During the 18th and 19th centuries, people came up with all manner of words and phrases that still stick with us today, even if we don't know the exact origin or meaning of them. "Tarnation" is one of those things.
Tarnation is a more polite way of saying "damnation" or hell. It comes from the meaning of the archaic word, "tarnal" which means damned. Additionally, "What in the Sam Hill?" is another of those phrases that we might still use, though people don't know the exact reason why Sam Hill would replace "hell" in this instance, earliest theories suggest that it's a mispronunciation of Samiel, the name of the devil used in an 1825 opera by Carl Maria von Weber.
Either way, these phrases are still heard today, especially among older folk or in the south. They are used as an exclamation of surprise or anger instead of straight out cursing, which was particularly offensive during American western expansion.
Do you ever hear anyone using these phrases? Used it yourself? Let me know in a comment!
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