answer is... winners are...

The Holy Moley contest was great fun. Heartfelt thanks to all who visited, read, left a comment. Now, here's what I learned about the origins of Holy Moley:

First, an entry from The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994:

moley n. (pop. As a characteristic exclamation of 'Captain Marvel,' hero of a series of comic books begun 1940, first written by C.C. Beck; perh. reflecting 'moly' 'magic herb in Greek mythology', in allusion to the invocation of mythological figures as a source of the character's powers; perh. euphem. and rhyming alt. of 'holy Moses.' In phrase: 'holy moley' (used as an exclamation of surprise). 1949, 'Capt. Marvel Adventures,' in Barrier & Williams 'Book of Comics' 87: Holey Moley! He got away.

I was delighted to find this great graphic. The story line is apparently from the 100th issue (1949) of Captain Marvel Adventures; there might be earlier uses of the phrase, but I couldn't find any.

Next, from The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, 1997:

Holy mackerel! or Moses! or moley! or smoke! These are exclamations of surprise, astonishment, delight, or dismay, as in Holy Moses, here comes the teacher! or Holy moley, you won! or Holy smoke, I didn't know you were here, too! The oldest of these slangy expletives uses mackerel, dating from about 1800; the one with Moses dates from about 1850 and cow from about 1920. None has any literal significance, and moley is a neologism devised to rhyme with holy and possibly a euphemism for Moses.

Spankin' new softcover Moleskines go to:

Katie. Brava! The first to put yourself out there. Your answer was squarely within the arena of comics. Nicely done. A Moleskine for you, my dear. Luisa. My deepest gratitude to you for your magical retelling-with-a-twist of the Winifred/Gwenfrewi legend. Wouldn't this make a fine Monty Python sketch? Graham Chapman would be so proud. (Don't you think Winifred should be the patron saint of virgins AND moles?) Holy Moley Moleskinerial goodness for you, for sure. Lori. To my mind, the divine Mexican mole itself (particularly the otherly-worldly Oaxacan variety) is worthy of its own shrine. Look to the mail for a Moleskine delivery. And, Felicity. Yes! You sought out the ancients for the wayback backstory. Excellent sleuthing. Your Moleskine will likely be on the slow boat, but summer is a great time for sketching and making travel notes! So off they go*.

I know someone who, when asked the Holy Moley question, gave an answer that was essentially a verbatim recitation of the The Dictionary of American Slang entry. Scary. Said person doesn't frequent le bloggie, else this wouldn't have been much of a contest.

Wishing you all a lovely week ahead.

*If I don't have your address - you know who you are - please e it to me.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you so much, Diana -- this is amazingly generous of you! An email is on its way, too.

Have a lovely day,

katiedid said...

Woohoo! So much fun reading your back story on this.

Thanks so much and I will get you my email asap!

Jen said...

I don't know which was more fun - the contest or the answers you collected!

blah said...

Dear Diana - I was going to say Captain Marvel too - because he came up in my search.But I thought - it's got to go back furhter than Captain Marvel!!!

Hubbie suggested batman - off the top of his head !!

Am rapt to have won - wooo hoo!

Luisa Perkins said...

Holy cow! Thanks! It was a very fun contest.