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In a children's story I was reading the other day, one of the characters said

"Land Sakes"

...from the context of the story, it must be to indicate they are surprised?

It was completely foreign to me and I just generally wanted to know more about it

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's a euphemism for "Lord Sakes", which is itself a non-grammatical corruption of "for the Lord's sake!"

It can be pretty amusing to observe the lengths to which people will go to avoid blasphemy, while still expressing their strong feelings on a subject...

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1  
Similarly 'lawks' - both are a bit dated but a staple of 19C fiction. –  mgb May 25 '11 at 4:23
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I've never quite understood why expressing the same feeling, but using different sounds was avoiding blasphemy. Is it really the noises we make that make the difference, and motives are immaterial? –  thursdaysgeek May 25 '11 at 21:49
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@thursdaygeek - The motives of believers are a deep, dark mystery to me - Pascal's Wager being the classic example. If the deity you believe in (or decide to pretend to believe in) is actually omnipotent, can't S/He see your motives? And if not... then what's the point? –  MT_Head May 25 '11 at 23:53
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@MT_Head - possibly the concern is what the rest of the village, especially the 17C guys with buckles on the hats, might think if you say God. You only have to look at how their descendants react to mild language on TV. Also God is known for being a bit of a stickler for the rules. If you ask his chosen people, saying God is bad but saying YHVH is Ok. –  mgb May 26 '11 at 12:38
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Actually it has not only to do with God, but with a lot with protecting children from using strong words they don't understand. A child can unwittingly get into a lot of trouble with unknowns without having any idea how they got there if they use abusive language. So this is very much like how we protect children in all sorts of ways from themselves and others, until they can judge better for themselves. –  Prof. Falken Oct 8 '12 at 12:52

I'd add that my grandmother used the term "land sakes," but only because she'd no doubt learned it as a child and never paused to wonder at its origin. So "religious people" can easily learn to use such replacement terms without ever perceiving the deeper meaning or intent of what they're saying.

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protected by tchrist Jul 2 at 1:40

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