Dumb Cat happened to be nearby, and so she fled in sheer terror.
"I'm sorry," I called after her, because I am one of those crazy ladies who talks to her cats as if they understand her. "I didn't mean to scare the dickens out of you."
And then I paused. Because I had almost said, "I didn't mean to scare the hell out of you," but, you know, the cats are only 12 years old or something, so I try to watch my language in front of the kids.
"scare the dickens out of you"OMG! My entire undergraduate experience as an English major was suddenly legitimized, verified, and otherwise proven. Our very idiom supports my own personal opinion that Dickens is Hell!
"scare the hell out of you"