Zounds

God’s Wounds

I have not done a vocabulary word for you good people in a long time.  So today in order to break the drought: Zounds!

Zounds was first seen in print in 1592.  It is a great Renaissance expression of exclamation and in fact at that time it was a curse.  The word Zounds, come from a combination of the phrase “God’s Wounds” also a popular exclamation and curse at the time.  God’s wounds refer to the wounds of Jesus on the cross and due to the fact that it became a vernacular phrase and a curse, it was looked down upon and the church treated it as a something that only the lowly said.  It was, literally, a swear in other words people were swearing on God’s Wounds, obviously something one should not do in a day and age when the people took swearing or taking an oath to something very seriously.

Only the lowly said zounds?

“Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not serve God if the devil bid you…I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are making the beast with two backs.” – Othello

Only the lowly?

Zounds! I was never so bethump’d with words
Since I first call’d my brother’s father dad. – King john

shakespeareBoth the above quotes are by THE bard!  Shakespeare was a wordsmith without equal.  He had the ability to take the words, to take the words that people might not have liked very much and make them something even more incredible.  He used the ugly, the everyday, the crude and put them into some of the longest lasting works of art ever.  He probably didn’t suspect at the time that his words would last through time.  He probably didn’t think that he would become one of the most celebrated writers in history. I think he was just trying to get a reaction.

The first time the actors in Othello offered up the words zounds, I thinnk there was probably a gasp from the audience.  The commoners, in the front rows laughed uproariously, the higher classes in the center seats would have looked to each other in shock, but probably thought it was pretty funny and of course the nobility were shocked.  They would gasp and some probably walked out.  There might have even been an attempt to get Othello stopped.  Either way, it would have been wonderful to have been there the first time it was uttered in a live performance.