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There are a lot of variations of this phrase, most notably including

  • "for God's sake"
  • "for Heaven's sake"
  • "for Jesus sake"
  • "for Pete's sake"

Which of those are most commonly used in modern English? Is there any context in which one of them should be preferred? For example, I have never ever heard about "for Pete's sake" before reading "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov, where this term is widely used.

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  • "for Jesus sake" - From my youth, a religious friend would always close a prayer (spoken publicly) with "...for Jesus sake; Amen" - as I recall that is the only time I have heard that particular phrase used, never to express disappointment! However, the other 3 phrases (including "Pete's") are relatively common. (England)
    – MrWhite
    Sep 4, 2012 at 7:42
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    Here (central Scotland) God and Pete win. Never heard the other two.
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 4, 2012 at 8:07
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    Shouldn't the third option be "for Jesus' sake"? But either way, my vote would (sadly) go for "for f**k's sake", often abbreviated to "ffs" and used very frequently in common language on the internet.
    – m-smith
    Sep 4, 2012 at 15:40
  • I've never heard "for Jesus'[s] sake". "For Christ's sake", pronounced and often spelled "ferchristsake", yes. Sep 5, 2012 at 1:18
  • You requested context: in polite company (read: puritan) taking the Lord’s name in vain in any guise is still ill advised. Albeit Pete is probably standing in for St. Peter, that’s still the best of your choices. (Also – “For the love of Mike.”, “For crying out loud.”) My family used, “For Pete Sakes”, and if they really wanted to burn the house down, “For Heaven sakes.” [Yes – both malformed, without the subject plural.]
    – ipso
    Jan 3, 2013 at 0:18

3 Answers 3

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In both the COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) and the BNC (British National Corpus), for God’s sake is by far the most frequent. It is followed in the COCA by for Christ’s sake and by for Heaven’s sake in the BNC, where for Christ’s sake ranks third. For Pete’s sake comes in at number four in both, and occurrences of for Jesus’s sake are negligible.

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  • How do those compare to For goodness sake?
    – Jim
    Sep 4, 2012 at 6:45
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    @Jim: It ranks below ‘for Pete’s sake’ in the COCA, but above it in the BNC. In both, however, it ranks above ‘for fuck’s sake’. Sep 4, 2012 at 6:49
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Google Ngram Viewer reports that for God’s sake is most popular in their collection of published books, with for Heaven’s/heaven’s sake second and for Jesus’ sake third:

enter image description here

Use of all but for God’s sake and for heaven’s sake tapered off during the 20th Century. At the same time, for Pete’s sake and for fuck’s sake made an appearance. Pete and fuck have never caught up to heaven, but are giving Jesus a good run for His money:

enter image description here

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For f***’s sake!

Everyone has their favourite, I am sure there are regional variations, and these expressions come and go in popularity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doric_dialect_(Scotland)

“Fit Like” is a common expression meaning “What are you like?”

http://www.highland-spirit.com/acatalog/Scottish_Greeting_Cards.html

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  • Just that first sentence would be enough to get my upvote! For the record, I have never heard anyone use "For Jesus sake!" as an oath here in the UK, and "For heaven's sake!" sounds positively pre-war to my ear. Sep 4, 2012 at 14:02
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    For f**k's sake is very popular on the internet, and is frequently abbreviated as FFS.
    – Marcus_33
    Sep 4, 2012 at 14:27

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