Where does oh my god come from?
A little history for you ...
The phrase oh my god has a long history, with record of the oath my god dated to at least 1340. It’s possible that oh my god is a variation on both my god and oh god, both of which have historically been used to express emotions like dismay, astonishment, and frustration. These early uses may have their roots in prayer, expressing gratitude, request for help, or pleading for forgiveness from a higher power.
The particular construction oh my god appears in print in 1880s in a religious context, showing up as a more general exclamation of extreme emotion by 1905. The relatively late appearance of the phrase may be due to long-running taboos against religious profanities in the English-speaking world, with oh my god seeing more and more recorded use as these attitudes began to soften.
In 1917, OMG, short for oh my god, first appeared in print—in a letter to Winston Churchill—that's right. The abbreviation was perhaps anticipated by migod and ohmigod in the 19th century, meant to imitate the colloquial pronunciation of the exclamation.
OMG of course gained widespread usage with the rise of digital communication in the late 20th-century, likely propelled by character limits placed on early text- and instant-messaging. While originating as a shortening of oh my god, OMG has become so common that speakers now widely use OMG, pronouncing each letter, in everyday speech.
Oh my god and OMG have also influenced arts and culture. For instance, Sir Mixalot’s 1992 hit single “Baby Got Back” opens with a girl saying, “Oh, my, God, Becky, look at her butt.” The character’s drawn-out oh my god was intended as inaccurate parody of the speech of white Valley Girls. Since Sir Mixalot, OMG has also become the target of judgment of the supposedly air-headed or lazy speech of teenagers, especially young women.
A 2012 Indian movie was called OMG: Oh My God!, leading to huge search interest in the abbreviation, and showing the truly global reach of the expression.
Who uses oh my god?
The phrase is widely used among religious and non-religious people in speech, print-based writing, and digital communication as a casual way to express a great range of emotions. It can express joy (“Oh my god! I just got a job offer!”), despair (“Oh my god! I just got fired,”), relief (“Oh my god, I’m so glad that exam is over,”), dread (“Oh my god, I don’t want to go to work today,”), excitement (“Oh my god, it’s so good to see you!”), fear (“Oh my god! There’s a spider!”), astonishment (“Oh my god, I wasn’t expecting that,”), disbelief (“Oh my god. Is that really how you pronounce that?”), approval (“Oh my god, this is delicious,”), frustration (“Oh my god, this is hard,”), and other emotions, both positive and negative. Did you get all that?
Given the commonness and versatility of the phrase, oh my god is increasingly used as a kind of discourse marker, indicating less of the communication of an intense emotion and more to get someone’s attention, signal something important, show familiarity or attentiveness with another, or make an exaggeration.
As mentioned earlier, the abbreviated form, OMG, is widely used in digital communication, though also in speech. Writers of OMG will often repeat letters for emphasis or effect (e.g., OMGGGG! That baby is so cute), or add periods (e.g., O...M…G....) to imitate length and stress in speech.
While taboos against religious profanities have broadly weakened in popular culture, be mindful of using oh my god and OMG among religious company, they don't like it.
O M G! 🔥I am speechless!!
@DinahstyJane_, February, 2018
Anyone else who is on the outside would be looking at this and saying, Oh my God, this is so fucked up,’ one female entrepreneur told me.
Reported by Emily Chang, Vanity Fair, February, 2018
‘Oh my god, this is crazy,’ a woman making the fourth call said at around 6:15 a.m. as she struggled to find a patient’s age in the nursing home’s computer system, which had a separate power source.
Reported by Sheri Fink, The New York Times, October, 2017