Is saying words like gosh, golly, heck, darn, dang, etc. the same as saying the “bad” words? I hear lots of Christians say these words. Are they wrong?
Here is a good question. This shows that someone out there is concerned about their speech and the influence of their speech upon other people. The Bible has much to say about our influence through speech upon others. The passage that comes to my mind immediately is Ephesians 4:29 which says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” From this passage we learn that “corrupt” speech is not to be spoken by the Christian. The Christian’s speech is to be for edifying, that is, building each other up. The Christian’s speech is to serve grace or favor to those who hear it. Herein lies the standard for our speech and communication patterns.
There are three ways in which we can use speech in a corrupt way. First of all we can utter a curse upon something. This is basically what Jesus condemns in Matthew 5:22 “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” To curse another person or even to curse God’s creation is a sin against God. God made the earth and people as a blessing. We ought to respect God’s blessing and not curse it.
The second way in which we can corrupt speech is by using God’s name in vain. God told the Israelites in Exodus 20:7 “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” This principle is still true today. God does not want us to refer to Him in a vain or empty way. He is God and deserves our constant and complete respect. To use His name in an empty way is to not give God the respect that God deserves.
The third way in which we can corrupt speech is by taking something that God has made holy and make it common. The sexual relationship is one such example. God made that relationship to be holy, that is, set apart–between husband and wife. If we speak concerning that relationship as if it is just another common activity then we denigrate it. Many today speak of such matters in a flippant and joking way. Such should not be named among the people of God. Ephesians 5:3, 4 says, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” Now, all of your so called “curse” words fit into one of these three categories.
So where do the word in your question fall into these three categories? When we are unsure of the meaning of words, the best place to go is to the dictionary. When I looked up “gosh” it said that it was a euphemism for God. When I looked up “golly” it said the same thing. The word “heck” is a euphemism for “hell.” The words “darn” and “dang” are euphemisms for the word “damn.” The word euphemism means the following: “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.” Basically, a euphemism is using a word that doesn’t sound as bad as the one that most consider offensive, but the meaning of the word is the same. So there is no change in meaning when we use a euphemism.
Let me offer an example. Suppose I was to approach someone who was sensitive about their loss of hair and say that they were really getting on in their bald head. Most would likely take offense at such a serious expression. However, suppose I suggested the following, “He is possessing fewer follicle appendages on the cutaneous apex of his cranial structure, anterior to the sagittal suture and posterior to the lambdoidal suture, where said follicle appendages habitually germinate.” More than likely one would say that he is getting a little “thin on top.” The one is a euphemism for the other. The design is to be less offensive, but the meaning is the same.
So think about those three categories of corrupt speech: the curse, using God’s name in vain, and making common something that is holy. Are any of these words that we are discussing euphemisms for curses? Are any of them euphemisms for God’s name? I think that we can see that they are and as such would be in that category of forbidden speech that Paul described as “corrupt communication.” The euphemism itself (gosh, golly, dang, darn, etc.) is really just a milder way to utter a curse or use God’s name in vain. Such corrupt speech ought not to cross the lips of the Christian.