The Etymology of “Tarnation”

Widely popularized among contemporary folk by the Warner Bros. character Yosemite Sam (e.g., “What in tarnation…?!”), the word “tarnation” was originally a 1784 American English derivative of “darnation,” which was, predictably enough, a milder way of expressing the profanity “damnation.” The “t” in tarnation was influenced by “tarnal,” yet another mild 18th century profanity derived from the phrase “by the Eternal,” which was used as such: “Joe paid a tarnal high price for his dillydallying.”

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