What’s going on with the expression: “For crying out loud?” Have you ever thought about that? I mean, what the heck does that expression mean anyway? Where did it originate from?
Expressions like “Hot dog!” or “Man alive!” make sense to me. Hot dog implies that you’re excited about something- About as excited as you’d be if someone gave you a free hot dog. “Man alive” means your surprised about something; it was likely coined by mountain climbers when they found half-dead men in the snow- Imagine running across a boot sticking out of the snow, and when you tug on it a semi conscious Sherpa is attached to the other end. You’d yell “Man alive!” too, and you’d have every right to do so.
My dad was a big advocate of the “for crying out loud” expression. He’d yell it at me when I’d do things like draw with crayons on the wall, or put the cat in the dryer. Every time I heard it, I’d sail into the cannonball position and try to roll myself into a tight nook where he couldn’t reach me. One day as I was stuffing myself into a hamper I thought: “This for crying out loud expression makes no sense to me. The English language certainly has its share of strange expressions and illogical grammar points, but expressions like this are just plain reckless. Frankly, they make me a little uneasy, and I refuse to use any expression that doesn’t have at least a semi-logical origination.” (Yes, I spoke like this when I was 8 years old). I had reached the bottom of the hamper as my dad’s footsteps approached. “For crying out loud Marcus, where the heck are you!?” It was then and there that I made a decision. With a sock stuck to my cheek I declared: “I WILL get to the bottom of this irresponsible expression, for good or ill!”
So today, 25 years later, I’m happy to report that I have unearthed the origination of the “for crying out loud” euphemism… kinda. The expression is part of a long list of sayings that find their origin in Christian culture. They’re called “minced oaths,” and they allow you to express your frustration without saying something sinful.
For example, if you were a peasant back in the dark ages and someone stole your sandal, you wouldn’t want to yell out an expression like: “When I find you, I’m gonna stick that sandal up your…!” You’d instead say something like: “For Pete’s Sake!” which calls to attention Jesus’ right hand man, St. Peter. You’d still get to express your anger, but you’d slip it right past god without him even knowing what happened. And who knows, maybe St. Peter can help you get your sandal back.
Expressions like “Gee” are even Christian based. The “G” sound represents the “G” sound in Jesus Christ, and is also responsible for Hip Hop’s famous saying: “G-Unit,” which gangsters use as an underground codeword when referring to their personal lord and savior.
“For crying out loud” is said to originate from the expression “for Christ’s sake.” How you get from “for Christ’s sake” to “for crying out loud” I don’t know, but I bet it has something to do with a father who was displeased with the incessant crying of his sprout. He was likely an influential man, and as he held himself at the brink of saying: “For Christ’s Sake,” he instead said: “For crying out loud!” His eyebrow probably flew up right after he said it; the “ah-ha” kind of eyebrow we all strive for. And with that, the expression was coined.
Euphemisms play an important role in our culture, and I tip my hat to my dad for having the gall to carry on the tradition. The next time you hear an expression who’s meaning alludes you, think back to our early Christian forefathers and thank them for their contribution. I mean for crying out loud, at least they provided us with some fantastic comedy.
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