'I'll be darned' for 'I'm surprised'

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HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
I know 'I'll be damned' is an absolute no-no. And although 'I'll be darned' is a milder cousin of it, it is still wise not to use the profanity in most situations. However, I keep hearing 'I'll be darned' in place of 'I'm surprised,' particularly, from older generations. To me it sounds a light nod with 'What a surprise. Go on with it.' Is my perception right? The utterance comes mostly from people in their, say, seventies and eighties, and not from younger ones, in North America. And it comes with a smile.

Granddaughter: I went to Disney World in Florida last weekend with my friends. And I saw Brad Pitt at the gate to Space Mountain!
Grandfather: I'll be darned. Did you say hi to him?
 
  • dukaine

    Senior Member
    English - American
    In the context given, it's more like a "Wow!" than a "What a surprise!", although surprise can be involved in the "wow". You would say it when something unbelievable happens. "Darned" is acceptable "profanity", if you will. In the US, no one will be offended if you use it, and they will understand the emphasis that you're trying to give while trying to maintain respect.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    In the US, no one will be offended if you use it, and they will understand the emphasis that you're trying to give while trying to maintain respect.
    How about its generational tendency? Is there any? As far as I'm concerned, I rarely hear it from anyone under their sixties or seventies. When I talk to a radio ham from the States in his seventies or so, I do hear it used.

    Also, how about in other varieties of English? Is it still advisable to avoid 'I'll be darned' meaning 'Wow!' or 'Surprised!' or 'How about that!' in your English?
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In BE we tend not to say 'I'll be darned' (unless we are putting on what we perceive as an American accent). Others may disagree, but I'd say that over here, as profanities go, 'I'll be damned' ranks very low in offensiveness. It's hardly an absolute no-no.

    In similar circumstances to the situations given above, it will often be prefixed with 'Well', as in 'Well, I'll be damned!' We also shorten it to 'Well I'm damned'.

    Other common versions of it include 'I'll be blowed', and the curiously opposite to being damned, 'I'll be blessed'.

    Nowadays all these are probably spoken more often by the older generations.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    How about just 'Well, I'll be!'? I oftentimes say something like 'Well, I'll be! If it isn't you, Jackie! Fancy meeting you!' when I bump into someone I haven't seen for a long time.
     

    dukaine

    Senior Member
    English - American
    How about just 'Well, I'll be!'? I oftentimes say something like 'Well, I'll be! If it isn't you, Jackie! Fancy meeting you!' when I bump into someone I haven't seen for a long time.
    This definitely sounds like something you'd hear in a period novel set in the 19th century South. It's very old-fashioned.
     
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