The biblical Jehoshaphat is one of the lesser-known Jewish Kings, who ruled over the southern kingdom of Judah in the ninth century BC. He seems to have done a pretty good job as monarch, doing that “which was right in the sight of the Lord.” But it isn’t his wisdom or justice which have made him famous. In fact, he owes his immortality to the lucky accident of having a name that sounds a lot like “Jesus.” The 10 Commandments forbid Christians from “taking the Lord’s name in vain”—saying “Jesus” or “God” as an expletive counts as blasphemy. So, if an unfortunate “Je–” happens to slip out accidentally, one way to stay within the rules is to turn “Je–” into Jehoshaphat, in the same way that people these days sometimes say “oh fudge!” This typo in the bible originally made adultery mandatory. “Jehosaphat” first appears as an exclamation in Samuel Hammet’s 1857 novel Sam Slick in Texas, and it retains an “Old West” feel today, rarely used without the addition of a corny cowboy accent. As for why Jehoshaphat is so often “jumping,” we can, alas, only speculate.
“Kiss of life”
“Kiss of life” is thought to have entered English as an opposite to Judas’ treacherous “kiss of death.” It’s been used in Britain since at least 1961 as a term for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and its use in a more general sense goes back even further—in 1947 the phrase was briefly an advertising slogan for a firm of Detroit car salesmen. Today, however, the kiss of life—both as a phrase and as an action—is falling out of favor. Research shows that unconscious patients do better with chest compressions alone than they do when someone’s trying to blow air down their throat. And mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can go horribly wrong, with patients coughing up blood and vomiting and other such unpleasantness. In one famous incident from the 1970s, a British man almost died from a disease he caught when he gave the kiss of life to his dead pet parrot. You’d never guess that these everyday words were actually invented by accident!
“Gird your loins”
Two archaic words come together in this phrase. “Gird,” from the Old English gyrdan, means to put a belt (or girdle) around something. Loins, from the Latin lumbus, originally described the flanks of an animal and, from the fourteenth century, those parts of the human body which, as medieval writers primly put it, “should be covered.” In biblical times, when long robes were still in fashion, anyone embarking on strenuous physical activity or going into battle ran a serious risk of tripping on a trailing hem and falling flat on their face. The solution? To tuck one’s robe into one’s belt, i.e. to gird one’s loins. The phrase, in this literal sense, occurs frequently in the Bible, starting from the Second Book of Kings. The phrase can also be found in the Bible as a metaphor, in the First Epistle of Peter. “Gird up the loins of your mind,” writes the apostle to his followers—an awkward image, but he got his point across. Next, find out the eight secret words that the Royal Family can never ever say. .