All interesting thoughts, thanks.
Alex - It makes more sense to me to take that translatation literally, actually - Don't the use the name of God for nothing, or for no reason. Seems sensible enough - like the small child who has learned to say Mommy and wanders about saying it all the time, without wanting anything. However, the incantations thought is interesting.
Melani - The name for God known to most Christians, Jehovah, is a mistranslation from Yahweh, which is an approximate transliteration of the Tetragrammaton (yod he vav he, mentioned above.) Since the Hebrews write out consonants and add on vowels as dots or lines around, above and below the consonants, and because one pronounces YHVH as Adonai, the consonants for YHVH were written with the vowels from Adonai, possibly to remind the reader that it was to be pronounced differently. Translators not familiar with the tradition simply applied the vowels as if they to be read normally - thus Y(a)H(o)V(a). The vav often took the W sound, but was translated as a V.
Or so I was taught in Hebrew class. So - it's less of a nickname than a mutilation, really :)
MMario - That is very true.
Jim - So taking the Lord's name in vain can be taken as dishonouring one's words in relation to God. Certainly true, I think, but definitely not as broad a definition as many people give it. I like your observations about people's hypocrisy, though.
I remember being told that saying "God damn it" was taking God's name in vain because you were commanding God to damn something, often something that didn't deserve damning, or it was implying that God would do something, without having the right to act as the voice of God.
Thanks everyone who responds... I'm so glad this isn't causing offense. (yet. :P )