Created By: Pichu-kun on February 3, 2013 Last Edited By: Pichu-kun on June 19, 2017

Profanity Aesop

An episode where characters learn certain words are unacceptable

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Trope
A character, typically a child between 2 and 9, hears a word somewhere. They have no idea what it means but they use it anyway. It turns out it's a curse word. The episode ends with them being taught that they shouldn't use the word because it's inappropriate or offensive. This trope is commonly seen in children's media character and is used to teach the audience not to use curse words

Compare to Swear Jar. Sub-trope to Very Special Episode and Innocent Swearing.

Examples

Comic Strips
  • Marvin
    • The strip once had a story where he learned a bad word and so caused tons of strife for his parents. He thought it meant "mommy" because every he said it she ran screaming to him.
    • A single strip unconnected to this story had him again learn a curse word, and subsequently get put in the corner.
    Marvin: I learned a new word on TV today! (cut to him sitting in the corner.) I also learned to watch what I say around Mom.
  • Foxtrot:
    • There is one strip where Jason learns that his mother is opposed to "crap":
    Jason: But it's a dice game. They play it in Vegas.
    Andy: That's "craps".
    Jason: Oh.
    Jason: Craps. The stupid Simpsons is a rerun.
    Andy: Speaking of high-stakes gambling...
    • An arc had the kid Paige was babysitting pick up a bad word from the trashy talk show she was watching, followed by Paige's various attempts to get the kid to forget. Paige ultimately comes clean to the mother who says that kids are bound to pick up the occasional bad word and, provided you don't attach any special significance to it, they will eventually stop saying it.

Literature
  • In Reaper Man, head Wizard Mustrum Ridcully is forcibly reminded that while normal swear words have force, a wizard's swear words are as good as a magical spell. Within the university at a time of great magical potential, his profanities turn into large ugly winged insects. When he delivers a Cluster F-Bomb, the largest, ugliest and most evil-looking insect of the lot appears, grins at him, and blows a raspberry in his face. After this he decides it might be a good idea if he toned it down a bit.

Webcomics
  • A November 2009 arc of Furry Experience has Ronnie loose a mild expletive after dropping a coffee mug. Seeing that roommate Catherine is unnerved by expletives, Ronnie torments her with F-bombs. The tables are turned by the end of the arc, and the collegians have yet to utter any further vulgarity.

