Posted by: Jack Henry | April 4, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Bloody Murder

The other day during a speech in Toastmasters, I was telling a story from my childhood and I talked about my brother screaming “bloody murder.” Shawn, my manager, and the man assigned to be grammarian for the meeting, brought up my use of that term and wondered where it came from. He also mentioned how “bloody” was not an acceptable word at the dinner table, if you were eating with his British relatives.

I thought I’d look into it, since I wasn’t sure if the use of bloody was as a swear word or if it was being used as something you might see with a messy murder. Here is what I found.

Our faithful Merriam-Webster defines bloody murder as I was using it:

1: in a loud and violent manner (ran off, screaming bloody murder)

2: in vehement protest (screaming bloody murder over the pay cut)

They also provide the date 1833 as the first use.

Moving on to the American Heritage Dictionary, we get a little more information:

scream bloody murder

Angrily protest as loudly as possible, as in When Jimmy took her teddy bear, Lauren screamed bloody murder, or Residents are screaming bloody murder about the increase in property taxes. The scream here may be either literal (as in the first example) or figurative, which is also true of invoking murder as though one were in danger of being killed. Versions of this term, such as cry murder, date from the 1400s.

Because the word bloody is a swear word in other English-speaking countries, I continued my research and I found another article titled “Blue Murder.” We will continue with that tomorrow, so I don’t take too much of your time today.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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