If William Safire were still with us he would no doubt be blown away by the ubiquity with which the OMG has permeated the English language. The Deity seems to mark the beginning of almost every phrase fit for an enthusiastic intro.
Forget “you’re kidding”. Or “you can’t be serious”. Or “get out of here”. Or “no way”. It was well over a year ago that I first heard my daughter-in-law toss off the one liner: “Oh My God”. It wasn’t the three words. It was the prosody; the inflection. The verbal emoticon embellished by facial expression. Let me count just a few of the ways:
1) Oh, [pause for effect] mygod – that’s the contorolled deliberate tone, perhaps expressing some concern.
2) Oh, my, God – that’s the one with staccato, serious overtones.
3) Oh my GOD! – that’s the one that takes a dip down after the “my” and explodes into God – for enthusiasm.
4) OH MY GOD! – that’s the running start that bursts into unbridled joy.
So what does Wiki have to say about this?
The phrase typically expresses excitement, shock, awe, dismay or supplication. Common euphemisms are oh my gosh, omigosh, or oh my goodness – presumably for those who find mentioning God in this context blasphemous.
As an interjection, Oh My God is usually a “wow” to someone else’s news. It even threatens to phase out “awesome!”. After all, the three words lets the user play alot more with inflection, compared to just the one or two word jobs. In this vein, Wikisaurus does a nice job of letting us know all the phrases it has already displaced.
Some of my favorite are:
- good God
- good Lord
- goodness gracious
- holy cow
- holy crap
- holy guacamole
- holy mackerel
- holy moley
And of course, the displacement of Jesus in the vernacular. As a recent example, take the column a few days ago by Mike Hume extolling the Godlike pitching qualities of Stephen Strasburg.
So is this just a passing linguistic fad, or is the phrase here to stay?
Ohmygod!!!! I can’t believe you asked that!