Goddam Your Eyes
January 21, 2005 10:37 AM   Subscribe

What's the origin of the phrase "Goddam Your Eyes"? Google just returns a million uses of it.
posted by OmieWise to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sam Hall (warning, midi), a song that's rather older than Young Frankenstein, contains the phrase "blast his eyes", so that's probably not its origin.
posted by kenko at 10:56 AM on January 21, 2005

(kenko, ya beat me to it! I was on preview...)

The English music hall / folk song Sam Hall has that phrase in the chorus.



In 1701 a chimney sweep named Jack Hall was hanged for burglary. These lyrics were written by an English comic minstrel, C.W. Ross, in the 1850's.

source for above - more lyrics (beware MIDI)
posted by omnidrew at 10:58 AM on January 21, 2005

Not that this is going to be very helpful, but I recall that Gene Wilder made some sort of comment about origin the "Damn your eyes!" line on the DVD of Young Frankenstein, but I can't remember what he was referencing, if it was this song by CW Ross, or something else. All I do remember is that it was a joke they all found pretty funny, but that seemed to go over the heads of the audience.
posted by omphale27 at 11:06 AM on January 21, 2005

My first exposure to it was in Buckaroo Banzai, as spoken by John Whorfin (who had the best lines). But yeah, I think it's been around a lot longer than that. Johnny Cash covered Sam Hall on his last album, fwiw.
posted by adamrice at 11:51 AM on January 21, 2005

I had no idea that song was so old. Still, I think this is the best version.

On preview: adamrice was quicker, damn his eyes!
posted by Termite at 11:57 AM on January 21, 2005

Thanks for the Young Frankenstein links, but that's way too late.

From what I can discover it seems to be a standard curse from way back. Perhaps the song is where it came from, but usually songs like that are incorporating already established cultural tropes.

Thanks everyone.
posted by OmieWise at 12:20 PM on January 21, 2005

This is a very, very old curse. You can find citations of "damning of the eyes" in 1700s English literature. However, it was considered to be very raw, blasphemous language.
posted by Miko at 12:24 PM on January 21, 2005

Offtopic: I love the Dubliners' version of "Sam Hall". Somehow Hall's first-person narration of his death with all its wry fatalism really comes through.

Though the lyrics are completely different from the Cash version. And thus even more irrelevant to this question, because they don't contain the phrase "Goddamn your eyes".
posted by Gnatcho at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2005

It's an ancient curse, it shows up in Arabic writing from 1,000 years ago. Don't ask me for sources because I don't have them, but I had this same question about 10 years ago when I was in college and it led me back to really ancient curses. Actually, now that I think about it, it may have been Aramaic or something even older. But I know it's old.
posted by chaz at 12:34 PM on January 21, 2005

My dad, who is English (Somerset) says this all the time. I don't know the origin, and it isn't really explained in the OED, which records first usage in 1761

From the OED:

1761 STERNE Tr. Shandy III. xii. 64 From the great and tremendous oath of William the Conqueror, (By the splendour of God) down to the lowest oath of a scavenger, "Damn your eyes".

1850 H. MELVILLE White Jacket II. xxvi. 170 What man-of-war's-men call a damn-my-eyes-tar, that is, a humbug. And many damn-my-eyes humbugs there are in this man-of-war world of ours.

1906 ‘Q’ Mayor of Troy xi. 151 D{emem}n your eyes, it's twins{em}and both girls!

1912 KIPLING As Easy as A.B.C. 5 It's refreshing to find any one interested enough in our job to damn our eyes.
posted by Rumple at 2:10 PM on January 21, 2005

Never mind the origin, I can't even figure out what it means.
posted by jjg at 2:22 PM on January 21, 2005

It's equivalent to "Damn you," the eyes standing in for the person (a form of synecdoche).
posted by languagehat at 2:44 PM on January 21, 2005

Re Sam Hall versions, Richard Thompson has been playing it as an encore piece in his semi-solo-all-covers tour 1000 Years of Popular Music.
posted by omnidrew at 6:02 PM on January 21, 2005

God's teeth, woman, I thought you'd been laid to rest in 1808. Welcome!
posted by mwhybark at 6:08 PM on January 21, 2005

Sam Hall is one of the most widely known and recorded traditional songs. It's not hard to find versions. These unreprentant-criminal-gets-his-due songs were the Tabloid TV of their day, and were immensely popular.
posted by Miko at 10:08 AM on January 22, 2005

I'm not certain this is related, but the popular exclamation "Blimey" comes from "Gor blimey", an historic corruption of "God blind me" in frustration of something one has seen and wished he hadn't, deserving to never see again. Perhaps (guessing) GD-your-eyes is a similar eruption of emotion in mercy that God blind whatever-you-just-saw from your memory?
posted by vanoakenfold at 10:57 AM on November 21, 2005

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