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Jamie Wheal defines 'holy smokes' as an exclamation of awe, shock or surprise. It is rooted in spiritual language, often used to express a heightened emotional and impactful experience. Traditionally, people have used the phrase as a mild oath, signifying outrageous events or as an indication of fervent appreciation. In contemporary culture, ‘holy smokes’ is experienced as a euphoric rush of awe or surprise and is often used as a way to appreciate when something unexpected happens; in this way, the phrase straddles the space between profanity and piety.

See also: peak experience, altered state, non-ordinary state, mystical experience, catharsis

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