Jesus H. Christ

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Jesus H. Christ is a common phrase used to refer to the religious figure Jesus Christ.[1] The phrase occurs in vernacular speech, where it is used as an expletive (uttered, for example, in anger or frustration) or else with humorous intent.[2][3] It is not used in the context of Christian worship.

Jesus H. Christ

History[edit]

The expression dates to, at the latest, the late 19th century, although according to Mark Twain it was already well-established by 1850.[4] Twain refers to an episode in his youth when he was working as a printer's apprentice. One of the other apprentices was criticised by the preacher Alexander Campbell for abbreviating "Jesus Christ" to "J. C." in the printed version of one of his sermons because it served to "diminish the saviour's name". The apprentice reset it to read "Jesus H. Christ".[5]

Using the name of Jesus Christ as an oath has been common for many centuries, but the precise origins of the letter H in the expression Jesus H. Christ are obscure. While many explanations have been proposed, some serious and some not, the most widely accepted derivation is from the divine monogram of Christian symbolism. The symbol, derived from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus ( Ἰησοῦς), is transliterated iota-eta-sigma, which can look like IHS, ΙΗϹ (with lunate sigma), JHS or JHC. Since the transliteration IHS gave rise to the backronym Iesus Hominum Salvator (Latin for "Jesus, savior of men"), it is plausible that JHC similarly led to Jesus Harold Christ,[6] Harold coming from the mispronunciation of the word "hallowed" of the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name."

In a joke made by biology students,[1] the H is said to stand for "Haploid"; the implication being that since by the doctrine of the Virgin birth Jesus had no biological father, his genome would have been inherited entirely from his mother, the Virgin Mary. For the scientific background of the joke see Ploidy.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Adams, Cecil (1976-06-04), "Why do folks say "Jesus H. Christ"? No "H"", The Straight Dope, retrieved 2008-08-01 
  2. ^ Examples of both angry and humorous usages have been provided by the volunteer contributors to the Urban Dictionary.
  3. ^ The humor resides in the apparently arbitrary choice of "H", which has no Biblical justification. In addition, use of a middle initial would imply that "Christ" was Jesus's last name; it is not; for discussion, see Jesus.
  4. ^ Twain, Mark; Charles Neider (2000-01-13), The Autobiography of Mark Twain, HarperCollins, p. 119, ISBN 978-0-06-095542-7 
  5. ^ R. Kent Rasmussen, "Wales McCormck", in Critical Companion to Mark Twain: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Infobase Publishing, 2007, p. 786.
  6. ^ Smith, Roger (1994), "The H of Jesus H. Christ", American Speech 69 (3): 331–335, doi:10.2307/455527, JSTOR 455527 

Further reading[edit]

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