When I googled exclamations beginning with "Holy", I found that there is a character on an educational show for kids who said "holy cow" when he saw an elephant

Does that mean that exclamations that start with "holy" are not profane if they're not with the name of the Lord?

  • 3
    This is an opinion based issue. Some do, others don’t. – user121863 Aug 8 '19 at 10:06
  • Why would a Christian see "Holy cow!" as profane? "Religious" does not mean "po-faced". – Weather Vane Aug 8 '19 at 10:23
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Andrew Leach Aug 9 '19 at 22:50

This might not be a question about the English language per se, but I’ll bite.

In Judaism and Christianity, among the 10 commandments are

  • a prohibition to take or use God’s name in vain, and
  • a prohibition to have or recognize other gods.

Profanity that refers to something or someone holy (e.g. “Holy Lord”, “Holy Jesus” for Christians) is arguably a violation of the former prohibition.

Profanity that calls something/someone that/who isn’t holy, holy (e.g. “Holy cow” for non-Hindus), is arguably a violation of the latter prohibition.

I added “arguably” both times because I don’t underestimate the inventiveness of exegetes and theologians to come up with all kinds of nuances, exceptions, alternative interpretations.

So, if

  • a “religion” refers to a tradition that has these 2 prohibitions, and
  • a “religious person” refers to someone who broadly follows these 2 prohibitions,

then yes, religious people will avoid such exclamations.

But since

  • there are religions without these 2 prohibitions, and
  • within the religions that have them, there are religious people those who will explain these prohibitions narrowly, or don’t always obey them,

the answer is no.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of theologic opinion.

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