What in the tarnation are you doing?

I’m from southern Ohio. Throughout my growing up here, I’ve heard the word tarnation slung around, as well as used it quite a lot myself. For example (or e.g., now that I know how to use the abbreviation correctly):

Just what in the tarnation do you think you’re doing?

Or a shorter expression, which conveys confusion or dismay about something that’s happening or happened:

What in the tarnation?

It was only today that, after saying something with the word tarnation in the sentence, that I realized I didn’t know what it meant. So, of course, off I went to the OED. The word tarnation is a variant of darnation, which is a variant of damnation. If I fill in damnation where I would normally say tarnation, the result sounds surprisingly weird to me:

What in the damnation are you doing?

Odd. Very odd.

By | 2007-07-03T16:49:06+00:00 July 3rd, 2007|English, Vocabulary|0 Comments

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