In the name of Zeus

Silver

Senior Member
Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
Hi,

I met a sentence when I was reading a magazine, it was a piece of dialogue:


-What in the name of Zeus are you talking about?

-Nothing.


According to one of my friend who is from English major, he said it meant "the heck", a slightly annoyed term to mean impatience. Is it correct?

I guess the term is not in current use, but I can still google it out....

May I have your opinion?
 
  • LauraK

    Senior Member
    American English
    No, it's not a very common phrase, but it does mean what your friend said. Just a quirky way of saying "what the heck...?"
     

    LauraK

    Senior Member
    American English
    No, I doubt I've ever used it. I think I've only seen it in books every now and then. I have a quirky vocabulary at times, but this is not one of the ways I express my quirkiness... :D
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    I can't get access to my OED, but I firmly believe it is quite old-fashioned. Anyway, thanks a lot for your sincerity.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I can't get access to my OED, but I firmly believe it is quite old-fashioned. Anyway, thanks a lot for your sincerity.

    According to this Learn Greek Online! page, Ancient Greek expressions invoking Zeus which would be translated into English as "By Zeus" and "In the name of Zeus" were equivalent in function to English "I swear."

    "By Zeus" or "In the name of Zeus" could then represent a translation from Ancient Greek. There is another possibility, however. These expressions could be, in effect, minced forms of "By God" and "In the name of God." When used as exclamations (as in "What in the name of God did you do that for?") the latter expressions constitute "taking the name of the Lord in vain," which is blasphemy and is prohibited by one of the Ten Commandments. Changing from God to Zeus would take the blasphemy out of it, since Zeus is, from a Christian perspective, a false God.

    "By Jupiter" is another example or this sort of weakened oath, and is one which I have encountered more often than "By Zeus," although mainly in comic books and movies from the early- and mid-20th century.
     
    Last edited:

    Sharifa345

    Senior Member
    USA
    US English, DR Spanish
    Thanks a lot. It sounds a bit old-fashioned, doesn't it?

    I would just read that as "What in God's name are you talking about?" It doesn't sound old-fashioned to me, but it does sound like an odd way of saying that more common expression. I would just think of it as someone trying to use "What in God's name" in a funny way.
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Peering over my shoulder as I entered the doorway to the bedroom, I checked the status of The Evil One (A dog). By the hand of Zeus he was still sleeping.

    Source: How To Disappear Completely David Bowick

    Background: A guy snuck into his ex-girlfriend house looking for the wedding ring he'd given to her before they broke up. The only thing that got in his way was her devil dog, which, luckily, was still sleeping the sleep of the dead.

    Is it correct to read "by the hand of Zeus" as "by the by the divine intervention of Zeus (or the alternative God)"?
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Background: A guy snuck into his ex-girlfriend house looking for the wedding ring he'd given to her before they broke up. The only thing that got in his way was her devil dog, which, luckily, was still sleeping the sleep of the dead.

    Is it correct to read "by the hand of Zeus" as "by the by the divine intervention of Zeus (or the alternative God)"?

    Yes it is.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Is it correct to read "by the hand of Zeus" as "by the by the divine intervention of Zeus (or the alternative God)"?
    He was (perhaps) too afraid of offending Christian/Muslim (etc.) folk to say Thanks be to God/Allah (etc.) or similar:) (As far as I know there are no longer many genuine worshippers of Zeus:D)
     

    morzh

    Banned
    USA
    Russian
    It is an acceptable (albeit not that popular in everyday life) euphemism for "What in the name of Jesus are you talking about?". This one is quite common.

    Since some people still consider taking the Lord's name in vain a sin, euphemisms are created for this purpose.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Wasn't this from a movie like Hercules, or a similar type of story, semi-historical and comic? Otherwise I would be really surprised to hear it. It is very far from common.
     

    Jinker

    New Member
    English - Canadian, Newfoundland
    Speakers of certain English dialects (West Country in UK and Newfoundland English in Canada) employ the exclamation "Juice!" or "By juice!", presumably semantic cousins to the earlier British euphemism "By deuce!" by the more careful upper levels of 19th century English society who wished not to offend the prevailing Christian sensibilities by outright exclamations of "By God!" and so resorted to a pseudo-classic reference to the ancient Greek God Zeus.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    deuce (n.) late 15c., "the 2 in dice or cards," also "a roll of 2 in dice" (1510s), from Middle French deus (Modern French deux), from Latin duos (nom. duo) "two" (see two).


    Became a mild oath by 1710, about 50 years after it was first attested in the sense of "bad luck, the devil, etc.," perhaps because two was the lowest score, and probably by similarity to Latin deus and related words meaning "god." Low German had der daus! in same sense 16c., which perhaps influenced the English form.
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=deuce&searchmode=none

    The OED relies more (though not entirely) on the the German and goes into much greater detail
    deuce 1.b The personification or spirit of mischief, the devil. Originally, in exclamatory and interjectional phrases; often as a mere expression of impatience or emphasis:
    but basically, the deuce is the Devil - there is no suggestion that Zeus is involved.
     

    acumfaegovan

    New Member
    Scots
    Govan was formerly a village and later town in Scotland now a district of Glasgow, here we have long used a local variation "In the name of Govan" again meaning "what the heck", we also have "Good God in Govan"
     
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