There is "I’m d—d if I don’t fill you" in Jim Baker's Blue-Jay Yarn by Mark Twain. Does "d---d" used for "doomed" or what could the author meant here?

‘Well, you’re a long hole, and a deep hole, and a mighty singular hole altogether—but I’ve started in to fill you, and I’m d—d if I don’t fill you, if it takes a hundred years!’

  • 18
    Maybe "damned"?
    – Eddie Kal
    Oct 9, 2020 at 20:03
  • 5
    Twain dashed out the middle letters of 'damned', but left a certain other word whole, in one of the great anti-racist American novels of the 19th century (not that there were very many). Tempus fugit. Oct 9, 2020 at 22:50
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    He wrote a jolly little piece about masturbation. As you may gather, I like Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens. Oct 9, 2020 at 22:55
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    'Onanism' was fairly common up to maybe 1950 or so among scholarly types. The usage, not the practice, I mean. Not that I have any data. More euphemistic that m---------n. Strictly speaking, what Onan did to annoy God (or 'G-d' if we're dashing things) was not the "solitary vice" but rather coitus interruptus. Onan (Wikipedia) Oct 10, 2020 at 18:37
  • 3
    Well, I'll be dashed!
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 10, 2020 at 21:45

2 Answers 2


It is a way or writing "damned" In books of this period, swear words and profane uses of the word "God" were frequently obscured by removing all the middle letters and replacing them with dashes. So you will see "Oh my G—d"

"I'm damned if I don't fill you" is a way of expressing emphatically (and profanely) the speaker's determination. Literally, the speaker is saying "If I don't fill the hole, then please send me to Hell." This is hyperbolic speech, and in the standards of the time, it was considered unacceptable to print such a thing.

  • 1
    A more modern usage of this expression (in my experience, AmE, maybe it's different elsewhere?) would be "I'll be damned". I've heard that version plenty of times. Oct 11, 2020 at 20:56

I answered this same question on ELU, and I think the answer is applicable here too (semi-paraphrased).

The word here is “damned”. The OED, in an entry that seems to have been written in 1894 and not been updated since then, noted this about the word:

Now usually printed ‘d——d’.

This was a pretty common way for vulgar words to be censored in the 1800s. You will also see, for example, “b——y” (bloody) and p—ck (prick) in books of this period.

Note that this is no longer common. First of all, damned isn’t considered too bad of a word anymore (not too polite but not so offensive that you need to protect people from seeing it), and words that are that offensive have asterisks used instead of dashes.

  • Brendan Behan employed dashes in Borstal Boy (1958), but he dashed out offensive words (or parts of words) entirely, which led to him being called "a dirty little ----er" by a prison guard, and a fellow prisoner saying "---- 'em all". Oct 11, 2020 at 16:01

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