Tag Archives: holy toledo

Holy Toledo Phrase

The informant is a 19 year old Filipino female. She lives with her mother in Toledo, Ohio and has one older sister. She was raised Roman Catholic. She is currently a student at a university in Southern California. The informant is the co-president of the club volleyball team at her university.

In Toledo, there is a folk saying: “Holy Toledo”. The informant heard it all through her youth growing up in Toledo, Ohio, mostly from the older generations. The phrase is used as an exclamation with the connotation of “Oh my god”. It is not generally heard among the younger generations, but it is still generally known. The informant believes its origin is in the fact that Toledo is highly populated by churches, with more per square mile than any other city she has been in. According to her, all but one hospital in the city are associated with the Catholic Church. She also thinks that the fact that the city of Toledo in Spain, which is a very religious city, is Toledo, Ohio’s sister city may have contributed. She has also heard to the phrase as referring to a sexual position, but does not know anything more specific about it.

Analysis: This folk etymology is very straightforward and literal. Many etymologies involve a story that could even be termed as legend. It is interesting that a very literal origin story would be the one that the informant knew about. There are more flamboyant stories circulating, such as that the phrase was originated by gangsters in the 1920s. Perhaps it is not necessarily the most interesting stories that are always the most circulated. Also of interest is how this phrase is limited to the older generation. Even though the informant state that she and other members of her peer group all are very similar with the phrase, none of the them use it. This could be a case of a folk phrase going out of fashion, its use not being passed down to the present generation.

Annotation: Bowersox, Crystal. “Holy Toledo.” Farmer’s Daughter. Jive Records, 2010.