I’ve been repeating this euphemism, made famous by cartoon strip nay-sayer Charlie Brown, probably as long as I’ve been able to speak. I never stopped to think how oddly ironic it is. It’s almost an oxymoron. Well not almost; it is. How can grief be good? I’m sure philosophically one can always find a silver lining, but that’s immaterial to the point at hand.
Where did this phrase come from? Why do we say it?
A two-word complete sentence even my text editor honors without fuss. It’s become a familiar term used when one is expressing dismay and often as a slight exaggeration:
“Good grief, where did you get all those pickles?”
This phrase is what’s known as a minced oath, most likely arising in England before spreading to the rest of the world due to the innately restrained nature of the English. (I hope my English friends will forgive me. I’m American obviously lacking the “restraint gene” and this really is a compliment.) It’s a wish to communicate without being offensive. This is something the English are particularly fond of, hence their long tradition of double-entendre comedy. (God Bless Monty Python.)
To make a long story short, “good grief” is the polite way of saying “good God” and ensuring the sensibilities of good God-fearing people are not bruised… most likely because they’re too busy trying to solve the riddle: how is grief a good thing?
Thank you to dreamn for suggesting this one!