Green’s Dictionary of Slang

great...! excl.

In exclamations

by the great...!

used in a var. of ad hoc combs. as a mild excl.

[US]W.M. Raine Bucky O’Connor (1910) 69: I’ve raised you from a kid, and, by the great mogul! you can’t sneak off with the first good-for-nothing scoundrel that makes eyes at you. [Ibid.] 105: By the jumping California frog, I’ve got it!
[Aus](con. 1936–46) K.S. Prichard Winged Seeds (1984) 228: Be the Great Livin’ Tinker, looks as if Paddy’ll be gettin’ something of what’s been comin’ to him for a long time.
by the great horn spoon! (also by the great anchor! by the great horned spoon! by the horn spoons! by the long-armed spoon!)

(usu. US) a mild excl; a euph. for by God!; thus swear by the great horn spoon v.

[US] ‘French Claim’ Amer. National Song Book II 222: He vow’d by the great horn spoon / Unless they did the thing that was right, / He’d give them a licking, and that pretty soon.
[US]G. Seaworthy Bertie 35: Jest hold on tew that ’ere rope a minnit till I git my baggage aboard, or by the Great Horn Spoon you’ll never see Edentown!
[US]Melville Moby Dick (1907) 81: By the great anchor, what a harpoon he’s got there!
[US]Knickerbocker (N.Y.) xli Feb. 115: ‘By the horn spoons!’ repeated the skipper suddenly.
[UK]W.D. O’Connor Harrington 184: By the great horn spoon! I’d just like to have the stringin’ up of them law-abiders.
[UK]Birmingham Jrnl 22 Aug. 10/4: ‘By the great horn spoon!’ swore the sheriff.
[US]Donaldson Chief (LA) 23 Mar. 1/2: Well then, by Jimminy Pelt, by dad, by hokey, by the long-armed soon, by jocks.
[US]A. Pinkerton Thirty Years a Detective 77: Well, by Gosh! if this don’t beat ennything I ever seed! By the great horn-spoon, they’re es like es two peas.
[UK]Kipling ‘The Rhyme Of The Three Captains’ Writings in Prose and Verse (1899) 109: The skipper peered beneath his palm and swore by the Great Horn Spoon: — ‘’Fore Gad, the Chaplain of the Fleet would bless my picaroon!’.
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 39: Bilked! By the Great Horn Spoon, bilked!
[US]R. Dirks ‘The Katzenjammer’s Revenge’ [comic strip] Wow! By the great horn spoon! Let go of that – Help!
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe on the Job 142: ‘Then, by the great horned spoon,’ I goes on, ‘you’re goin’ to get what you came after!’.
[US] in J.F. Dobie Rainbow in Morning 92: By the great horned-spoon!
E. Wright [bk title] The Great Horn Spoon.
W.H. Alexander in Journal of American Associated University Professors 257: And he says to a professor, mark you ‘Do this or get out!’ and by the Great Horned Spoon, he doeth it or getteth out.
[US]Time 22 Nov. 25/1: Operators had sworn by the Great Horn Spoon that they would not negotiate with Harry (‘The Nose’) Bridges [DA].
great balls of fire! (also great bald-faced hornets! great flaming blue-headed balls of Jesus! great thundering cannonballs!)

(orig. US) an excl. of surprise, amazement.

[US]Pasacagoula Democratic Star (MS) 17 May 1/6: Great balls of fire! The air was full of the maddest bees that ever attacked a bald-headed man.
[US]Sun (NY) 15 May 17/5: Great bald-faced hornets, no!
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 292: A skinner! — great-balls-of-fire! a skinner!
[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 17: Great balls of fire! Looka here! See mah luck!
[US]G. & S. Lorimer Stag Line 171: Great balls of fire! Holy Joe, this is horrible, Maudie!
[US]C.B. Davis Rebellion of Leo McGuire (1953) 168: ‘Great balls of fire,’ he said in a hushed voice.
[US]Jerry Lee Lewis ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ [lyrics] C’mon baby, drive me crazy / Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!!
[US]C. Himes Rage in Harlem (1969) 9: ‘Great balls of fire,’ Jackson yelled.
[US]R. Coover Public Burning (1979) 446: ‘Great balls of fire!’ he whoops.
[US]M. Braun Judas Tree (1983) 52: Great thundering cannonballs!
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 24: Women used to let off steam domestically with a fine range of substitute expletives. ‘Holy Moses!’, ‘Holy mackerel!’ […] ‘great balls of fire’.
[Can]M. Atwood Cat’s Eye (1989) 357: ‘Great flaming blue-headed balls of Jesus,’ she says.
[UK]Guardian G2 10 Aug. 22: Jim was the cousin of Jerry ‘Great balls of fire!’ Lee Lewis.
great Caesar! (also by the great Caesar! Caesar’s ghost! great Caesar almighty! great Caesar’s aunt! ...ghost! great Christo! great Christopher! great Esau! great Goliah! great Jehos(h)aphat! great Jehosophat! great Jonah! great keezer’s ghost! great Nathan! keezer’s ghost!)

a mild oath, a euph. for great God!

