The phrase ay, caramba is a Spanish exclamation conveying surprise, perhaps most recognizable from being popularized by Bart in The Simpsons. The ay part of the phrase is just a thing Spanish speakers say when they're surprised or in pain, but caramba has a fascinating history. It's thought to be a euphemism for carajo, the word for "penis" (so the expression worked a lot like oh gosh would for us, except more vulgar), and carajo comes from the Vulgar Latin word caraculum, meaning "little arrow", due to a perceived visual similarity. Finally, that's reconstructed to the Proto-Indo-European root ker, meaning "to cut". Interestingly, both Google NGrams and Google Trends show a spike in usage of ay, caramba in beginning in 2012, well after the first season of The Simpsons had come out in 1990.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.