Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

There are a lot of variations of this phrase, most notably including

  • "for God's sake"
  • "for Heaven's sake"
  • "for Jesus sake"
  • "for Pete's sake"

Which of those are most commonly used in modern English? Is there any context in which one of them should be preferred? For example, I have never ever heard about "for Pete's sake" before reading "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov, where this term is widely used.

share|improve this question
    
"for Jesus sake" - From my youth, a religious friend would always close a prayer (spoken publicly) with "...for Jesus sake; Amen" - as I recall that is the only time I have heard that particular phrase used, never to express disappointment! However, the other 3 phrases (including "Pete's") are relatively common. (England) –  w3d Sep 4 '12 at 7:42
2  
Here (central Scotland) God and Pete win. Never heard the other two. –  Rory Alsop Sep 4 '12 at 8:07
2  
Shouldn't the third option be "for Jesus' sake"? But either way, my vote would (sadly) go for "for f**k's sake", often abbreviated to "ffs" and used very frequently in common language on the internet. –  LordScree Sep 4 '12 at 15:40
    
I've never heard "for Jesus'[s] sake". "For Christ's sake", pronounced and often spelled "ferchristsake", yes. –  Malvolio Sep 5 '12 at 1:18
    
You requested context: in polite company (read: puritan) taking the Lord’s name in vain in any guise is still ill advised. Albeit Pete is probably standing in for St. Peter, that’s still the best of your choices. (Also – “For the love of Mike.”, “For crying out loud.”) My family used, “For Pete Sakes”, and if they really wanted to burn the house down, “For Heaven sakes.” [Yes – both malformed, without the subject plural.] –  ipso Jan 3 '13 at 0:18
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

In both the COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) and the BNC (British National Corpus), for God’s sake is by far the most frequent. It is followed in the COCA by for Christ’s sake and by for Heaven’s sake in the BNC, where for Christ’s sake ranks third. For Pete’s sake comes in at number four in both, and occurrences of for Jesus’s sake are negligible.

share|improve this answer
    
How do those compare to For goodness sake? –  Jim Sep 4 '12 at 6:45
4  
@Jim: It ranks below ‘for Pete’s sake’ in the COCA, but above it in the BNC. In both, however, it ranks above ‘for fuck’s sake’. –  Barrie England Sep 4 '12 at 6:49
add comment

Google Ngram Viewer reports that for God’s sake is most popular in their collection of published books, with for Heaven’s/heaven’s sake second and for Jesus’ sake third:

enter image description here

Use of all but for God’s sake and for heaven’s sake tapered off during the 20th Century. At the same time, for Pete’s sake and for fuck’s sake made an appearance. Pete and fuck have never caught up to heaven, but are giving Jesus a good run for His money:

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
add comment

For f***’s sake!

Everyone has their favourite, I am sure there are regional variations, and these expressions come and go in popularity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doric_dialect_(Scotland)

“Fit Like” is a common expression meaning “What are you like?”

http://www.highland-spirit.com/acatalog/Scottish_Greeting_Cards.html

share|improve this answer
    
Just that first sentence would be enough to get my upvote! For the record, I have never heard anyone use "For Jesus sake!" as an oath here in the UK, and "For heaven's sake!" sounds positively pre-war to my ear. –  FumbleFingers Sep 4 '12 at 14:02
    
For f**k's sake is very popular on the internet, and is frequently abbreviated as FFS. –  Marcus_33 Sep 4 '12 at 14:27
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.