My father was adamant about it. “Thou shalt not take the name of The Lord thy God in vain!” There were plenty of other ways to sin of course, and my father knew them all. He could even recognise if someone was having a sinful thought just by the expression on their face. If he ever felt the possibility that he might have a sinful thought he headed for a cold shower or read a few pages of the Good Book as quickly as he could. When he was a young man and he found that he couldn’t prevent himself from having sinful thoughts about the young woman who cleaned at his non-conformist chapel, he married her, so that he could continue with the thoughts, but, within the sanctity of marriage, they would no longer be sinful.
But if he ever heard that woman, who became my mother utter the name of The Lord in the form of an oath or a curse, he would pinch her legs until she repented sincerely with tears in her eyes. Me and my sisters would get the same treatment.
Oh My God! With one twist of his index finger and thumb he could bring up a bruise the size and shape of an old ha’penny! Lord God Almighty! They would smart! God’s Truth! sometimes there were more bruised bits on my legs than there were pink bits.
Of course, when there is any chance of getting nipped legs, or placed in the ducking stool, or burned at the ruddy stake, people will always try to hide the fact that they are taking The Lord’s name in vain. That’s why people shortened “God’s Truth” to “Strewth.” We did it over here long before it became all the rage in Australia, with that Crocodile Dundee and his ruddy cakes and tins of lager. In fact there were quite a few words like that which tried to disguise what they really were. “Gadzooks!” meant God’s Hooks, which were the nails by which The Lord was fastened to his cross. “Odds Bodkins!” was another one which referred to the nails, whilst “Zounds!” meant God’s wounds, which he got from those nails. The thing about “Gadzooks,” “Odds Bodkins” and “Zounds” is that they sounded so ridiculous that after a while nobody wanted to say them any more, not even the Australians. Fair Dinkum to them.
Some situations where it may be useful to take the name of The Lord thy God in vain.
(i) When lying down at the foot of the stairs “Lord God Almighty! Who left that ruddy roller skate at the top of the stairs.
(ii) When you have been stabbed with a sword during the reign of Good Queen Bess “Gadzooks! I am undone!”
(iii) When visiting relatives in Australia “Strewth! I ate so much of that Crocodile Dundee Cake yesterday that all marmalade and almonds came out when I went to the dunny this morning. I nearly had to tie me kangaroo down, sport.