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What does this mean:

Good Grief!

Is it a formal or informal expression?

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@stan An interesting questions is, do ejaculations "mean" something? Most would agree a cough means nothing....and probably a "Hey" or "Ow" suddenly yelled, also "means nothing." I think many would agree a sudden utterance of the F-word does not "mean" something, rather it is more like a bark or cough. Similarly, "Good Grief" is, perhaps, more of an ejaculation than a communication of meaning. It's a tricky issue. –  Joe Blow Jul 6 '11 at 21:36
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Believe it or not, it's a bowdlerized version of "Good God!" (or "Good Lord!"), which is, in turn, a shortening of the liturgical response "Good Lord, deliver us" (from the hardship or vexation just mentioned in the Litany). In this case, it's a response to a clear and present bit of unpleasantness, often a mechanical device that won't co-operate or a vexatious person.

It's hard to imagine a world in which "Good Lord" would have been unfit for the tender ears of the listener, given what passes for ordinary conversation these days, but it was a concern at one time -- and the phrase's use by the Charles Schulz Peanuts characters has firmly fixed it in the lexicon of people of my generation.

It is an expression of exasperation, and informal.

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Thanks! So do Good Lord, Sweet Lord, Dear Lord, Holy cow, Holy moly, Dear me and similar two-word expressions all mean oneself being annoyed? –  Tim Feb 23 '11 at 23:59
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@Tim: Not all, and not always. The "Holy x" phrases are usually expressions of surprise or awe. "Sweet x" may be exasperation, but it also may be of thanks. Ultimately, they come from the same kind of religious expression. "Dear x" (anywhere other than in the salutation of a letter) is probably annoyance or exasperation as well. When it's not, you can usually tell very clearly by the context. –  bye Feb 24 '11 at 0:08
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I bet that replacing 'God' or 'Lord' was to make sure you didn't break the third (or second, if you're catholic) Mosaic commandment. –  oosterwal Feb 24 '11 at 23:15
    
@Tim even "Goodness!" is a substitute for ejaculating a holy word. –  Joe Blow Jul 6 '11 at 21:39
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Good grief is an expression of annoyance or irritation. It's an informal expression. Typically you should say it when wearing an expression like this one:

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Thanks! What are similar/exchangeable formal and informal expressions? –  Tim Feb 23 '11 at 23:44
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@Tim ... Hell's Bells, Bugger It, Dash, Dash it all, Dang, Shit, Fuck It, Deary-me, Goodness Gracious Me, Bless!, Bless me, I'll be a monkey's uncle, WTF?, Oh Bother ... there are so many. Sacre bleu, Mon Dieu, son-of-a-gun, hell's sake, What A C**-faced S** (or S**-Faced C**), and so on and on and on. A particularly funny one is Cock as used by James May, a presenter on the #1 UK TV show. There are no "formal" expressions of this nature - it is a spoken ejaculation. It is not usable in written formal communication (only when you are quoting someone). –  Joe Blow Jul 6 '11 at 21:42
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protected by RegDwigнt May 30 '12 at 12:54

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