[US]Memphis Daily Argus 19 Nov. 3/2: Great Caesar! [DA].
in C. Clemens My Father Mark Twain (1931) letter 28 Nov. 15: Great Caesar’s ghost, if there were a church [...] I would go out and jump over it.
[US]J. Miller First Fam’lies in the Sierras 101: Sandy, by the great Caesar!
[UK]Besant & Rice Golden Butterfly II 167: ‘Caesar’s ghost!’ he exclaimed. [Ibid.] 195: ‘Great Jehoshaphat!’ he cried.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 10 July 8/2: Great Caesar! men! Enough.
[US]G.W. Peck Peck’s Bad Boy and His Pa (1893) 251: Well, great Julius Caesar’s bald-headed ghost, what’s the matter with you?
[US]Donaldsville Chief (LA) 26 Sept. 1/5: Great Caesar’s North Amiercan Ghost! did you see him dash that ball down here?
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 4 July 12/3: Great Esau! to think that it never struck us.
[UK]Sporting Times 8 Feb. 1/3: Great Nathan! What are you — a sheriff’s officer?
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 18 Mar. 2/6: ‘Oh, great howling Caesar!’ groaned the grocer.
[UK]Kipling Captains Courageous 277: Great Caesar Almighty!
[US]A.J. Boyd Shellback 78: ‘Great Caesar’s ghost!’ I exclaimed.
[UK]A. Binstead More Gal’s Gossip 148: Great Caesar’s Ghost! And they told me he’d gone to Squatawottomy to see a man about an elephant.
[UK]W. Churchill The Crossing 299: ‘Great Goliah!’ cried the landlord, breathlessly.
[US]J.W. Carr ‘Words from Northwest Arkansas’ in DN III:ii 139: great Jehosaphat, interj.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 13 Jan. 4/7: ‘Great Caesar!’ cried the staggered toff.
[US]B.L. Bowen ‘Word-List From Western New York’ in DN III:vi 442: great Caesar’s ghost! Interjection.
[UK]G. Stratton-Porter Harvester 12: If I could marry a girl like mother – great Caesar!
[US]G.A. England ‘Rural Locutions of Maine and Northern New Hampshire’ in DN IV:ii 75: keezer’s ghost! Great keezer’s ghost! Ejaculations.
[UK]‘Taffrail’ Pincher Martin 239: ‘Great Caesar’s aunt!’ gasped the marine officer.
[UK]C. Hume Cruel Fellowship 23: ‘Great Caesar!’ I exclaimed.
[Ire]L. Doyle Dear Ducks 17: Oh, great Christopher [...] will ye look at him!
[US] in J.F. Dobie Rainbow in Morning 92: Great Caesar’s ghost!
[US](con. late 19C) F. Riesenberg Log of the Sea 85: Great Jonah! What a nerve!
[US]Cab Calloway ‘Jess’s Naturally Lazy’ [lyrics] The kind that melts right in your mouth. Great Caesar!
[NZ]J.B. Hislop Pure Gold and Rough Diamonds 43: Caesar’s Ghost! What is this?
[US]B. Cerf Anything For a Laugh 209: ‘Great Jehosophat,’ he cried.
[US]Chicago Trib. 25 May [comic strip] 4: Great Caesar’s ghost! Who’s takin’ who to the prom? [DA].
J.H. Giles Tara’s Healing (1994) 18: Rivers! Great Caesar’s ghost! Europe is full of rivers, and I think we bridged them all.
[US]T. Williams Night of the Iguana Act I: Great Caesar’s ghost ... stop ... shouting!
[UK]Beano Comic Library No. 146 51: Great Caesar’s ghost! Another one!
[NZ]K. Dunn Geek Love 300: That Chick, Great Christo, he’s good.
A. Rinaldi Broken Days 169: Great Caesar’s ghost, is everyone in this house addled?
G. Black Trout Pool Paradox 247: Great Caesar’s ghost! What a catastrophe!
great guns! (also by the great guns of the Old Glory! great gooseberries! great guns alive! great sky-rockets! great snuffboxes! great thundering snakes!)

(US) a general excl. of surprise or annoyance; also as great guns and little fishes! great guns and little pistols!

