I've often wondered, but never put much time into, the use and implications of the phrase "Oh my God". I know from experience that this phrase is very popular and used frequently in the everyday language of many conversations. I also recognize that to many other people this phrase is unacceptable and offensive towards their particular beliefs. I would like to focus on the linguistic practices of the phrase "Oh my God" and look at the cultural and social implications that the phrase impends on peoples frameworks. I would in addition like to apologize in advance if you are one of the people that this statement offends, and I just ask of you to consider the fact that I am a product of a generation that used phrases such as 'wassup', 'talk to the hand', and 'eat my shorts' as apart of our everyday contemporary language.
The expression "Oh my God" is a great example of how ones social relations, personal relations, culture, education and tradition can make a difference on how and what language is appropriate to ones particular framework. I recognize that I can say "Oh My God" in front of my friends and members of my family, given that they as well utilize the phrase and understand the implication of its use. As a child I remember using this expression as part of my everyday language. Every time I said it my mother would scold me for using this phrase, usually telling me not to swear. Swear? Since when is saying "Oh My God" considered swearing? I understand it is a phrase that is divisive in its use, but I also know that it doesn't hold as much implications as the typical swear words do. "Oh My God" is a controversial phrase within our everyday linguistic practices since there is no defining framework telling us its limits and possible connotations.
The statement has different meanings for people in different generations, different cultures and different traditions. Our generation has turned this phrase into a statement to accentuate an emotion we are feeling at any particular moment. "Oh my God" has become a phrase that many people in my generation, who grew up in the 90's, specifically relate to as a statement we can use to both signify ones excitement as well as ones disgust towards a particular comment or situation. I use it to emphasize my feelings, whether it is with a positive or negative connotation behind it. It would not be out of the ordinary to hear me state "Oh my God, I love your new hair cut" or "Oh my God, that dress is hideous." The phrase "Oh my God" in one that myself and many others wouldn't think twice about using. The phrase has become so common in fact that it has even been abbreviated on computer chat rooms as OMG, so that people can use it to express their own opinion. It is so widely used that, when one writes OMG they automatically know what the abbreviation stands for, and the connotation that is meant from its use.
I know in my case I by no means use this statement to inflict harm on those that may find it offense. I have no ulterior motive behind why I use it; the phrase over the years has just become part of my contemporary language and is a reflection of the generation that I have grown up in. The fact that to some people this statement is insulting did not really cross my mind when I used it in my everyday conversations. I comprehend that this statement is insulting to some since it speaks of the 'Lords name in vein', but what is not so clear is the reference the phrase has on people that don't hold religion on a pedestal. What makes the phrase so confusing for me is the fact that since myself and many others within similar frameworks do not personally hold offense to this statement, then under what terms should we have to refrain from using a statement we constantly utilize in our contemporary language? It wasn't until I was put into a particular situation where the sole use of this phrase could be the reason I was rejected from a family, that I begun to question the negative inflections it could have on other people.
Who would have thought a particular use of discourse could be my way to create solidarity with a family that I had every interest of being accepted into. To illustrate the controversy and confusion behind the linguistic practices of the phrase "Oh my God", I will use an everyday experience within my life that I feel reveals a significant socio-cultural insight regarding the use of the phrase. The experience that I am suggesting involves having dinner with my best friends parents for the first time. Through prior conversations with my friend I learned that she and her family had grown up in a totally different cultural, educational and traditional framework, in comparison to the one that I have adapted to. Not only our they dedicated Christians that spend most of their time helping out their churches youth groups and reading the bible on a regular basis, the father was a professor of both religious language and religious studies. This was a major change from my family who did not demand higher education, rarely discussed religion, and attended church only on Easter Sunday. It was evident that our families differed in many ways, and in order to not separate myself further from her family's culture it was clear that I had to refrain from the use of the phrase "Oh my God". During dinner it was surprisingly very easy not to say this phrase in front of my friends family, seeing as they focused on entirely different conversation and used language that fit into a different framework then my own. The discussion at the dinner table was easy and flowed smoothly; it was a remarkably different context then the everyday language I am accustomed to. It was due to the fact that the conversation at the table didn't mimic the conversation and context that I am used to, that the sudden blurting of the phrase "Oh my God" was not as difficult as I originally thought it would be.
Meeting my friend's parents opened my eyes to the particular use of the phrase "Oh my God". I have not yet refrained myself from using the phrase, but instead choose to become more conscious of its use when in the proximity of another that values a different framework from myself. I learned from further meetings that though my friend, as well as her three sisters may avoid using the phrase around their parents, when they were in conversation with their own friends they put the phrase to constant use. It was nice to know that other people had the same insecurities regarding the specific limitations that certain contemporary language can have on other people's frameworks. My friend's sisters also made me question the phrase in terms of its use and what it means, through the different forms of the expression that they used in conversation with their parents. For instance the girls used many other different structures of the phrase "Oh my God", such as "Oh my Gosh" and "Oh my Goodness". The slight change of words within the frame still inflicted the same use value, and at the same time did not offend people with its use. I use these forms of the word when I am conscious of who is around me, but what says a lot about our social construct is the fact that "Oh my God" is the phrase that is used by the majority. What does the use of "God" at the end of the phrase mean that the other formations do not? This is a question that I asked myself and the thing that I could come up with was that the use of "God" held more of an emphasis on my statement then the other two formations held. I also knew that by using "God" in the phrase I was fitting into my social group, and the use of the other two words would separate me from the language that has been set as fashionable among my personal relationships. Lets face it, the use of "Oh my goodness" and "Oh my gosh" are not phrases the typical teenager would use amid their peers.
It is common sense to most people not to use specific language, such as the phrase "Oh my God" around particular groups or individuals. There are no set rules concerning the use of the phrase, but through analyzing the linguistic practices of the expression I have learned that an imaginary consensus has been drawn creating an understanding regarding the rules of the phrase. Though we all submit to different frameworks, mainly due to our cultural and generational variability, we are all capable of temporarily stepping out of these frameworks so that we do not offend those with other regards for the phrase. In conclusion, I would just like to state that as a proud member of my generation I plan to continue on with the use of the phrase "Oh my God". It is a phrase that I love to use within conversations and it connects me with those that are affiliated within the same framework. I mean really, how else could I express my disgust towards my sister's new haircut without the use of "Oh my God" to emphasize it?