Slang City Mail

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December 18, 2003

Slang of the Week: holy mackerel! (exclamation)
expression of surprise

Holy mackerel! That’s a big fish.

Celebrity quote:
“As soon as we could see the outline of it, I said, ‘Holy mackerel, I think we have a skull’”
-Dinosaur hunter Bruce Young on finding a triceratops fossil last month in Colorado

Although most people today associate this term with the character Robin from the 1960s TV show Batman, it was popularized by a far more controversial pop culture icon: George “Kingfish” Stevens.

Amos and Andy, which got its start in the late 1920s, was a popular radio comedy show about two black men, but the actors who played these stereotyped characters were white, understandably creating anger among the black community. In 1951, the show made the crossover to television, but even in that politically incorrect era, producers realized they could not use white actors in blackface.

With its new African American cast, the TV show continued to present what many considered to be negative racial stereotypes. One of these was “Kingfish” Stevens, the leader of an organization called the Mystic Knights of the Sea Lodge. His primary role on the show was involving other lodge members in suspect business schemes and his catchphrase was “Holy mackerel!” a fishy version of the earlier synonyms holy cow! and holy cats!

All of these were euphemisms for the original sacrilegious exclamation Holy Christ! The Batman comics and later Batman TV show took “holy” to ridiculous new heights with expressions like holy armadillos!, holy hieroglyphics!, and holy guacamole!

What’s new at Slang City?
More questionable material in terms of political correctness – it’s translated quotes from the high-heel kung fu epic, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.