I came across this article about the inability of the Republican party leadership to pass a piece of legislation further restricting abortion rights on the occasion of the annual rally in Washington on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. When there was some dissension within their ranks, especially from women members of their caucus, they pulled the bill from the floor before the vote. As you can imagine, this abrupt change did not go down well with those who felt that they had been betrayed and one abortion foe was so furious that she complained angrily, saying, “What in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks just happened?”
I was amused that despite her strong emotions over this issue, she felt the need to use a euphemism for the word hell. Why is the use of that word so objectionable? I am not someone who routinely uses profane language but the word hell comes easily to me, maybe because in Sri Lanka, the phrase “What the hell?” to express surprise or annoyance is considered perfectly acceptable.
In the US, you will sometimes find people substituting the word ‘heck’ for hell, a word that I had never heard of before coming here. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says that this word originated in 1887 as a ‘more polite form of hell’.
Clearly some in the US find the word hell so objectionable that they have to use euphemisms or spell it out or, like the woman above, even use euphemisms for the letters when spelling it out! I was curious as to why. After all, even the most religious people seem to use the word ‘heaven’ quite casually, as in ‘Good heavens’ or ‘Heaven help us’ or even ‘Heavens to Betsy’, a phrase whose origin would be interesting to investigate. They even say thing’s like ‘For god’s sake’, violating the commandment that says that you must not take god’s name in vain. So why the hesitancy to say hell?
I wonder if that is another sign of the fear of Satan, that somehow saying the word hell might trigger some kind of alarm in Satan’s lair and he might come to investigate to see who was talking about his home.
Anyone have any ideas, perhaps someone who grew up with this prohibition against the word?