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What’s in a Name

Recently, I spoke to a group of homeschoolers at a conference.  Unbeknownst to me, I was to give my speech in a sanctuary.  A holy place of worship.

And interestingly, the first thing I was going to talk about was the meaning of the names we are given.  And how all the little girls in my Catholic school were named after a saint.  But when our priest got to me and asked about my name, I reported to him and to the entire second grade class what I’d always heard my mother say.

“I was named after a stripper.”

Thankfully, it had very little affect on how I turned out.

A number of years ago, I was a Sunday school teacher for my daughter’s class.  I had taught the same group of kids for about 4 years, starting with them from about the age of 2.  They were a delight to me.

Especially after they were all potty trained.

The teachers all sat with the kids in “children’s service.”  This was a time of children’s music worship, with a message geared to the children’s young impressionable ears.

One particular message fell on my impressionable ears.  And has remained.

The speaker was talking to the kids about the commandments.  In their terms.  I was riveted.  And especially interested to see how she was going to cover “Do not commit adultery.”  Which she handled with grace and diplomacy.  And in such a way that I didn’t have to go home and down 3 or 5 Extra Strength Excedrin prior to explaining the intricacies of how the birds and the bees are really friends.


Instead, what caught my attention was her explanation of not taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Which I thought I had all figured out.  As long as I don’t say the “d” word after the “G” word I was golden.

Or so I thought.

I’m paraphrasing, because I heard this years ago, and many many valuable brain cells have suffered a tragic death since then, but I’ll do my best.

“When you are using God’s name, unless you are praying TO Him, or talking ABOUT Him, you are using His name in vain.”


That’s what I’m talking about.  How often have I used that phrase out loud.  I was immediately convicted.

Yesterday I was reminded of that long ago children’s sermon when I heard a speaker on the radio talk about how we trivialize the name of God when we flippantly use it.

This has been something that I’ve tried to instill in my children.  I don’t even like, “Oh my gosh” because it comes too close.

“Oh my goodness” is fine in our house.  When Emme was small, she would often exclaim, “OH. My. Gerdness.”

I can’t and don’t dictate what other people do.  I’m no one to judge anyone.  So when my children hear other people say “OMG” they look to me to see my reaction.  Later I tell them that they are to follow my rules.  And don’t judge anyone else for their rules.

I wanted to open this up for discussion on this beautiful Sunday morning.  What do you think?


24 Responses to What’s in a Name

  • Gosh isnt allowed? If you were Mormon you could go with “Oh my heck”. This whole post reminded me of when
    Jessica Simpson was on that show with her (then) husband and she started saying “Oh My Ga” to avoid saying OMG.

    • I know. I had to put my size 7 plus foot down on the whole “gosh” thing because my children love to push the limits. With “goodness” I’m certain they haven’t crossed the line. They spend a good deal of their day skirting the line about something or other. 🙂

      “Good gravy” is a favorite of mine, also. In so many ways.

  • If you think about it objectively, isn’t it strange that we need to a filler to say when we’re not sure what to say? I grew up saying, “Oh, man.” Now if I say that I sound like an old Hippie. I’m with you–no taking his name in vain. I’m saddened to hear younger generations of believers have no understanding or regard for his name. And now I really sound old, but I don’t care.

  • This is a rough one. When I was younger (much, much, much younger) “One Day at a Time” was hit show and the mom’s fav expression was OMG. I tried to pick it up and my mom shot that down real quick. So changed. Guess it’s all in the intent. If you are mentally substituting the G, it counts.

  • We don’t allow “Oh my gosh” in our house either. There’s just something wrong about hearing a young child use that expression especially. “Oh my goodness” works just as well. And we’ve struggled too with the fact that many of our friends say it and their kids say it, so my kids want to know why. We have always explained to them that they will hear many things in life that are not right or that go against our family rules, but that does not mean we have to repeat these things.

  • I think people in general are much too flippant with the name of God these days. IMHO any time we use it without giving it the proper respect it deserves, we are using it in vain. We’ve certainly come a long way from the day when the Jews wouldn’t even write God’s name out of respect for Him.

  • I grew up with “Oh my goodness.” And Gosh soon followed out of laziness. Now, the term of exclamation for me is “oh my crap”, which is fitting in the land of home daycare!

    I have to agree that if you are using the word out loud as a substitute the actual word in your head, it’s the same as saying God in a negative sense. We used to have a saying “If you thought it, you’ve already sinned.” I have been out of habit of saying the actual word, that it’s not even the word I think. And I can only hope that this is what my children do as they grow up!

  • You know what’s funny? I don’t even like the “OMG” in texts (just the short-hand) because I think it out long in my head.

  • We’re the same here – and gosh isn’t allowed here either. And like Lori said, I don’t even like to see OMG. I have, many times typed out OMGoodness – so that no one else thinks I mean the other. This is what I say and think (goodness), When I read OMG, I think of it the other way, so I won’t type it, as I don’t want anyone else thinking that is what I mean! It may seem silly, but I don’t care. I won’t type something I won’t say. My 4 year old has heard others saying it, and she’s quick to tell me, “Mom, they should say oh my goodness!” I don’t judge anyone else either, but it totally makes me cringe when I hear a child say it!

