Thou shalt have no other syllables before me

I’m really stressed out.  I go into the bathroom to have a little cry, as is a lady’s prerogative.  I need a monosyllabic word to expel in my mind.  Fill in the blank: “oh, ___.”

There are lots of monosyllabic words that might be expelled from my mouth if I were angry, frustrated, annoyed, or furious.  But there is only one one-size-fits-all monosyllable that fits into the mouth of my consciousness when, as today, I am bone-tired and overextended and exhausted.  When I am so tired that the tiredness itself squeezes out tears, there is only one syllable that is so ubiquitous that even a near-comatose mind would produce it.  I don’t know if that will ever change.  I don’t know if any other syllable can match that cultural staying power.

I don’t like atheist euphemisms generally.  But I do need a monosyllabic word that will allow me to get through a little self-pitying cry without stopping to think about my philosophical beliefs as I question my choice of imagined syllable.  Ideally, it would have three letters, and begin with a consonant in the back of the mouth and end with a consonant at the front of the mouth for maximum exclamatory efficiency.

___. I am shaking my head at myself right now.


9 thoughts on “Thou shalt have no other syllables before me

  1. Irritable

    I wouldn’t be squeamish about using “God.” Of course the ways in which it is satisfying are culturally constructed, but they’re still real.

    I don’t think anybody is keeping score, and it’s not like an expletive proves the “no atheists in foxholes” aphorism. It’s just a word; why deny yourself its use?

    Especially if you’ve popped off to the bathroom for a good cry.

  2. Helen

    I just say ‘ow’ (internally, maybe, and as many times as I need to) – that sort of helps me validate the emotional pain I’m in at the time.

    Maybe it’s not perfect but I really don’t want to say ‘oh God’ – it feels false to me these days.

  3. Justin

    I’m down with this. “Oh, community of fellow rational humans!” just doesn’t carry the same weight.

    Instead of naming s/he-who-does-not-exist I’ll find a lonely corner and let out a barbaric yalp. It usually is an “ah” but it starts low, ends loud and high, and lasts a bit longer than a good sneeze. Might do it two or three times. Words cannot express that kind of emotion anyway, yeah?

  4. hoverfrog

    “Penn” as in the talkative half of magicians Penn and Teller and well know atheist. It sounds better if you use alliteration when voicing your exasperation as in “Pernicious Penn, than hurt” but just “Oh Penn” works quite well on it’s own.

    However, when I fell over in my garden last week and landed heavily on some ill placed bricks my first word (after I re-learnt the pleasure of breathing) was “Scheiß”.

  5. vjack

    I just wanted to come by and say hi. This is my first visit, and I found you from a recommendation on Friendly Atheist. I’m adding your RSS feed, and I’ll be back.

  6. Irritable

    It’s a shame that “crap” has languished as a mere euphemism for the less linguistically satisfying “shit.” Don’t get me wrong, the latter has its uses, and can be effectively hissed or whispered in a way that other expletives can’t, but aside from being four letters, “crap” meets your criteria: begins in the back of the throat and end in the front of the mouth, and the labial stop of the ‘p’ is really quite satisfying.

    I can understand the reticence to use “God” even though I don’t share it (and don’t really count as an atheist). But it strikes me as akin to eschewing Bach or Palestrina because of the religious intent of the music.

    “God” is a signifier of something beyond us, whether anything beyond us exists or not, and it seems very human to reach for such a signifier in moments of duress.

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  8. Colin M

    I realize I’m a bit late to the party here, but I’d go for “Geb”. It starts with G so it’s properly alliterative with anything like “oh my god” and exclamates in kinda the same way.

    Geb was the Egyptian god of the Earth and father of the Egyptian gods you’ve probably actually heard of (Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys).


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