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In the sentence "Boy, is there a lot to answer for" (from a recent EL&U comment), "boy" is used for expressing a strong reaction, especially admiration or excitement.

How did this meaning/usage come about? It doesn't seem to be some sort of minced oath, and an association with the pejorative term "boy", used to mean "black male", seems a bit far-fetched.

The suggested dupe fails to satisfactorily explain the origin of the term. It's easy to explain how "Gee" is a minced version of "God", but I don't see such a pathway for "boy". And the condescending sense suggested doesn't explain why "Oh, boy" expresses pleasure or excitement.

marked as duplicate by Robusto, AmE speaker, Mitch, Scott, TimLymington Aug 12 '18 at 11:10

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boy as exclamation

Emphatic exclamation: oh, boy attested from 1892.


in OED:

B. int. colloq. (orig. U.S.). Frequently as oh boy! ; also as boy oh boy!

Expressing shock, surprise, excitement, appreciation, etc. Frequently used to give emphasis to a following statement. as early as 1894

As in:

1894 G. Ade Chicago Stories 24 S-s-t! Boy! Same as last time.

Nation (N.Y.) 6 Sept. 1900 These biskits are light as a feather, but, boy, they'd be heavier 'n lead If I thought that my hosses was shiv'rin'.

Boy, oh boy, boy oh boy all saw exclamatory usage as above ~ 1890. A agree no association with the pejorative. The exclamatory seems to have evolved de novo.

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