Such as 'what on Earth' or 'what in the world', etc. I'm trying to come up with a list of witty alternatives.

Note: I'm not looking for alternatives to the letters W, T, and F. I'm looking for alternative phrases such as the ones I listed above.

closed as not constructive by tchrist, MetaEd, Hellion, simchona Dec 27 '12 at 7:08

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  • This might get closed as it's subjective and there is no right answer... but i think It's a good thread :) – Oscar Godson Jun 3 '11 at 23:07
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    Community Wiki? Anyone? – Thursagen Jun 3 '11 at 23:13
  • Yeah, this could definitely be a Wiki question. – Dominique Jun 3 '11 at 23:16
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    Wiki maybe. Certainly not what I would want to see in the main EL&U site. This isn't urbandictionary. – FumbleFingers Jun 3 '11 at 23:20
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    @Alenanno, et al - if someone told you that you can't read/browse/search just CW posts, they were incorrect. Here's your link. – Dori Jun 5 '11 at 3:43

10 Answers 10


WTD is quite old (What the Devil). Here's an early example from 1727:

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  • I'd forgotten about that phrase. Also, the play by John Vanbrugh that you linked to looks quite hilarious. :) – Dominique Jun 4 '11 at 0:31
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    Makes me think of "What the deuce?" – Kit Z. Fox Jun 4 '11 at 0:36

How about:

How in Tarnation!?
What in Thunder?
I'll be jiggered!

Maybe you would like:

How on earth?
How in Creation?

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    "How in tarnation?" -- that's a good one. – Dominique Jun 3 '11 at 23:12
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    Another one: "what the fiddlesticks?" – Dominique Jun 3 '11 at 23:20
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    @Dominique - I learned a while back that "tarnation" comes from "tarnal damnation", where "tarnal" is a corruption of "eternal". – MT_Head Jun 4 '11 at 16:29
  • @MT_Head. I had wondered about that. I think I had only every heard it used by Yosemite Sam in the cartoons. – TecBrat Aug 19 '12 at 2:53

exclamation Brit., informal
used to express one's surprise, excitement, or alarm.
ORIGIN late 19th century: altered form of (God) blind (or blame) me!


My grandmother used to say "well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs!"


I've always liked "Well, shut my mouth wide open!", as exclaimed by Dot in an episode of Animanics.

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    This reminds me of "well, slap my thigh and call me Sally!" and similar phrases. "Well, cover me in sugar and call me a donut" is another one. A quick Google search will bring up lots of variations. – Dominique Jun 3 '11 at 23:29

There is a common phrase that borrows a word from the French and is an alternate to "What the Devil?":

What in the deuce?

  • I always heard that 'deuce' was just a euphemism for 'devil'. – TimLymington Jun 4 '11 at 12:54

An old favourite is "lo!" as in "lo and behold!" but also used on its own.

It has been around since the first millennium and was also used in the epic poem Beowulf. See also Moby Dick for plenty of examples.



I can think of only one:

Well, I never!


In Australia, the typical exclamation would be, simply, "Oi!" (the roots of which can probably be found in Cockney English). Another one, made famous by the late Steve Irwin, is "Crikey!"


I am partial to "odds bodkins" and "sweet mother of pearl!"

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