Origin of the word "bloody"

You may well be correct about the origin of “bloody”, but you’re wide of the mark regarding its level of offensiveness. In England “bloody” is just about the least offensive swear word that exists. No-one bats an eyelid if they hear it, and the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles have both been heard to utter it on daytime TV news bulletins without the nation collapsing with a dose of the vapours. Even my local parish priest uses it regularly…although he probably wouldn’t do in the pulpit!
Just a word of warning…don’t rank it alonside the “F” word. Drop that into polite conversation and you’ll still cause a few jaws to drop.

The moderator of this forum has asked that posters include a link to the Staff Report or Mailbag Item that is being discussed.

To include a link, it can be as simple as including the web page location in your post (make sure there is a space before and after the text of the URL).

The Staff Report can be found on-line at this link:
What’s the origin of the British slang word “bloody”?

It has also been suggested that the word ‘bloody’ may be a contraction of the blasphemous oath ‘by our lady’, referring of course to Mary (Jesus’ mum). I have no particular opinion on this, just wanted to point it out.

I “bloody-well” disagree with Lileth. Or, maybe I disagree with the OED. Or maybe J.E.Lighter’s Random House Dictionary of Historical American Slang, Vol. I disagrees with them both.

She/OED says "“In foul language, a vague epithet expressing anger, resentment, but often a mere intensive, especially with a negative – as, not a bloody one.” They cite an 1840s usage.
This is as the adjectival usage.

Lighter cites adjectival usage as from 1681: Otway Works II 137 He has been a bloody Cuckold-making Scoundrel in his time. And he cites 1726, 1791, 1800, etc. as usages as an adjective.

To share one of the finer moments of it’s usage as an infix (wow! I just learned a new word tonight)–

From Journal of American Folklore , 1895, courtesey of Mr Lighter: [Bloody is] interlarded by every Cockney into every remark, suitably or unsuitably, and even, as I have heard it, interpolated for the sake of definite and precise emphasis, between two syllables of a word, or used as a term of partially humorous enderment by a shawl-enshrouded mother to an East End child…“Them’s the —fellers wot’s got all the —power in this — country. If I 'ad my —way, I’d put every —mother’s son of 'em under this —river for a —half’our, and next I’d put every—foreigner in the —country after 'em, and that 'ud give a —Englishman a chance.”

Wow! Talk about your PMS. :smiley:

(Uh-oh!) That’s the other kinda blood they were talking about. :rolleyes:

Now I understand that merely coming on line and saying “I think I remember…” is not really offering evidence. At least not in the Cecilian fashion in which we prefer to fight ignorance. Nevertheless, my offering is that I have thought for years that plank’s suggestion is the actual origin of the word.

I am certain that the phrase “by our lady” occurs in Shakespeare - unfortunately my copies of Shakes are all in storage, but there might be someone with access to a concordance. Try the Wives or anything else with Falstaff in it.

On the other hand, I also recollect “'sblood” and “'swounds” as being in the canon somewhere too - standing, of course, for “by God’s blood” and “by God’s wounds”

Madonna, this is a hard one!

In one of his books – and for the life of me I can’t recall which one – Ashley Montague reviews all the theories regarding the origins of the word “bloody”. There are a LOT of them, and his list includes the “by our Lady” and “aristocratic bloods” and others. He ultimately concluded that there was no firm basis to prefer any of the explanations. No explanation had any obvious advantage over the others in history or theory. As far as I know, it’s still open season on explanations. I personally prefer the “By Our Lady” explanation, but that doesn’t tell me why “bloody” was considered so unspeakable that George Bernard Shaw could use it to get a rise out of his audience in “Pygmalion”, or why it had declined so much that over half a century later they had to reoplace “bloody” with “arse” to get a similar effect in “My Fair Lady”.

Cal said

Probably the same reason that my grandmother would have “switched” my legs[Southerners will understand this] in the early 1950’s if I had said “Jesus” as an expletive. after a bee stung my bare foot. Here we are 50 years later, and I don’t bat an eye if my kids say that. They have to use some form of MF in the house to get me going. :smiley:

In the 20’s, some English used “Pygmalion” as a semi-swear (like “darn” or “heck”).

samclem said:

I can see how having your legs in the opposite places could make walking difficult. Go to take a step and have the wrong side lift. And what do Australians know about leg transplants that’s so special? :wink: