Here's a sentence:

By George, I'll see this case through to a finish!

These are the words of a detective (written in 1912)

I am translating a story and there is that phrase, I can't be sure what emotions that man showed (put) when was saing it. An astonishment or approval? Please, can someone explain it to me, maybe rephrase it for I could catch the real meaning in a simple way. Thank you in advance

  • Exclamations are (sometimes? often?) hard to pinpoint when it comes to deciding exactly what emotions / censures or plaudits / resolves are being intended. Here, I'd strongly suspect mainly determination, with a strong hint of the extent of the challenge being faced. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 3 '20 at 12:30
  • Please, tell me, how would you say the same phrase nowadays (without by george and bad words)? if you would like to pass (or convey) your emotions? – Helen Mar 3 '20 at 12:40
  • Even the sentence-final hyperbole " ... if it kills me!" is rather dated now. Perhaps a sentence-introductory "I'll tell you this ...". – Edwin Ashworth Mar 3 '20 at 12:57
  • @EdwinAshworth It's nice of you to help me, thank you! – Helen Mar 3 '20 at 13:01

By George! is an exclamation of determination, it is antiquated now but you can see/hear it's usage in movies from the 30s and 40s where elderly people sometimes say it. It's always used in the "I'll do it, I'll get it done, I will." sense. By golly has similar antiquated usage. Without doing any research, I suspect its etymology has some relation to the Kings George of England. Edit: Etymology. "By (God and Saint) George" is an old English oath invoked immediately before charging into battle as late as World War I. A version of the oath can be found in Shakespeare's Henry VI (part I), written circa 1589 and set in 1431. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/by_George

  • Thank you for your straightaway answer! – Helen Mar 3 '20 at 12:47
  • Like "by Jiminy!" etc, 'by George' is probably a minced oath (the speaker means 'by Jesus!' but does not wish to say that). – Michael Harvey Mar 3 '20 at 12:52
  • @Michael Harvey It is more likely to be "By St. George" - the patron saint of England (and, to an extent, an icon of steadfast determination (probably originally driven by patriotism.)) -- Compare Shakespeare (Henry V): "The game's afoot: / Follow your spirit, and upon this charge / Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' – Greybeard Mar 3 '20 at 16:29
  • I say 'By Saint Loy!' which gets me some odd looks, I can tell you. And the occasional smile. – Michael Harvey Mar 3 '20 at 17:22
  • @Greybeard - I'll remember not to use 'by George' if you reckon that's what it means. Not being one of those 'Engerland' idiots. Always waving those damn flags when some football thing is on. – Michael Harvey Mar 3 '20 at 17:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.