[UK] ‘Britannia’s Sons at Sea’ Jovial Songster 5: Great guns I scarce could hold, / To find that I was flung.
[UK]E. Howard Jack Ashore I 310: By the great guns of the Old Glory, I’ll let the lubbers know that Jacks Ashore!
[UK]London Mag. Feb. 1/2: Great Guns! ladies and gentlemen, what can you have been dreaming about?
[US]A.F. Hill Our Boys 215: Very well, now – great gooseberries, look there!
[US]M.D. Landon Eli Perkins 96: Great guns, Colonel, there was $20 in that roll.
[US](con. c.1840) ‘Mark Twain’ Huckleberry Finn 106: Great guns! is he her uncle?
[US]F. Dumont Dumont’s Joke Book 66: Great guns, boy!
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 15 Dec. 164: Great guns! Look out, you fellows!
[US]‘O. Henry’ Roads of Destiny 306: ‘Great sky-rockets!’ says Denver.
[US]A. Irvine My Lady of the Chimney Corner 206: ‘Great guns, Mary,’ I exclaimed, ‘here are two new plates and a new cup!’.
[US]‘Commander’ Clear the Decks! 39: Great guns, fellow.
[Aus]M. Garahan Stiffs 232: Great snuffboxes, was you there? [Ibid.] 250: ‘Great thundering snakes!’ yelled Cherry.
[US]C.E. Mulford Hopalong Cassidy Returns 232: ‘Great guns!’ marvelled one of the pair.
[US]W.M. Raine Cool Customer 258: But, great guns, man! Suppose something happened to you.
[US]C. Himes Pinktoes (1989) 211: Great guns alive! Had the atomic war begun?
great pip!

an excl. of surprise or irritation.

[UK]Marvel XV:388 Apr. 11: ‘Great pip!’ yelled the unfortunate proprietor.
[UK]Gem 9 Dec. 4: Great pip!
[UK]‘Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter at Butlins 47: ‘Great pip!’ exclaimed Bob. ‘Who’d have thought it!’.
great Scott! (also great Scot! ...Scottie! ...scots! scott!) [? euph. for great satan! or good God!; but note Out West, Oct. 1911 241: ‘The expression “Great Scott” dates back to the Mexican war in which General Winfield Scott distinguished himself and is an example of the tenacity with which a phrase clings to our vocabulary long after the sense has departed from it’]

a mild oath.

[US]Eye of the Storm 3/5 May 225: ‘Great Scott,’ who would have thought that this would be the destiny of the Union Volunteer in 1861–2 while marching down Broadway to the tune of ‘John Brown’s Body,’ etc!
[US]Lippincott’s Mag. (Phila.) Mar. 289: Great Scott! I’d rather give my name to a horticultural triumph like that there, than be Senator.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 June 1/9: Scott!
[NZ]N.Z. Observer and Free Lance (Auckland) 20 Mar. 23/1: Great Scott! you don’t say so.
[US]A.C. Gunter Mr Potter of Texas 246: Great Scottie! I’ll come back here if I live.
[US]A.C. Gunter Miss Nobody of Nowhere 98: Bob, what’s the matter with you? Great Scott! the mine hain’t give out.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Jack Dunn of Nevertire’ in Roderick (1967–9) I 222: Great Scott! and don’t you know the name of Dunn of Nevertire.
[UK]A. Bennett Grand Babylon Hotel 34: ‘Great Scott!’ he said. ‘It’s three o’clock.’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 10 Jan. 4/6: Publishing Pigott’s views on the subject (Great Scot!) and little Bob Hastie’s views (Greater Scot!).
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 30 Jan. 2nd sect. 4/7: Great Scott! Gadzooks! Gee-whizz!
[UK]Gem 16 Sept. 5: ‘Great Scott!’ ejaculated Kangaroo.
[UK]Arthurs & David [perf. Marie Lloyd] The Piccadilly Trot [lyrics] It’s a trifle hot, Great Scot.
[UK]S. Scott Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 164: Great Scot! [...] Mr. F—— ! There goes X!
[US]Odum & Johnson Negro Workaday Songs 132: Bull frog sittin’ on mantel-piece, / Great scots, you don’t know what to do.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Nine Tailors (1984) 104: Great Scott, yes! What about that rope?
[UK]C. Day Lewis Otterbury Incident 59: Great Scott! His shoes are dirty!
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 105: Great Scott, Jeeves! Do you know everything?
[UK]P. Barnes Ruling Class I iv: Great Scott, who’s the idiot responsible?
[UK]R. Dahl Rhyme Stew (1990) 17: A mouse my foot! It was a HAND! / Great Scott! It was the vicar’s!
great snakes!

a mild oath.

[UK]Sporting Times 6 Feb. 1/1: ‘Great snakes and alligators,’ murmured the cow-shipper.
[UK]Blackburn Standard 30 Nov. 3/4: Miss Bly is reported to have shrieked ‘Great Snakes!’.
[US]Princeton Union (MN) 5 Sept. 6/3: ‘Great snakes!’ shouted Bolly Briggs.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 7 Dec. 4/8: Great Snakes Alive. From the state of New Jersey comes the latest snake story.
Derby Daily Teleg. 28 Apr. 2/2: Great snakes, old man, wotcher been doin?
[UK]Dundee Courier 19 June 4/2: ‘What can I do for you, eh?’ ‘Great snakes!’ ‘I thought that would fetch you’.
[UK]Dundee Courier 9 Apr. 7/3: Great Snakes! The Marquise de Sampieri, who landed at Folkestone [...] declared [...] a boa constrictor!