“Well, for Pete’s Sake, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”
“Heavens to Betsy, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”
“Heavens to Murgatroyd, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”
“For pity’s sake, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”
All of the above idioms/phrases mean the same — a mild form of surprise. Pete can also be annoyed, “For Pete’s sake, will you put that phone down during dinner.” Betsy is never annoyed, nor is Murgatroyd, and pity, well, pity can be a bit annoying but not as bad as Pete. For instance, for pity’s sake may be used when asking to put the phone down, but the tone of voice is not quite as strong as when using Pete. Pity’s sake is used mostly with a request that should be understood, like “For pity’s sake, come in from the cold.” We should know when to come out of the cold, but today people do not understand that it is bad manners to text while eating, so the phrase, Pete’s sake, is a bit more derogatory.
I searched and searched to find where Pete, Betsy and Murgatroyd came from but I never found a definitive answer. The best I came up with for Pete was that it is a euphemistic replacement for God, so instead of saying “For God’s sake”, we can say “For Pete’s sake”. (A euphemism is replacing a word that may not be polite to say or may be considered harsh with another word — for instance, it’s VERY impolite to refer to someone who has just died as “kicked the bucket” when we could simply say “died” or “passed on”.)
Betsy and Murgatroyd are different. Actually, they are not people at all. Betsy was first found in a U.S. journal in 1857, and Murgatroyd was a phrase that was made popular when Snagglepuss would use it in Hanna Barbera’s the Yogi Bear Show in the 1960s.
“For the Love of Pete” is another mild form of surprise or annoyance, and it is again an euphemism.
Then there is “For Goodness Sake” (another euphemism), and this time this phrase is used when there is frustration or annoyed. “For goodness sake, will you please get off the phone, you’ve been talking now for three hours.” Do you hear the frustration in that command?
If “For Goodness Sake” is frustration, then “For Crying Out Loud” is really annoyed. “For Crying Out Loud, can’t you even boil water?” Woo-hoo, someone is mad.
Well, Heavens to Betsy, I’ve just looked at my watch and I realized it is after 8 p.m. No wonder I am hungry. Have a great weekend. I am going to fix myself dinner.