Sunday, May 31, 2015


Sometimes one thing or idea leads to another. It’s the saving of someone trying to post a blog every week, I can tell you.

I cited the word “Zounds!” in an article bemoaning the lack of imagination of much of the obscenity you see on line these days and looking to the past for colorful expressions.

It’s defined in the dictionary as a contraction of “God’s wounds,” and yet, somewhat surprisingly, it’s called a mild oath. Reputedly it was first coined in 1592, an era when religion lent color to speech, especially impassioned speech.

(Oliver Cromwell was one of the best, and maybe the best at it. You probably couldn’t get away with it today, but his “bowels of Christ” number would have been hard to ignore, whatever your politics. I don’t know that it’s ever been topped. Winston Churchill had some great lines, though.)

There seems to be some question about proper  pronunciation of the word. The impulse is to rhyme it with “bounds,” but there’s a suggestion that the derivation from  “wounds” should govern. The first works better as an interjection, I think.

Unless you’re quoting someone with a really forceful delivery, this is possibly the one excuse for using an exclamation point in your writing.(not that “Zounds” in itself isn’t an attention-getter, but why not go all the way?). I’m an advocate of interjections (and parentheses) and dashes and semicolons and ellipses. Why not? Some thoughts are just asides. Some call for a pause, but not a full stop; ideas that might stand on their own can be closely linked -- and you might want to show that. There are shades of meaning… 

The blog is pretty much a conversation with myself anyway,      so I should be able to get away with pushing the grammatical envelope a little. But along with the liberties, being my own audience dictates some restrictions. Since I sometimes find the use of expletives jarring in other people’s writings, I don't want to see them in my own, and you won't. If you read much online commentary you probably know how bad it gets out there.  "God's Wounds!" doesn’t come close.