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Ventre-saint-Gris!

The usual oath of Henri IV. About equal to “Corpus Christi.” A similar juron is “Par le ventre de Dieu ” (Ventre-dieu! or Ventrebleu!). Cris for Christ is familiarised by our common phrase “the criss-cross or cris-cross row”; and if saint refers to Christ we have a similar phrase in St. Saviour's. Rabelais has “Par sainct Gris ”; and William Price, “the Arch-Druid,” who died in 1893, describes himself in the Medical Directory as “Decipherer of the Pedigree of Jessu Grist.” Chaucer writes the word “Crist.”

Mr. F. Adams has sent me two quotations from the Romance of Huon de Bordeau, from a MS. dated 1250-

“Abes, dist Karles, tort avés par saint Crist.” (Line 1,473)

“Sire, dist Hues, tort aves, par saint Crist.” (Line 2,218)

But a correspondent of Notes and Queries sends this quotation -

“Ce prince [Henri IV] avoit pris l'habitude d'employer cette expression. `Ventre-saint-Gris' comme une espèce de jurement, lorsqu'il étoit encore infant, ses gouvèrneurs craignant qu'il ne s'habitual à jurer ... lui avoient permis de dire `Ventre-saint-Gris,' qui étoit un terme derision qu'ils appliquoent aux Franciscans ... de la coleur de leur habillements.” —Feb. 10th, 1894, p. 113.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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