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Word origins have always fascinated me, and on occasion I stop and smile when I hear someone say, “Goodbye,” because that common word started out as “God be with ye” in the 1500s. So, even those who deny God’s existence refer to him all the time.
But it goes further than just that parting expression. One can scarcely be a speaker of English and not run across countless religious references that are used by believers and non-believers alike.
It finds its way into our lexicon in these ways and many more:
Heaven help us
For heaven’s sake
Stinks to high heaven
Marriage made in heaven
Move heaven and earth
The name of God is unfortunately taken in vain, but it also pops up in these common expressions:
God rest his soul
God bless you
God only knows
There but for the grace of God go I
Thank God for small blessings
God’s green earth
With God on our side
God’s gift to mankind
By the grace of God
As God is my witness
God helps those who help themselves
And many more, including “Cross my heart and hope to die,” “Divine intervention,” and a favorite of the insurance industry, “Acts of God.”
All of these phrases remind us of our history, our collective belief in a Heavenly Father, faith in his power, and hope for his blessings.
Today we see many who want to strip our government buildings, our schools, our songs, our pledge of Allegiance, our swearing in of court witnesses, our money, and our communities of every possible reference to God. It’s as if they’ve never studied the founders of the United States or read our founding documents. They think “separation of church and state” means complete annihilation of “church.”
But guess what? As long as our language lives and breathes, God will be sprinkled throughout our vocabulary, piped into our cars at Christmas (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and more), and sung about in public patriotic hymns, as we hear on the Fourth of July. References to God pop up in music, movies, and on television. From the tiniest child to the most elderly citizen, these phrases will, or have, become part of our collective culture. Yep, God is here to stay. Cross my heart and hope to die.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.