Search: bejesus history
Why: My sunburn from Friday stings like the bejesus.
Answer: Since 1861! "Bejesus (also spelled beejezus) is defined as "a mild oath; used as a noun for emphasis," as in the sentence, "scares the bejesus" out of me. The word was first attested in 1861, the year the Civil War broke out. That would have scared the bejesus out of me, too, I think. The dictionary also helpfully tells us that it is a "euphemism for Jesus."
Source: A Speller's Diary
The More You Know: Author Dr. Bill Long goes on to talk about bejabbers, which I have never heard before now, but you can bet I will start saying a heck of a lot:
"The first attestation for bejabbers was in 1890, nearly 30 years after bejesus begraced our language." (Its only definition is bejesus.):
Now I will imagine the situation where bejabbers entered American speech. It was, no doubt, in an Evangelical household. A teen-ager was talking about being frightened of something and confessed something that scared the bejesus out of him. His mother said, "I have warned you for years not to take the Lord's name in vain. I will not have you say that! Come up with something else!" So the kid shared the problem with a sympathetic adult, possibly a pastor, who suggested he say bejabbers instead of bejesus when he faced things that scared the former bejesus out of him. So, the boy complied. And, every time he said bejabbers, he REALLY meant bejesus, but since he said the magic word bejabbers his mother didn't get on his case anymore, and he was assured of temporal (if not eternal) peace.
But, the wonderful thing about Evangelicalism and other forms of religion that don't like you to swear even with mild oaths, is that everyone knows that when you say bejabbers you mean bejesus. And, not only does everyone know it, but when they hear you say bejabbers, they immediately think, in the interior depths of their pure minds, bejesus. They are sinning in their minds while being righteous in their words. Didn't bejesus, or was it Jesus, have something to say about that?