Very often I find myself looking for a way to express that I'm amazed, surprised, disappointed, annoyed, etc., but the only words I can come up with are:
"Oh my God! Jesus Christ! For the love of God! Holy moley! For heaven's / God's / Christ's sake! Gee! Jeez! God forbid!" Etc.
Since I am not a religious person, I always find it a bit misleading me speaking of God in every sentence. So I start looking for alternatives, which turn out to be the same phrases with simply profane language instead. There's also a whole variety of phrases like, "Goodness gracious! Oh my goodness! For goodness' sake!", where I assume "goodness" to be a euphemism for "God", so it's not an option either. Phrases like "For Pete's sake!" just don't make any sense to me; who is Pete? There also various "What the hell?" references, which are still Biblical.
The question: I would like to learn a few emotional statements which have all of the following traits:
- Do not use nor imply religious language ("Oh my Gosh!" does imply God)
- Do not use nor imply profane language ("Oh fingering!" does imply or use profane language, it also doesn't meet the next requirement)
- Can be appropriate in situations beyond casual (i.e., in formal and semi-formal)
- Can be integrated into modern English naturally (i.e., are still used and/or can be easily understood by a variety of English speakers)
An example of an idiom I'm looking for is "Dear me!", which uses neither Biblical nor profane language, can be used in semi-formal situations and won't raise too many eyebrows by being extremely old-fashioned. Or so it seems to me.
Additional info: if this is a phrase common to New Zealand English -- it's perfect. However, I don't mind using idioms that are still "proper English" in UK, US, or Australia.