Monday January 22, 2007
What Does the H Stand For?
I'm sure many of you have heard or used the expression Jesus H. Christ or one of its many variants, probably in connection with someone hitting himself in the thumb with a hammer or a similar mishap. Have you ever wondered what the H stands for? Cecil Adams wrote a column about this question more than thirty years ago, but he didn't have the Internet at his disposal. I do, so to find and count all the variants of the expression, I fed it to my trusty snowclone script—though Jesus H. Christ doesn't have much syntax in it, so it probably isn't a phrasal template like a true snowclone, it's still of a form ("jesus X christ") the script can work on. After the jump, therefore, I present to you: the many middle names of the Son of Man.
First, here's a list of the most common fillers that start with H. Fair warning: some of them are mildly offensive:
Jesus X Christ gHits harold 3550 horatio 1320 hitler 1120 henry 784 hector 358 haploid 315 hopping 50 herbert mulroney 44 hopscotching 29 hominibus 19 honkey 19 hermoine 18 hieronymus 13 halliburton 12 hummer 10 harlod 10 heironymious 9 hemorrhoids 7 hammersack 6 h r puffinstuff 6 hashimoto 5 halibut 4 halfbaker 2 hedwig 2 haripod 1 hyperbole 1 higgs 1 horripilating 1 horracio 1 hotpants 1 halleuyah 1
Of course, there were many other fillers that cropped up in the search, and I've collated those separately below. They seem to form the same sort of expression: of displeasure, surprise, or pain. Fair warning again, stronger this time: I've filtered out anything that appeared to come from a prayer or devotional literature, and the vast majority of what remains was designed for maximum offensiveness, so if this is the sort of thing that might offend you, you should expect to be offended, like a lot.
OK, you asked for it:
Jesus X Christ gHits fucking 155000 tapdancing 10800 fuckin 9340 tittyfucking 6780 effing 4680 friggin 4610 motherfucking 4440 freaking 4020 bloody 2910 jumping 1680 smurfing 1540 effin 1160 goddamn 805 frickin 801 christian 794 buttfucking 707 shitting 509 fecking 496 frigging 443 fricking 361 flipping 310 fcuking 298 pissing 295 freakin 293 bleeding 262 cunting 220 god damn 95 fing 62 tapdancin 59 feckin 52 fuking 49 dubya 47 cocksucking 46 cocking 46 goddamned 44 negus 44 tappdancing 43 everloving 42 fuckign 42 aitch 41 breakdancing 40 stepanski 39 fscking 39 tittyfuckin 39 goddam 38 standup 38 frikkin 38 fking 38 forking 37 fukkin 37 fuggin 37 fuckme 37 phucking 36 baldheaded 36 flaming 36 frakking 34 fuckn 34 fackin 33 freekin 33 lapdancing 33 fracking 32 crippled 32 fugging 32 unholy 32 tiberius 32 ouch 31 fuccking 31 fucknig 31 fxxking 30 roosevelt 30 crapping 30 assraping 30 freaky 29 ficking 27 moses 23 frelling 23 leaping 23 motherfisting 22 cocksmoking 21 xxxxing 21 milhouse 20 yow 18 osama 17 buffying 15 aitu 15 corpsefucking 13 frigin 13 babbling 12 malarkey 11 fucklng 10 cock gobbling 10 sodomising 10 competition yodelling 9 panty sniffing 8 motherxxxxing 7 f0king 7 iceskating 7 foxtrotting 7 effn 7 googling 6 fuicking 6 farting 6 aloysius 6 chretien 6 ferkin 6 nipple 5 dunking 5 buttfuxxxng 5 monkeymolesting 5 fappin 5 sickening 5 fursuiting 4 truckdriving 4 armflapping 4 pants shitin 4 dramatising 4 fuqin 4 mothershitting 4 mohammmed 3 bloddy 3 icefishing 3 donkeypunching 3 bleepin 3 benzedrine 3 gorram 3 rimming 3 worshiping 3 whatthefuck 3 fuckingg 3 fawking 2 buddyfucking 2 bollocks 2 bastardly 2 mceggmcmuffin 2 friging 2 wilcock 2 titlicking 2 kilgore 2 fuckberging 2 weedwhacking 2 cnuting 1 fduckin 1 tap dnacing 1 bobfucking 1 ohmyfuckinggod 1 teflon 1 pickled 1 flipflopping 1 ever l0ving 1 mofocking 1 toking 1 jicking 1 great goat fukin 1 ffuucckking 1
It's a lot to take in, I know, but there are some interesting patterns to notice here—besides the staggering number of spellings of forms of fuck, I mean. A great majority of these fillers are present participles ending in -ing, so that Jesus is portrayed as doing something, usually something unnatural or offensive. Of the rest, a reasonable number can be used as expressions of displeasure in their own right (e.g. bloody, god damn, fuckme, ouch, yow, whatthefuck, and bollocks), so the whole expression is a kind of nested swearword. Another set are unusual proper names, many of which are references to specific individuals (e.g. dubya, tiberius, roosevelt, moses, milhouse, and osama).
