The Non-Expert

Jehoshaphat, Alex, and Alex

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we explore the history of Johosafat, and how to go through life when you share the same name as your lover.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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Question: I’ve been wondering where the term ‘Jumping Johosafat’ comes from. My mom is from England and she uses the phrase, but I have also heard it’s used in the lyrics of some old country and blues songs. Johosafat sounds vaguely Biblical, but I can’t seem to find any information on it. Can you dig up anything?

Answer: The common spelling is ‘Jehoshaphat,’ but the origin proved elusive—at first. Jehoshaphat was a King of Judah (c. 873—849 B.C.). He’s all over the Old Testament—2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, and Joel—but he never jumps, not even once.

The phrase ‘Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!’ originated in the United States as a mild expletive or oath. Some sources say Jehoshaphat is a less-blasphemous euphemism for Jesus. Others say it substitutes for Moses. Like any colloquialism, ‘Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat’ is tough to pin, and the best we can do is find the phrase’s earliest recorded use. The Dictionary of American Regional English cites S.A. Hammett’s Sam Slick in Texas, 1857:

‘Jehosophat!… Easy over the stones, Joe.’

That’s him, all right, but he still ain’t jumpin.’ Leave that to Mayne Reid’s Headless Horseman in 1866:

‘By the jumpin’ Geehosofat, what a gurl she air sure enuf!’

God dang right. As for the ‘jumping’ in this particular context, the Dictionary of American Regional English dates it back to Humphrey’s Yankey in England in 1815, where it appeared in the form ‘jumpin’ jingoes.’ Countless other things have jumped along the way, most of which retain the alliterative J (or sometimes G), which may have paved the way for Jehoshaphat in subsequent use. Additional phrases include:

‘Jumping Geraniums!’
‘Jumping Jellybeans!’
‘Jumping Juleps!’
‘Jumping Jupiter!’
‘Jumping Jiminy Cricket!’

As well as the non-alliterative but popular:

‘Jumping Moses in a Blue Raft!’
‘Jumping Moses in the Mountains!’
‘Jumping Moses in a Benzine Buggy!’

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Question: Me and my girlfriend have the same first name: Alex. What’s the best solution to this situation? Nicknames? Making one of us use our full name? Break up? Do you predict any trouble down the road for us if we stay same-named?

Answer: Sharing is a wonderful part of any healthy relationship. The longer you and your girlfriend resist common bonds, the harder it will be to face your unified destiny.

Let go, Alex. Begin your new lifestyle today. First, you’ll need to abandon phrases like ‘me and my girlfriend.’ It’s ‘us’ and ‘we’ from here on out—there’s no ‘I’ in Alex. Next, you’ll want to scour your place of co-habitation for potential sources of disharmony. (Obviously the two of you will live together—all of the mail is already addressed to ‘Alex,’ and there’s no sense in paying double rent from the joint checking account.) Throw out any books, CDs, furniture, or clothes that you and Alex disagree on. You’re of one mind now. You can’t breathe the same air, let alone sit in the same chair simultaneously, if one of you is uncomfortable. Relationships are about compromise—and matching jumpsuits! Get yourself eight or nine of them.

Find a unisex salon and style your hair exactly like your girlfriend’s. Why buy two sets of hair-care products when only one will do? Why buy a second toothbrush? There are more than enough bristles for both sets of teeth, and no one ever said a single mouthful of Listerine couldn’t be used twice. Turn it into a playful, hygienic kiss before bed—a great way to warm up for lovemaking, or ‘masturbation’ as you and your second self will call it. Before you know it, you’ll be hearing the pitter-patter of little Alexes around the house…

Is there trouble up the road? Not if you give your body, mind, and soul to this relationship. Stop running away from yourself. You’ll never win that race. That which drives us apart can also seal our fates for all eternity—if we let it. Relax. Take a breath. Look at yourself in the mirror—or simply face your girlfriend—and repeat the following: ‘I will always be with Alex. I will always be with Alex. I will always be with Alex.’