  • We don’t say gosh either. My difficulty is my in laws do say OMG (and not the abbreviations) fairly frequently. Talking with them does no good, it goes in one ear and out the other.

    Oh and you need to explain the comment about being named after a stripper. I have a feeling there is a story there.

  • I was never allowed – nor are my children – to use any of the euphemisms. Gosh, golly, darn, gee, heck were and are not used. DH doesn’t like tarnation because it has been used, historically, as a substitute for damnation.

    When you think about it, they’re just “baby” swearing – and do we really want to do that?

  • I agree completely- I say oh my goodness, and if I drop something on my toe I say, Junk. My 14- month-old son has started to say junk…only it comes out ‘Gah’ for some reason…so it doesn’t sound good! 🙂

  • Oh my goodness is the max around here. A friend from college took it even farther and her expression was “Oh my groceries!” If things were really tough, she’d yell out a grocery item, “La-sag-na!” “Bagels!” It can all become pretty entertaining at that point.

    God’s Name is associated with all that He is and has done. Man’s attitude towards God is simply pictured in our expressions. All very convicting when you consider the expressions.

  • We say “oh my goodness.” The one that seems to bug me the most is when I hear “what the?” from children. Just because they didn’t say the last word doesn’t mean it changes anything. My kids started saying it and I put the squash on it.

  • I’m Australian, and swearing is just about a national past-time. However, I have also pointed out that “what the?” isn’t acceptable. It was hard to explain, because Master 5 had absolutely no idea he was excluding a Bad Word.

    May I suggest that one explanation for children that ask about other people saying OMG is to point out that not everyone believes in God the same way that they do? It gives the kids a pride in their decision not to say it, since it is based on a positive belief, rather than just following a rule.

    I also teach not swearing (and not saying OMG either) as a skill. Ultimately, my kids get to decide whether or not they want to swear (and given our culture, I’m guessing they will), but I want to make very sure that they grow up with sufficient understanding of other people’s feelings and the ability to switch it off to avoid offense when required. Especially outside Australia.

    (I had to pause and change my choice of words several times to respect your feelings! – we really are a nation of bad language) 🙂

  • Yep..got my mouth washed out with soap more than once for saying OMG….good Catholic mom that I had taught us that from day one.

  • My parents taught me that any expression such as any of these indicated a lack of control, and was to be shunned. I don’t really shun them, but when I hear some of the things I say come out of my children’s mouths, I don’t like to hear it. I do try to maintain control of what comes out of my mouth, even when I hit my thumb with a hammer. Just as a gesture of respect to the best parents in the world. I slip up sometimes, though, because we have allowed too much liberty with our language (my husband and I.) He was not brought up not to swear, so he got me started. We certainly avoid anything that sounds like taking God’s name in vain, but all my children hear that all the time, even among extended family–and all my children have had their mouths washed out with soap for it except for the youngest. Who, by the way, up until very recently persisted in saying the word “fish” backwards, and substituting a t for the f.

  • I am with you – I think substituting anything in the place of the word is pretty much the same as saying the word.

    We do sometimes slip and say “oh my goodness” or “oh my stars”…but it’s very difficult to come up with positive expressions of surprise that glorify the Lord. 🙂

  • I didn’t read everyone’s comments, so this may have already been said. But actually, Gosh is a derivative, or alternate, pronunciation of God. My granddaughter has been saying, OMG, and I’ve corrected her with oh my goodness too.

  • I totally agree with you. I was never allowed to take the Lord’s name in vain- and “gosh” was included in that. To this day I still cringe when I hear it- or even see OMG. I’m trying to instill this in my kids too. I like what you said about not judging others by their rules. That’s a simple explanation.

  • I can see that like minds gather at the Fiddledeedee blog. 🙂 I, too, grew up with the understanding that we don’t use any of the derivatives of God’s name. Oh my goodness is our usual expletive. Or oh my stars. I had a friend who used to say Dad Gum it. For some reason I find myself using that one sometimes, but I’ve been trying to quit!

  • Why is God’s name the only one used this way? Why don’t we ever hear someone yell out Oh My Grandma!

    We have established the same rules in our house including the ruling out of gosh, but I am now struggling with a high school teenager who wants to sound like her friends.

    Not fun.

  • When I was a teen (many long moons ago) the fad was to say Oh Geez which I thought was short form for Gee Whiz. My Mother thought differently (good Catholic that she is) and stopped us from using Geez because she said it stood fo Jesus. After that I never used that expression again.

  • I had to laugh this week when Ainslee said that I should not allow Kayla and Ellie to watch Mickey Mouse club because Mickey says, “Gosh” (: We say “Goodness” or more recently “Sweet Niblets!”

    I figure that when it comes to the Holiness of God, I’d rather err on the side of caution. But also, I try to judge not, let I be judged (: So Mickey can say what he wants.