Pirate Ninja (mirdrak) wrote in chautauqua,
Pirate Ninja
mirdrak
chautauqua

Jesus H. Christ...H?

Well for the ponders, bored ones, and the ones who've all in all never quite could figure out what the H stood for, I have officially solved your problem. Or atleast I found the person who has solved it!
http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_033

Dear Cecil:

How come people always say "Jesus H. Christ"? Why not Jesus Q. Christ or Jesus R. Christ or something else? Does the H really stand for something? My future peace of mind depends on your answer. --W.B.T., Chicago

Dear W.:

The H stands for Harold, as in, "Our Father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name" (snort).

Actually, I've heard numerous explanations for the H over the years. The first is that it stands for "Holy," as in Jesus Holy Christ, a common enough blasphemy in the South, abridged to H by fast-talking Northerners. Other colorful Southern epithets include Jesus Hebe Christ and Jesus Hebrew Christ, which abbreviate the same way. The drawback of this account is that it is so boring I can barely type it without falling asleep. Luckily, the other theories are more entertaining:

(1) It stands for "Haploid." This is an old bio major joke, referring to the unique (not to say immaculate) circumstances of Christ's conception. Having no biological father, J.C. was shortchanged in the chromosome department to the tune of one half. Ingenious, I'll admit, but whimsy has no place in a serious investigation such as this.

(2) It recalls the H in the IHS logo emblazoned on much Christian paraphernalia. IHS dates from the earliest years of Christianity, being an abbreviation of "Jesus" in classical Greek characters. The Greek pronunciation is "Iesous," with the E sound being represented by the character eta, which looks like an H. When the symbol passed to Christian Romans, for whom an H was an H, the unaccountable character eventually became accepted as Jesus's middle initial.

(3) Finally, a reader makes the claim that the H derives from the taunting Latin inscription INRH that was supposedly tacked on the cross by Roman soldiers: Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Hebrei (Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Hebrews). Trouble is, the inscription is usually given as INRI: Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum (J.C., King of the Jews).

Nonetheless, this is the kind of creative thinking I like to see from my Teeming Millions. With every passing day, my mission on this earth comes closer to completion.

--CECIL ADAMS
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There have been various theories, but the one that seems most plausible is that it comes from the Greek monogram for Jesus, IHS or IHC. This is formed from the first two letters plus the last letter of His name in Greek (the letters iota, eta, and sigma; in the second instance, the C is a Byzantine Greek form of sigma). The H is actually the capital letter form of eta, but churchgoers who were unfamiliar with Greek took it to be a Latin H.
The oath does indeed seem to be American, first recorded in print at the end of the nineteenth century, although around 1910 Mark Twain wrote in his Autobiography that the expression had been in use about 1850 and was considered old even then. Its long survival must have a lot to do with its cadence, and the way that an especially strong emphasis can be placed on the H.
Nineteenth-century Americans weren’t the first to take the Greek letters to be Latin ones—since medieval times the monogram has often been expanded into Latin phrases, such as Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus Saviour of Men, In Hoc Signo (vinces), in this sign (thou shalt conquer), and In Hac Salus, in this (cross) is salvation.
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