One person's take on it. (I would have said "holy" also).
Why do folks say "Jesus H. Christ"?
June 4, 1976
How come people always say "Jesus H. Christ"? Why not Jesus Q. Christ or Jesus R. Christ or something else? Does the H really stand for something? My future peace of mind depends on your answer.
— W.B.T., Chicago
The H stands for Harold, as in, "Our Father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name" (snort).
Actually, I've heard numerous explanations for the H over the years. The first is that it stands for "Holy," as in Jesus Holy Christ, a common enough blasphemy in the South, abridged to H by fast-talking Northerners. Other colorful Southern epithets include Jesus Hebe Christ and Jesus Hebrew Christ, which abbreviate the same way. The drawback of this account is that it is so boring I can barely type it without falling asleep. Luckily, the other theories are more entertaining:
(1) It stands for "Haploid." This is an old bio major joke, referring to the unique (not to say immaculate) circumstances of Christ's conception. Having no biological father, J.C. was shortchanged in the chromosome department to the tune of one half. Ingenious, I'll admit, but whimsy has no place in a serious investigation such as this.
(2) It recalls the H in the IHS logo emblazoned on much Christian paraphernalia. IHS dates from the earliest years of Christianity, being an abbreviation of "Jesus" in classical Greek characters. The Greek pronunciation is "Iesous," with the E sound being represented by the character eta, which looks like an H. When the symbol passed to Christian Romans, for whom an H was an H, the unaccountable character eventually became accepted as Jesus's middle initial.
(3) Finally, a reader makes the claim that the H derives from the taunting Latin inscription INRH that was supposedly tacked on the cross by Roman soldiers: Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Hebrei (Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Hebrews). Trouble is, the inscription is usually given as INRI: Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum (J.C., King of the Jews).
Nonetheless, this is the kind of creative thinking I like to see from my Teeming Millions. With every passing day, my mission on this earth comes closer to completion.
|4 years ago. Rating: 12|
- The answer is that although there is an h there, it's not really an h; nor is it the middle initial of Jesus Christ. This is a story full of twists.
- The central character in the story is the Christogram. This is a short acronym, usually three letters long, signalling the name Jesus. Jesus probably spoke Aramaic, and his name was probably Yeshua. We can't be sure, because by the time anything was written down it was done quite a lot later and in Greek.
- The Greek for the first three letters of His name were iota-eta-sigma. The Christogram that appeared on the tunics of priests of the Roman church was the Latin transliteration of the Greek one. At the time iota became I or J, eta became H and sigma became C or S. The actual letters in the Christogram could be IHC, IHS, JHC or JHS according to when and where.
- This may seem strange to us, but remember that we are moving from language to language, and two of the letters here are still fluid even today. "Ja" in German or Nordic languages sounds like "Yah" to us; "sent" and "cent" sound identical. Eta becoming H has no real justification except that Greek eta and the Latin H have similar shapes.
- So far so good; we can easily see that JHC is just a representation of the Greek letters which say "Yesh" (or maybe"Yes"), that Yesh is a diminutive of Yeshua, and that was Jesus's first name. Why then do members of Christian congregations say things like "Jesus H. Christ", not intending any disrespect but fully believing that this is what JHC is short for ?
- We must remember that for a thousand years or more of the Christian church, the majority of the congregation knew nothing of Greek, understood only a little of the Latin they heard at Mass, and were totally illiterate. They saw the Christogram on the priests robe. They had been told "this is Jesus's name" and to those who could read a little it was obvious what J and C were, so of course the H was His middle initial.
- Actually, the "H" stands for "Haploid", said of the offspring of a parthenogenetic (single parent) birth.
- Horus, one of the original Egyptian pagan gods
- It does not stand for anything. Jesus H. Christ is just an exclamation.
While the above answer is infinitely more impressive; from the purely plebeian perspective of real world childhood memories and otherwise street-gutter-oriented experiences... every time I heard it, it was, indeed, used in an exclamatory manner by different people in various states of distress.
As it is the penchant of most people when they are excited or frustrated or just simply in a state of rage, to utter an epithet of one sort or other... it was only a matter of time before the third Commandment be taxed in this area [thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain...].
And of all the people I've heard utter "Jesus H. Christ" aloud [and there were many]... only one fellow bothered to explain it to me one day when my curiosity got the best of me and I inquired of him.
According to the man, the "H" in "Jesus H. Christ" stands for "Himself."
It is indeed a less than reverent application of the Lord's name... but at the same time there are infinitely worse ones out there. The Lord, however, doesn't list His Commandments in "degrees of severity"... and everyone's infraction of them will be accounted for... as the Commandment ends: "...for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain." (Ex.20:7)
So, while this is a somewhat less than historical account... I chalk it up as a life experience that became a part of my personality and who I am. Whatever that may be.
Another factor to consider in why people put an H between Jesus and Christ when they want a good robust expletive is the change in configuration of your lips and tongue while saying the phrase. After you say "Jesus", your lips are relaxed and close to your teeth and your tongue is low and towards the rear in your mouth. To then say "Christ" you have to protrude your lips and move your tongue up against the back of your palate. You could reconfigure your mouth silently, or you could say "H" which accomplishes the same reconfiguration but has the advantage of filling up that smidgen of time with a sound that adds a bit more presence to the expletive. This is why "Jesus H Christ!" rolls off your tongue a bit more smoothly than just "Jesus Christ!"
While there may or may not be some other explanation for the actual origin of the H, the reason it continues to be used may be because of the felicitous mouth configuration needed to say "H" in English.
|4 years ago. Rating: 9|
In the Latin-speaking Christianity of medieval Western Europe (and so among Catholics and many Protestants today), the most common Christogram became "IHS" or "IHC", denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, iota-eta-sigma, or ΙΗΣ.
The Greek letter iota is represented by I, and the eta by H, while the Greek letter sigma is either in its lunate form, represented by C, or its final form, represented by S. Because the Latin-alphabet letters I and J were not systematically distinguished until the 17th century, "JHS" and "JHC" are equivalent to "IHS" and "IHC".
"IHS" is sometimes interpreted as meaning Iesus Hominum Salvator ("Jesus, Savior of men" in Latin) or connected with In Hoc Signo. Such interpretations are known as backronyms. Used in Latin since the seventh century, the first use of IHS in an English document dates from the fourteenth century, in The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman. Saint Bernardino of Siena popularized the use of the three letters on the background of a blazing sun to displace both popular pagan symbols and seals of political factions like the Guelphs and Ghibellines in public spaces (see Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus). English-language interpretations of "IHS" have included "I Have Suffered" or "In His Service", or jocularly and facetiously "Jesus H. Christ".
|4 years ago. Rating: 2|