Where Did the Saying “jiminy Christmas” Come From?
“Jiminy Christmas” is an English-language example of what’s called a minced oath, a way to avoid referencing the sacred or profane, such as God or Jesus, or calling on the devil.
It’s an age-old way to dance around what throughout history has been considered blasphemous — i.e., using the Lord’s name as a profanity, or naming the devil — or to side-step outright swearing with euphemisms, especially when startled or annoyed.
Minced oaths are very common in literature; Shakespeare’s plays are full of them. In fact, swearing on stage was officially banned in England in 1606, and a general ban on swearing followed in 1623.
Minced oaths and euphemisms usually resemble the name or term they reference; for example, “Jiminy Christmas” for Jesus Christ, which is said to date to 1664 CE, when it was first, recorded as “Gemini,” a twist on the Latin phrase Jesu domini.
Other examples include Judas Priest (Jesus Christ); gosh darn it (for God damn it); dickens (for the devil); for crying out loud (for Christ’s sake).