What the Dickens?

So, as I said last week, as an historical writer I have to take care with the words I use. If I’m not I’m bound to receive hundreds of emails pointing out my mistakes.

What the Dickens?

Yeah, really! I’m not fooling you. Readers, especially those who enjoy and know their history, aren’t always forgiving. And since a lot of writers are readers too, that means they probably know their stuff, especially when it comes to slang.

You want to know something interesting? You probably already know it, but I’m going to share it anyway. Much of the slang I’ve encountered are creative exchanges for curse words. *GASP* I know, right!
Let’s look at jiminy crickets. Do you know where it originated? No, not Walt Disney. According to the Internet, cause y’all know we believe everything we find there, jiminy crickets was used in England as a cursing word so as to not be guilty of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Seems it was used in a few movies before Pinocchio even made the screen in 1940, but who knows when it actually came into use.

Remember the good ‘ol days of Leave it to Beaver? Jeepers, Wally! Yeah, those were the days when children were respectful, moms cooked, cleaned and looked like they spent the day at the spa, dads used gentle discipline. It was real, right upstanding show with lots of moral values. Now, I’m not saying anything against the Beave, because I loved watching all the reruns, but Jeepers is another one of those words that exchanges our Lord’s name so as to not take it in vain.  The word actually came into existence sometime in the 1920s. I imagine with the flapper era.

And who can forget The Fonz’s ‘sit on it’? *grins*

Now, here is an interesting one I found. Mainly because I see it a lot in 19th century historicals. And guess what? It’s existence, according to dictionary.com, began in the 1920s. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what it means.

But here is one of my all time favorites. Mainly because I’ve been dinged (and if I’m to be honest I probably dinged a few writers too) for using it prior to the 1800s.

What the Dickens? Of course, at the time I hadn’t a clue of the origination and it sent me on an adventure. I mean it only makes sense that this term is coined after Charles Dickens, right?


I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of. What do you call your knight’s name, sirrah?

Merry Wives of Windsor
William Shakespeare
That’s quite a few years before Charles Dickens was born. Over two hundred years to be exact. I’m sure you already know what it means, but just in case, it’s what the devil.
I love discovering the origination of words, not just because I need to know them for writing, but because I find them interesting. Guess I’m weird like that. 
What slang did you grow up with or have used over the years? Do you know the origination or why it came into existence? Care to share?