According to this website:

In the mid-1800s, during the Victorian era, there was a rejection of all profanity and so the common people developed a wide variety of malapropisms to avoid swearing on Holy names. Soon, one could hear Cripes and Crikey replace “Christ” and Dangnabit replace “G*d damn it” and Cheese ‘n’ Rice replace “Jesus Christ.” The phrase Suffering Succotash replaced “Suffering Savior.”

Today the latter phrase is known only as an expression of annoyance and surprise by animated cartoon characters such as Sylvester the Cat and Daffy Duck. Was the expression still in vogue when the Looney Tunes cartoons were made, or did the cartoons resurrect an expression that had already lapsed from the American lexicon?

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    I suppose it's possible the expression was used (on rare occasions) in the mid-1800s, but I'd have thought that would be largely irrelevant to it being revived/coined by cartoon characters later. Warner, Disney, etc., wouldn't want any of their target audience to see it as a "minced oath", since that would still be potentially offensive to some. Whatever - my guess is sufferin' succotash is a much more recent coinage, and your website is just making things up. Did any Victorian ever use cheese and rice "euphemistically"? I kinda doubt it, myself. – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '14 at 17:56
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    I think it was an invention by the WB writers. For what it's worth, Google Books does not report a single instance of the phrase (with either sufferin' or suffering) before 1965. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 31 '14 at 18:01
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    OED has a citation for succotash from 1876, but that's as a foodstuff not a minced oath. However the entry has not been updated since 1915, which predates Sylvester. But if it had been a minced oath before 1915 such a usage is likely to be mentioned, at least. – Andrew Leach Dec 31 '14 at 18:02
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    FYI, these are euphemisms. A malapropism is a mistaken use of a similar-sounding word, not an intentional replacement of a taboo word. – Barmar Dec 31 '14 at 18:27
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    It should be pointed out that the expression was no doubt explicitly chosen because its sibilant nature highlighted Sylvester's very pronounced lisp. Normally such a feature would discourage the use of a phrase as a minced oath. – Hot Licks Aug 24 '16 at 2:39

I don't see any evidence that it was ever a common expression before the cartoon.

Minced oaths generally date back much further than the 1800s. Socrates and Aristophanes give us examples in ancient Greek, and several slurrings of oaths exist in English from the early modern period on.

They exist today too in people saying "gosh" and so on, along with a variation for lavatorial and sexual expletives (sugar for shit, fricken for fucking and so on). They tend to be often localised in form, with for example jaysus for Jesus only appearing in and around Dublin, Ireland (a pronunciation that would once have been used only in some Dublin accents being adapted by other Dubliners exclusively for non-religious senses) and various expressions coming in and out of favour as with local slang expressions one finds varying greatly around the world.

Because of the great variety in real use, and the added requirement for such uses in some media (where the writer is not allowed to have Sylvester the Cat say "God-damn that fucking mouse!"), and the fact that most writers are writers and writers like playing with words, minced oaths have a greater variety in fiction than in real life (though life often imitates art in this regard). Holy Inventive Phrasing, Batman!

As such, "suffering succotash" was likely used precisely because it wasn't very likely to be heard as an actual minced oath and that, combined with the chiming of /sʌ/ in both words, and so is humorous. Indeed, in this case it would not so much be a matter of the cat's swearing being replaced by a minced oath as with the naff of "Porridge" and the smeg of "Red Dwarf" (where we could expect expletives to be a larger part of the characters' vocabulary if allowed) but rather he uses funny minced oaths purely because they are funny.

  • Back in 1972 I knew a girl who used "Smeggy winnits!" as an exclamation, in contexts where I'd have been likely to say something like "Fuck my old boots!". She explained smegma = A sebaceous secretion, esp. that found under the prepuce (that's the EOD definition), and winnet = dog's penis (I can't find that definition anywhere now, maybe it's a variant of US wiener, but I doubt it). Anyway, knowing that usage already, when I finally encountered the much later Red Dwarf usage I thought it was at the very least "pushing the envelope", if not positively "taking the piss". – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '14 at 19:16
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    @FumbleFingers yes, smegma was a popular insult around the more nerdy sections of my peers when that came out for similar reasons of being obscure, so it allowed quite a strong expression to hide as a made-up one much as bollocks and wanker allows US shows with a trans-Atlantic audience to be stronger in Britain and Ireland were broadcasting limits are more liberal than in the US, with the same word. Naff was once a Polari insult for heterosexuals, so "porridge" may have been doing something similar—Barker denied that, but he may have picked it up from theatre Polari subconsciously. – Jon Hanna Dec 31 '14 at 19:45

Usage - "The Dick Van Dyke Show" - Season 3 Episode 21: "The Pen is Mightier Than the Mouth" (19 February, 1964) The character Buddy Sorrell (Buddy Sorrell) verbally reacted to Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) announcing he was going to fire Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) by exclaiming, "suc-co-tash!"

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    Welcome to EL&U. Please note that this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, but your post does not answer the original question, which asks whether sufferin' succotash was still in common use before the Looney Tunes cartoons were made, years before the Dick Van Dyke Show aired. – choster Aug 24 '16 at 2:28

When you think about it, Suffering is a star of on going pain, and Succotash is a an American dish. America is, as everyone knows a very religious place and there have been many other ongoing debates as to whether this 'catchphrase' was ever real. There was a rejection of Profanity in the mid 1800's, Victorian Age, so the common people developed a wide variety of malapropisms to avoid swearing on Holy names. They were used for swearing and other types of interjections. With time they came to have a mildly comedic effect. People are not so concerned about blasphemy, nowadays. We have worse problems.

Crikey = 'Christ' Cripes = 'Christ' Jeez = 'Jesus' Dangnabit = 'Damnation" by gum = "by g-d" by gosh =" by g-d" by golly = "by the name of g-d" jumping jehosaphat suffering succotash = 'Suffering Saviour' Proof of this came down to many, not many, but some recollected diary entries from young children of this time. Many people claim that their grandparents had told stories about such prevailer things and used the phrase 'Suffering succotash'. You may be sitting in your chai in bliss with a grin on your face thinking, this persons an idiot, people could have easily just said that even if it didn't happen. Well, if you dig a little deeper you find that currently 25% and up of the world still has no interest access. That's right an entire quarter has no access to internet and in many cases those which do don't have many people who can afford it anyway. And the funny things is that many people that remember these stories come from these countries meaning the chances of them knowing what the looney tunes are is rather small.

So to some this up in simple terms, for all those people out there that fell asleep halfway, Yes, 'Suffering Succotash' is a real thing that was used by many people throughout the mid 1800's and I absolutly LOVE the phrase.

  • Welcome to ELU. I've removed your other "answer" which did not answer the question. If you would like to improve this one, you can edit it. Corroboration -- citing your references you used -- would be welcome too. – Andrew Leach Aug 12 '19 at 17:22

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