SIGH, someone sent me an email earlier today that expressed surprise that I used the word “heck” in an email.  He went on to say that he was taught at home that the word “heck” was a substitute for the curse word “hell” and that “gee” was a substitute for “Jesus” and “gosh” for God. First of all, the reader was not emailing me in a mean-spirited way, so I don’t want to be disparaging.  But I thought it brought up an interesting discussion.  Interestingly my wife saw a sign posted in one of my favorite Amish bakeries expressing a similar sentiment.

People who register on The Amish Cook website receive email blasts from me a couple times a week.  And in one sentence today I wrote: “What the heck is a Lancaster County buggy doing in Indiana?”

It never even crossed my mind that “heck” was in some way offensive.  It’s a place-holder word that expresses eitherin this case “incredulity” or in other cases maybe mild annoyance.  Isn’t any mild word used to express minor annoyance a place-holder for something more coarse?  If I stub my toe and yell “oh, fudge!”  Isn’t that a replacement for a much more coarse four letter word?  And isn’t the whole point of saying “oh fudge” to avoid saying something coarse?  Using the emailer’s logic I shouldn’t even yell “oh fudge.”  What should I exclaim then?  I always thought darn, heck, and shoot were perfectly acceptable place-holder words.  If those aren’t acceptable, what is?   If Istub my toe or make a mistake at work and want to express mild annoyance do I exclaim “Oh, rhubarb and asparagus!?” or “chair!” or maybe “swimming pool!”

I went to a Jesuit college my freshman year and one of the nuns taught us that you’re upset and are tempted to take the Lord’s name in vain, just exclaim “cheese and rice!” instead.  And to this day one of my friends from that freshman year still invokes “cheese and rice” in anger.  Anger or frustration are natural emotions and I understand some peoples’ objections to using coarse language or language that is religiously disparaging, so aren’t more mild place-holder words acceptable?  If not, what is?  What should I say to express mild annoyance?  What do you do?

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