so help me


Senior Member
français - France
Could you please tell me the meaning of "so help me" in this passage from Gatsby?

It was six of us at the table and Rosy had eat and drunk a lot all evening. When it was almost morning the waiter came up to him with a funny look and says somebody wants to speak to him outside. ‘All right,’ says Rosy, and begins to get up and I pulled him down in his chair.
“ ‘Let the bastards come in here if they want you, Rosy, but don’t you, so help me, move outside this room.’

1) no matter what
2) on my honour
3) something else?

Thank you
  • PaulQ

    English - England
    It is short for "so help me God". It is from the oath that witnesses in courts of law take, "I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God." An oath before God was the strictest you could take; here you were asking God's assistance to ensure that you did as you had said.

    In this and similar contexts, it implies that if the order (and it is usually used with orders) is not obeyed, "I promise you that something awful will happen to you and I will be the one who does it."

    Otherwise, it may be considered as an emphatic.


    Senior Member
    English - British
    In the original courtroom use, 'so help me God', the word 'so' is a conjunction meaning 'on condition that' God helps me or 'provided that' God helps me.
    The idea was that when you undertake solemnly to speak the truth, then in order to protect yourself against unintended error, you need God's help. It would be presumptuous and an insult to God for a mortal to swear that he could deliver the truth without God's help. Therefore he limits his oath by saying that he will speak the truth provided that he receives the necessary help from God.

    The sense of 'so help me' in colloquial usage is: 'I am doing my utmost; God knows, there is nothing more I can do or say'.
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