Why Do Folks Always Say Jesus H. Christ?

From http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/30/why-do-folks-say-jesus-h-christ:

Personally, I was always of the opinion that this was a loophole to avoid taking the Lord’s name in vain while still, err, still getting the point across. The “H” is irrelevant, it’s just become the defacto technical sin-avoidance modifier probably invented by whomever initially popularized this.


People always say that the Immaculate Conception refers to the Conception of Christ, but I was taught by the Jesuits and they said that was actually the conception of Mary and that’s why she was born without original sin. Her’s was actually the Immaculate Conception.

Jesus H. Christ, what does that have to do with anything?

I always thought it was just a joke. C’mon, it’d be silly for Our Lord and Savior to have a middle initial.

Is there an error in the cartoon? It shows a towel with a monogram, with H as the center letter. Convention places the initial of the LAST name in the center, and I doubt Cecil meant the last name to have that initial.

Yes. The people who “always say” otherwise are always wrong.

Except that your use of “why” is a little off – sorta like saying that the Virgin Birth is why Jesus was born of a virgin.

All small-o orthodox Christians believe that Jesus was the son of a virgin. Roman Catholics, and (generally speaking) only Roman Catholics believe that Mary was not only innocent of actual sin, but free from original sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb of St. Anne. The first doctrine is the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. The second doctrine (which has been official only since 1854) is the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

As to other divisions of Christianity, the Eastern Orthodox (and, as far as I know, the ante-Chalcedonians) are none too sure that there is any such thing as original sin, and Protestants don’t believe in the Immaculate Conception because it ain’t in the Bible. Anglicans traditionally follow the Protestant line, but some Anglo-Catholics follow Rome in this matter. (Some Anglo-Catholics follow Rome in just about anything, except for Papal Supremacy.)

Where does IHS meaning In Hoc Signo come into it? Or is it Signa?

That would confuse me.

“In hoc signo” means, literally, “In this sign” – the full sentence is In hoc signo vinces, “In this sign you will conquer,” allegedly said by Christ in a dream to the Emperor Constantine.

Specifically referring to the chi-rho. But the connection with IHS is urban myth.

Although I wasn’t around at the time, I have heard that during WWII the common saying was “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.”

That’s because you’ve seen it done wrong so many times. I blame the hiring policies at Things Remembered, the engraving and monogramming shops at many malls. If you hire high school kids you must assume many are idiots.

The person’s surname has pride of place as the largest initial. His middle initial has no value except to balance the composition.

The Christogram (or logo of Christ’s name) IHC is an alternative for IHS, and is often found in old churches in the UK.

It is a transliteration of the Greek iota-eta-sigma, with the sigma represented by a C rather than an S.

See the following examples:
Oxford,Trinity College, Dining Hall
Orchardleigh, St Mary
Earlham Cemetery, Norwich, Norfolk
Guy’s Chapel
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Byz./Medieval Lady’s Christogram Silver ring on eBay
Cross at Grace Cathedral
Church dedication: St Mary The Virgin, Long Stratton, Norfolk
Church dedication: St Peter & St Paul, Lavenham, Suffolk
Church dedication: St Mary the Virgin, Burston, Norfolk

There are probably thousands of examples in English churches.

It’s very easy to see that this could be taken as standing for Jesus H. Christ.

You are correct. True story – I knew a girl in college (I’m changing her name but keeping the initials the same); Catherine Mary Underwood. She was fond of a particular sweater which prominently featured the type of monogram you describe, to the endless amusement of everyone else in the dorm.

No, it would be because I read from left to right. Name sequence is First, Middle, Last, with Middle in the middle.

Or that they are staffed by people who don’t know the conventions that don’t follow normal logic.

I understand the logic. It just doesn’t fit my logic.

It’s kinda like the logo for Texas A&M. What, is that a college with a drive through window?


As for the H, H is a funny letter and provides a clean pause between the two names. In its normal use it’s something like a song. Note the flow: down from JE to sus (two quarter notes), back up for the aitch (a half note), then down with finality on the final note CHRIST! (a whole note). Compare that with the exclamation, JE-sus Christ! which has the drop in the first two quarter notes then back up for the half note. By ending on a long down note the first conveys anger, while by ending on a shorter up note the second sounds more full of wonder or exasperation.

ETA: This moment of off-the-cuff bullshitting was brought to you by the letter H.

ETAA: Does the drive thru at Texas A&M offer both diplomas and beer? :wink:

ETAAA: Hey, my final paper in Linguistics was about profanity. I’m a expert! :smiley:

Just a guess. Maybe the expression was coined during the Taft administration (1909-1913) when “H” was the presidential middle initial and was possibly ironically thrown about like we do with “W” right now? (Looks like “H” is coming back in style for presidential mockery…)

Only in Diana Gabaldon books. I’m pretty sure she invented the phrase. The protagonist was a nurse and first learned of it in WWII.

Isn’t it obvious?

His name

as you can see

is really, truly

and always has been

Jesus Hussein Christ.

We have been fooled.
Wake up sheeple!