What is the origin of the phrase "Holy Mackerel"?


3 Answers

Ray Dart Profile
Ray Dart answered

I thought this was an interesting question, so I tried to research it. There appear to be many explanations, but the most likely seems to be a first letter substitution. In the same way that my mum used to say "Oh sugar!" because she wouldn't use the "sh" word in front of us.

So it was probably be a substitute for "Mary" or "Moses" or "Mother of God" all of which are mild blasphemies now, but were once considered rather offensive. (And mackerel is such a good word, isn't it? Rolls nicely off the tongue).

I remember seeing Robin, boy wonder, saying "Holy Macaroni" in some early Batman comics, which is probably an enhancement for comedic value.

Rooster Cogburn Profile
Rooster Cogburn , Rooster Cogburn, answered

From Wiktionary : Recorded from 1803 with uncertain origin, but possibly a euphemism for Holy Mary, with Mackerel being a nickname for Catholics because they ate the fish on Fridays. Another suggested explanation is the practice of selling mackerel on Sundays in the seventeenth century (because its quality deteriorates rapidly), so it was known as a holy fish. I remember it from this old show!

4 People thanked the writer.
Smiley Crankenhoof
So many people on here have been asking religious questions, when I thought of one, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to post it!
Rooster Cogburn
Rooster Cogburn commented
I've noticed that. Can't say as I care much for it ! Love the Amos n Andy ! First time I ever heard Holy Mackeral der Sapphire ! LOL
Didge Doo
Didge Doo commented
Love it. And I learned something. I didn't know the difference between nocturnal and dayturnal twitches until now. How have I lived so long without knowing that?
Didge Doo Profile
Didge Doo answered

Your problem, Smiley, is your spelling. You'll never be able to track down word origins if you spell them incorrectly.

Holy mackerel is actually the corruption of a term used in the experimental fish-breeding industry. To meet the needs of clientele who want designer food, breeders have come up with all manner of new breeds. For instance, they have crossed a herring with a shark to produce a hark; and they have crossed a trout with a salmon to produce a tralmon, and so on.

But not everybody is getting getting on that particular bandwagon and the mackerel breeders advertise proudly that "when you buy one of our fish you can be sure that it's wholly mackerel."

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