non-Chritians using Jesus-based oaths. Really?
    True-believers are not supposed to swear, so almost by definition the swearing is only ever done by blasphemers or non-believers.

    Say what you want, meijin!
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Considering all of the above, I'll probably use either of these.
    I forgot to add "Gosh". "Gosh!", "Oh Gosh!", "Gosh...", etc. will probably work naturally for me in many situations. I like the sound of "Blimey" the most, though (I've heard it a few times in British dramas etc.).

    Yes, your dialogue about the casino works.
    Thanks. Good to know. But, as you say, it's very American. It sounds too cool for Japanese. :)

    in the religious cult I used to belong to.:eek: :rolleyes:
    :eek::D
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    About a decade ago I read several books about major religions in the word, so I happen to know most of the things you explained about the Bible, but since they were written in or translated into Japanese, I wasn't sure if "God" was actually a name. I was familiar with the name "Yahweh" and thought the capitalized "God" was simply capitalized to be correctly recognized as the Christian god. (I'm familiar with "Lord" too but didn't know either that it was God's name.)
    'Yahweh' is the Jewish name for their version of God.:) Christians refer to 'God' or 'the Lord'.
     
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