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I came across this phrase: Holy mac and cheese

What does it mean actually? Is it a slang term or an idiom?

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    In "polite" AmE slang, euphemisms migrate while retaining their inital sound. Crap! --> crabapples! Son of a bitch! --> Son of a biscuit! This one sounds like a migration of the not wholly vulgar Holy Mackerel! --> Holy Mac and Cheese!
    – Adam
    Mar 4, 2015 at 16:00
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    @δοῦλος -- "Mac and cheese" refers to "macaroni and cheese", which is an easy-to-make dish similar to a lasagna or casserole. Kraft sells premixed ingredients in boxes. It is very popular among parents of young children, so most kids are familiar with it. The popular sandwich is a "Big Mac", which includes cheese by default.
    – Jasper
    Mar 4, 2015 at 16:14
  • Yes, of course. I was thinking of Holy Big Mac and cheese. Take out the adjective and you get the same expression.
    – user6951
    Mar 4, 2015 at 16:17
  • It's euphemism for "Holy Mother of God". Mar 4, 2015 at 21:03
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    "Holy mac and cheese" is a new one for me but I occasionally hear "holy cheese and rice!" from people who wish to not say "holy Jesus Christ!" as an oath. Mar 4, 2015 at 21:17

3 Answers 3

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This is what’s known as a minced oath. It’s a euphemism that is formed by someone wishing to pull back from cursing, either out of genuine deference to propriety or (more often) for humorous effect.

I haven’t encountered this particular one before, so it definitely hasn’t reached the level of idiom.

As it is not at all formal or reverent, it could certainly be called slang.

I believe Adam presented the correct hypothesis as a comment, that this particular phrase was formed because it sounds like “holy mackerel” which may itself be a euphemism for “holy Mary” or may be a reference to the Catholic practice of consuming fish on Fridays.

As FumbleFingers notes in a comment below, the word “cheese” is commonly used in euphemisms like this in reference to the similar-sounding name of Jesus.

Because it has come up in that comment and another, I will also mention that mac and cheese is a thing unto itself and commonly referred to as such in AmE. I do not believe this is a reference to a Big Mac, which, as Jasper points out, “includes cheese by default.”

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  • Absolutely. It might not exactly be a "one-off" usage, but this particular combination certainly has very little currency. As you say, Mac alludes to the somewhat more established minced oath Holy Mackerel. And cheese alludes to Jesus. But here they're also being creatively conjoined, to allude to Big Mac and cheese (a hamburger). Mar 4, 2015 at 16:33
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    There is a trend to substitute food names for curse words. I came across it in one of Amazon's pilots for a new series aimed at 'tweens that I was screening for my nephew. The kids would use "Peas and Carrots!" and other things that you might see on a dinner plate in place of other less acceptable words and phrases.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 4, 2015 at 16:34
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    I agree more with Jasper that it refers to macaroni and cheese (commonly shortened to mac and cheese). I doubt, now, that it refers to the Big Mac sandwich. @FumbleFingers and others
    – user6951
    Mar 4, 2015 at 17:00
  • Therefore I think the @Jasper comment that it comes from macaroni and cheese to be self-evident. So much so, only an answer with this provenance deserves an upvote.
    – user6951
    Mar 4, 2015 at 17:04
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The two most common forms of "swearing" in most languages are references to bodily functions and blasphemy. Common epithets include "Holy Mother of God" (or just "Holy Mother" or "God"), "Jesus Christ", "Holy Mary and Jesus", and so on. Phrases like "Holy Mackerel", "Gosh", "Jeepers", "Criminy", and "Holy Mac and Cheese" are euphemisms for these blasphemies.

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Such interjections or invocations as Holy Mother of God used as an expression of surprise or fear have a lot of variations and new ones are formed continually.

Examples: Holy Moses (variant: Owly mouses), Holy mackerel, Holy cow, Holy shit etc.

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