While most common obscenities are a single barked word or set phrase, a number of them allow for user creativity, and ad-hoc formation that suits the moment. These are noteworthy in that they permit a linguistic dialing-up or dialing down of the desired force.
Jesus H. Christ
The insertion of “h” into “Jesus Christ” is a mild intensifier, and has a long history. The etymology is contested, but likely stems from the Christian symbol representing the first three characters of Christ’s name, iota-eta-sigma, which looks like IHS:
Suggestions that the “h” stands for “Harold,” ‘Henry,” or “holy” can be summarily discarded. So far, this results in a standard epithet, but the fun starts when one adds “on a” to the pattern, e.g.: “Jesus H. Christ on the cross,” “Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick” or “Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket.” or from the Blues Brothers movie, “Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ.” Also: “Jesus H. Christ on a cracker,” “Jesus H. Christ on a rubber crutch,” and “Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick.”
In these forms, the user can append virtually any prosaic phrase that comes to mind.
Furthermore, the “h” can be included or discarded, in such forms as “Christ on a raft,” “Christ on a crutch,” “Christ on a bike,” and others.
In a similar vein, we have a wealth of epithets beginning with “queer as a …” in which the user can insert any phrase that springs to mind, e.g.:
- Queer as a 3-dollar bill
- Queer as a plaid rabbit
- Queer as a football bat
- Queer as a clockwork orange
- Queer as a nine-bob note
- Queer as a 3-speed walking stick
None of the above play off of “queer” in the sense of gay, but some forms like “gayer than a two-dollar bill” have been coined to that end in addition to the now-popular “queer as folk.”
Then we have the interpolation of epithets into a word, .e.g, “far-fucking-out”, “fan-fucking-tastic”, “abso-fucking-lutely, in which “fucking” is threaded into an expression of surprise, amazement, or agreement, but “goddamn” or “motherfucking” are routinely seen.
Playing off the sense of “fine” as meaning “in good spirits,” we have “fine as frog’s hair,” “as slippery as frog hair,” and phrases indicating the unusual, e.g., “as rare as rocking-horse shit” and “as small as the hairs on a gnat’s bollock.”
And in the simile department, “crazy” generates a fair number of off-the-cuff expressions like:
- Crazy as a shit-house rat
- Crazy as a loon
- Crazy as a soup sandwich
- Crazy as Larrabee’s calf
This is not intended to be a listing of popular folk expressions as much as it notes the type of phrasing that allows the speaker to insert a word or term selected on the fly. There is no limit to the number of variants that can be created as needed, and these reflect on the wit and inventiveness of the speaker.