I noticed as well that a lot of these variants occur as part of a larger phrasal pattern that includes a prepositional phrase specifying a location or circumstance. Here's a sampling of the fillers found for the second slot in "jesus X christ on Y": a popsicle stick, a crutch, a pogo stick, a stick, a cross, a bike, toast, a cracker, a harley, horseback, and a raft. There seems to be a preference for long skinny things—I'll leave it to you to guess why—but there's also a surprising number of modes of travel. Jesus is going places, apparently, but he's not traveling in comfort.
What does it all mean? It's easy to dismiss this kind of thing as mere pottymouthed blasphemy, but I think some of these expressions have a certain poetry—I might have to start saying, "Jesus competition yodelling Christ!", for example—since they're designed to roll off the tongue in moments of stress. The people who come up with them are clearly reaching for the strongest available vocabulary and most sacred subjects for maximum linguistic impact. It's an odd and aggressive thing to do. Of course, as with all things, sometimes someone tries too hard and ends up with a dud—I don't expect to hear "Jesus McEggMcMuffin Christ!" or "Jesus Buffying Christ!" in conversation any time soon.
(OK, it's over—if you covered your eyes you can open them up again.)
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I learned it as "Jesus H. P. Christ," in which the initialism was said to stand for "higher power." (This says something about my associates as a child, I am aware.) "On a pogo stick" was a not-uncommon phrasal suffix.
Comes up 34 times in Google, sans pogo stick. "Christ on a pogo stick" comes up 19,100 times, so I feel a bit less lonesome. :)
Re the other fillers, most of them are disyllabic, which is also a quasi-requirement for more general "vulgar infixation" (fan-fucking-tastic is fine, *fan-damn-tastic is just weird). That probably has something to do with it.
I've always preferred to assert that the H stands for "Jesus" (i.e. "Hay-zeus"), ungodly cross-language-irregular spelling conventions notwithstanding.
Posted by: at Jan 22, 2007 9:29:15 AM
You've missed "Jesus H Roosevelt Christ", from Red Sky at Morning.
"tittyfucking" struck me as awfully common for such a, well, an uncommon word; sure enough, it's a line from "Team America: World Police", and thus its quote status naturally elevates its usage.
"Harold" was what I learned as his middle name (perhaps because it's such a nice Jewish name; perhaps because of the prayer: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name"). "...on a popsicle stick" is definitely the Y-filling phrase of preference in my own idiolect. A little websearching tells me that particular phrasing is from (if not originally from) "Fletch", a movie I watched a few too many times in my youth, so that would make sense.
I'm sad that there aren't any particular web hits for "Christ on a cannoli!", which I must assure you is a mildly common phrase, albeit only within people who were solving the 2004 Mystery Hunt on my team.
Posted by: Lance at Jan 22, 2007 5:17:41 PM
I wonder if it's related to the liturgical inscription IHS, which in turn represents the Greek iota-eta-sigma, as in Iesous, but also interpreted as the Latin "Iesus Hominum Salvator"?
I wonder if there are any "Jesus H.P.L. Christ" comments out there.
I heard it as "'Hallmark', because He cared enough to send the very best."
Posted by: theophylact at Jan 26, 2007 4:08:44 PM
Hermes Conrad, the Jamaican character on the show "Futurama", has used "Ras H. Tafari"
Posted by: Oren at Jan 29, 2007 6:41:36 PM
Did you say that some in the first list were 'mildly offensive'? Which ones? For the life of me I can't figure it out!
How about "hitler" and "hemorrhoids"? I don't guarantee they're offensive to you, but I think those are clearly intended to be blasphemous.
Posted by: The Tensor at Feb 5, 2007 10:14:52 PM
For what it's worth (coming from a total stranger who just wandered into your blog pseudo-randomly), "Haploid" and "on a popsicle stick" are bog-standard for me. Although I do admire the "Jesus H.P.L. Christ" suggestion.
Also, didn't you mean to type "hermione" rather than "hermoine"? It would be odd if a misspelling made the high scores list, but its correctly-spelled sister didn't.
Posted by: David Conrad at Feb 11, 2007 7:46:24 PM
Jesus Holy Christ ???
Posted by: blobb at Feb 9, 2008 6:43:23 AM
Posted by: Jerry Carlton at Feb 21, 2008 3:23:38 AM
I'm with Lance: IHS, for iota-eta-sigma of "Iesous". Even more so because in many styles the sigma is written like a capital C, so you would have seen "IHC" in icons and so on.
(Enough. Lunch hour's over; back to work.)
Dr. Whom, Consulting Linguist, Grammarian, Orthoëpist, and Philological Busybody
Posted by: Mark A. Mandel at Mar 10, 2008 11:03:41 AM
How about hallowed? In the lords prayer there is a line--"Hallowed be thy name".
Posted by: Shyla at Mar 25, 2008 10:07:24 AM
I'm with the majority: I'd say Harold. Here's my thinking: in the first stanza of the Lord's Prayer, Harold is identified as the Father ("Our father, who art in Heaven, Harold be Thy name..."), so maybe Jesus H. Christ carried his father's given name as a middle name.
PS - If you identify nine billion of these middle names, will the stars start to go out à la Arthur C. Clarke?
Posted by: Jonathan at Apr 1, 2008 9:49:46 AM
Aww, the script missed my favorite, "Jesus Fuck My Eye Christ" from Penny Arcade...
I reckon Jesus isn't even his name. He looks like a Jim to me. Jim Christ.
Posted by: Hardie at Jun 9, 2008 4:57:11 PM