Is there an expression like "gosh" that a stereotypical upper-class British character would say for expressing surprise?

I've thought of "parbleu", but it being a loan word from French, it doesn't sound right as a stereotypical English expression.

I would avoid "My Lord" because of possible moral implications with the reader.

Note: it should be easily recognisable by a non-English audience.

Is there such an expression? Thanks!

  • The OED lists many synonyms for “gosh” in their Historical Thesaurus. In order to know which ones to list, can you please answer the following: Does the word you want have to be a strictly British word, and can the word be informal? – user320354 Oct 23 '18 at 13:34
  • not necessarily "strictly" British, but it should be used also by the British; it can be informal but should anyway denote an upper-class person (think of a member of the nobility talking with his/her peers in a informal context, behind closed doors) – Nicola Sap Oct 23 '18 at 13:38
  • "Dear me"/"oh me" from the Historical Thesaurus sound good to me! – Nicola Sap Oct 23 '18 at 13:44
  • You were able to get access? – user320354 Oct 23 '18 at 13:53
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    And I would look here instead as it is in the category of surprise. You did say, “Is there an expression like ‘gosh’ that a stereotypical upper-class British character would say for expressing surprise?” – user320354 Oct 23 '18 at 14:03

I think “I say” is the term for you. This is my reasoning: Oxford considers “I say” to be both a British form of exclamation as well as a “dated” one (I prefer to call it quaint). The upper-classes were very likely to use wonderfully old-fashioned language in keeping with tradition. Thus, the older the word, the more likely the upper-classes used it.


You could try one of these:

I say!

*These words do contain an indirect reference to the Deity, which you may want to avoid for your purposes.

  • I like Blimey! The connection to the Deity is hidden by the strong alteration of the original phrase, and to me it sounds like it's the most recognisable of the four – Nicola Sap Oct 23 '18 at 11:39
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    All these are at the very least dated (Zounds! is positively archaic). And I'd say Blimey! is extremely lower-class, whereas OP asked for a stereotypically upper-class usage (in which context Gosh! is still relatively current, and I honestly doubt many speakers would be consciously aware of its "religious" etymology). – FumbleFingers Oct 23 '18 at 12:14
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    Strewth is also lower class. 'I say!' is a classic for anyone who has watched films and TV involving British upper class characters. – Trevor Christopher Butcher Oct 23 '18 at 12:22
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    "By Jove!" is another upper-class, but dated, possibility (referring to the Roman god to avoid blasphemy). – Kate Bunting Oct 23 '18 at 14:34
  • Oxford considers “blimey” and “strewth” to be informal. It is unlikely that those belonging to the upper-classes would have used such colloquial terms, preferring instead elevated or formal language. – user320354 Oct 23 '18 at 18:40

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