Exclamatory -S?

Possible addition to the cases of “extra -S” listed in this earlier posting: the -S on exclamations like yipes, yikes, gee whillikers, and possibly some others.

The /z/ in zounds represents a historical plural (in wounds), though only students of language appreciate that these days.

The /s/ in cripes probably reflects that segment in Christ, but again that might not be appreciated by people who use the expression.

Then there’s the final element of the testicular exclamations balls, bollocks, and nuts: a plural marker, historically, but why did these forms get chosen for this purpose?

Further nominations are welcomed.

13 Responses to “Exclamatory -S?”

  1. Bobo Linq Says:

    Hells no!


    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Nice one, with real attestations, like this one:

      [Sarah] Palin also doubled down on her opposition to raising the nation’s debt ceiling. “Hells no. I would not vote to increase that debt ceiling,” she said. (link)

    • Erik Zyman Carrasco Says:

      And, conversely, hells yeah!

  2. Ben Zimmer Says:

    oops (< upsidaisy?)
    (aw-)shucks (< shucks = 'worthless things')
    gadzooks (< God's hooks?)
    bejabbers (< by Jesus)
    jeepers (< Jesus)
    yoicks (< hoik < hike)


  3. mollymooly Says:

    I’m not sure whether “yummers” falls into this class or 5.2 Oxford –er + s

  4. Stan Says:

    Irish English colloquial pronunciation of jeepers gives japers and bejapers, and there’s also jakers. The first of these is especially common in my experience.

    Hells no reminded me of Hell’s bells, of which there’s a long version, Hell’s bells and buckets of blood (and longer still, discussed here).

  5. Ben Zimmer Says:

    I don’t think hells no/yeah has any connection to Hell’s bells. AFAIK, it comes out of hiphop slang, where extraneous -s often appears, as in moms for mom. When this came up on ADS-L in 2006, I dug up examples going back to 1993 (Big Daddy Kane’s “Looks Like A Job For…” has a hells yeah).

  6. Court Says:

    I’m not sure if this counts, but I often hear people say things like “for ______ sakes” instead of “for ______’s sake.”

    For God sakes
    For Pete sakes
    For goodness sakes

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      This is pretty much the reverse: the omission of possessive -S after certain nouns (especially certain proper names) ending in S, especially in combination with sake(s). Lots of literature on this, going back at least to Jespersen a hundred years ago.

  7. mollymooly Says:

    Lolcats have given the world “o(h) no(e)s” and I suspect others of that ilk. No doubt the kids bring these from the written to the spoken word.

  8. on many’s the Saturday night | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] spent some time on -s: see here and here, and especially on “excrescent -s” here, From the […]

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