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The Origin of Good Grief


Good Grief,” a widely recognized expression, achieved fame through its association with Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic strip, Peanuts. The iconic phrase, frequently spoken by the endearing character Charlie Brown, served as a powerful means to convey feelings of disbelief and inner turmoil on numerous occasions. Schulz’s masterful storytelling and relatable characters made “Good Grief” an enduring part of popular culture, resonating with audiences across generations. “Good Grief” first appeared in print in 1900.

It is noteworthy that the origins of this expression can be traced back to the year 1900 when it first appeared in print. Over the years, “Good Grief” evolved into a versatile phrase with a myriad of interpretations, encapsulating moments of exasperation, sorrow, and perplexity. Through its timeless presence in Peanuts, the phrase became deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness, finding its way into everyday conversations and serving as a comforting phrase during trying times.

Charles M. Schulz’s astute portrayal of the human condition and the complexities of emotions allowed “Good Grief” to transcend its comic strip origins. It became a symbol of empathy, allowing individuals to connect with each other over shared experiences of frustration and vulnerability. Schulz’s creation of Charlie Brown as the embodiment of youthful innocence and genuine emotional struggles made “Good Grief” a reflection of the universal human experience.

As Peanuts continued to capture the hearts of readers for decades, “Good Grief” secured its position as an enduring linguistic gem, reminding us of the importance of acknowledging our feelings and finding solace in shared expressions of emotion. From the comic strip’s inception in 1950 to the present day, “Good Grief” remains an indelible phrase, serving as a testament to the enduring power of art and language in shaping our culture.

Mild or minced oaths such as GOOD GRIEF!, for an expression of surprise or horror, follow the Hebraic and Middle English tradition of avoiding the use of sacred words, such as God, by substituting words with the same initial letter. Thus for GOD, these oaths substitute such words as George, ginger, Godfrey, golly, gosh, gracious, gravy, grief, etc., and By God! becomes By George!, Good God! becomes Good gosh! Good gracious! Good gravy! Good Grief! There are similar such substitutions for Christ (e.g. cracky, cricky, criminy, cripes), JESUS (e.g. gee, Gemini, Jeez, jeepers), LORD (e.g. land, law) and so on for DAMN, HELL, etc.

good grief

First panel Frankenstein #6 (1947) by Dick Briefer.