OMG! Oh my god!!
Everybody uses it — Internet acronym or full-blown verbal exclamation. Everyone knows what it means and no one thinks twice about it.
My almost-five grandson, who tends to get verbosely excited by the damnedest things, came out with an enthusiastic Oh my god! the other day and was chastised by one of his peers (who is the son of a minister).
Now, to my grandson, whose parents are pretty much agnostic if not atheist, “god” has no meaning except as part of an expression of surprise — as it does for many of us.
But for another many (e.g. religious and fundamentalist) “God” means something specific. Not “god” but “God.” I suppose it has something to do with the commandment to not take the name of the lord in vain. However, “God” is not his name; rather it’s just a designation. “God” might have the name of Apollo, or Zeus, or Allah, or Yahweh. “God” is a generic term, not a name.
But in this era of either/or, black/white, believer/heathen, saved/damned, there is almost no tolerance of the part of religious people for the beliefs (or non-beliefs) of the rest of us.
Are they going to teach their kids to correct anyone who says “god-awful” or “god, that hurts?” I suppose we can always replace the “god” with “goddess.” But that extra syllable sort of lessens the impact of a spondee like “god damn!”
I guess the battle to teach Creationism as something other than a widespread cultural myth was just the beginning. Now they’re going to “clean up” our language to their specifications. OMG! Just let them try!!
What will they try to “clean up” next? Let this poem by Billy Collins serve as a warning.
The History Teacher
Trying to protect his student’s innocence
he told them the ice age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everybody had to wear sweaters.
And the Stone Ages became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.
The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
“How far is it from here to Madrid?”
“What do you call a Matador’s hat?”
The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
the the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom
The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses.
while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.
As coincidence would have it, I am in the middle of reading a book I somehow missed back in the 70s: Good News by Edward Abbey.
On the back cover is this statement:
With this boldly satirical imaginary world, Edward Abbey asks us to look around and take stock of what we value before it’s too late.
Good advice for these times as well.