Western Animation
  • The Powerpuff Girls episode "Curses" is about this. Bubbles overhears an unknown curse from a frustrated Professor and she, Blossom, and Buttercup repeatedly use the word. Whenever an adult tells them they know what they did wrong, they really don't know what they're talking about. They eventually finally find out from the Professor what that word means during a battle with a monster with a toilet for a head who spurts out various curse substitutes.
  • The Arthur episode "Bleep". D.W. hears a teen say an unknown curse word and begins using it. The Tibbles tell her it's a word that turns adults into zombies, thus shouldn't be used around them. The climax of the episode revolves around DW and her friend, Vicita, both getting in trouble for using the word. D.W.'s parents tell her the words are inappropriate and essentially mean "I want to hurt your feelings". Arthur is a Slice of Life edutainment show aimed at 6-9 year olds and the episode was about teaching cursing isn't something children should do, but it rarely be shown because parents took offense to the subject matter.
  • Rugrats' "Word of the Day" has Angelica hearing a word said by a Depraved Kids' Show Host and thinking it's the "Word of the Day" on a TV show she's on.
  • The Spongebob Squarepants episode "Sailor Mouth" has Spongebob and Patrick reading a bunch of profane terms and thinking they're "sentence enhancers". The characters in question are adults, but they're naive and childish adults.
  • Parodied in the South Park episode "It Hits The Fan", where it's delivered as a Space Whale Aesop: if you swear too much, you'll open the Sealed Evil in a Can.
  • Subverted in the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Dexter's Rude Removal". It has all the makings of this except for two things: They know what the words mean and there isn't An Aesop. The cursing being played for humor may be why it was never aired.
  • The animated series of The Berenstain Bears had an episode where Sister Bear learned the word "furball" from her friend's brother's movies. She learns a lesson both about unkind language and about watching movies above your age level.
  • A Baby Looney Tunes episode has Daffy overhear a garbage man say a certain swear word after accidentally hurting himself (the word itself is "bleeped out" by a squeaky toy sound effect throughout the episode). He uses it around the others, not knowing what it means, until Granny hears everyone saying it and tells Daffy and the others that some words that adults may say aren't okay for children to say.
  • In The Loud House episode "Potty Mouth", the Loud siblings try to get their one year old sister Lily to not say "damn it" like they do. It turns out Lily wasn't cursing (she was saying "donut") however they accidentally taught Lily how to curse. This is played with as it's all Played for Laughs instead of being a serious Very Special Episode, plus Lily is too young to comprehend what's going on anyway. Cursing is portrayed as inappropriate for an infant but Lily's older siblings (the youngest being five) all curse.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Invoked in-universe by a Buster on Fowlmouth. Fowlmouth had a verbal tic of swearing (always bleeped), and wanted to ask Shirley Loon to a school function, but the tic got in the way. One of Buster's failed attempts to fix this was to use a machine that punishes anyone that it hears utter a swear word.
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut takes this trope and turns it on its head, as the uproar among the parents that results when their kids pick up swearing from watching an R-rated movie leads to an all-out war with Canada. The ultimate aesop is that you can't deny your responsibility for your children's actions, and that there are some things that are much, much worse than swearing.
  • One Baby Looney Tunes episode has Daffy overhear a garbage man say a certain swear word after accidentally hurting himself (the word itself is "bleeped out" by a squeaky toy sound effect throughout the episode). He uses it around the others, not knowing what it means, until Granny hears everyone saying it and tells Daffy and the others that some words that adults may say aren't okay for children to say.
Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • February 3, 2013
    IronLion
    Parodied in the South Park episode "It Hits The Fan", where it's delivered as a Space Whale Aesop: if you swear too much, you'll open the Sealed Evil In A Can.
  • February 3, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • Marvin ran a story where he learned a bad word and so caused tons of strife for his parents. He thought it meant "mommy" because every he said it she ran screaming to him.
      • A single strip unconnected to this story had him again learn a curse word, and subsequently get put in the corner.
      Marvin: I learned a new word on TV today! (cut to him sitting in the corner.) I also learned to watch what I say around Mom.
    • The animated series of The Berenstain Bears had an episode where Sister Bear learned the word "furball" from her friend's brother's movies. She learns a lesson both about unkind language and about watching movies above your age level.
  • February 4, 2013
    Arivne
    Added Namespaces to the OP work titles that didn't have them.

    Powerpuff Girls, Rugrats and Baby Looney Tunes are all Zero Context Examples. They need to say how the episode fits the trope.
  • October 1, 2013
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
    Here's a description on how the Powerpuff Girls example fits the trope:

    Bubbles overhears an unknown curse from a frustrated Professor and she, Blossom, and Buttercup repeatedly use the word. Whenever an adult tells them they know what they did wrong, they really don't know what they're talking about. They eventually finally find out from the Professor what that word means during a battle with a monster with a toilet for a head who spurts out various curse substitutes.

  • October 1, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    In what way is this different than Innocent Swearing?
  • October 1, 2013
    IuraCivium
    ^ Innocent Swearing probably doesn't imply that the swearer is made aware of the profane status.
  • October 15, 2014
    AgProv
    Literature: In Discworld/Reaper Man, head Wizard Mustrum Ridcully is forcibly reminded that while normal swear words have force, a wizard's swear words are as good as a magical spell. Within the university at a time of great magical potential, his profanities turn into large ugly winged insects. When he delivers a Cluster F Bomb, the largest, ugliest and most evil-looking insect of the lot appears, grins at him, and blows a raspberry in his face. After this he decides it might be a good idea if he toned it down a bit.
  • October 19, 2014
    PacificGreen
    The Baby Looney Tunes episode has Daffy overhear a garbage man say a certain swear word after accidentally hurting himself (the word itself is "bleeped out" by a squeaky toy sound effect throughout the episode). He uses it around the others, not knowing what it means, until Granny hears everyone saying it and tells Daffy and the others that some words that adults may say aren't okay for children to say.
  • October 20, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Blue Linked media section titles.
      • Alphabetized media sections.
      • Added a space between asterisks and the first word following them.
  • August 22, 2016
    DAN004
    Pmub
  • August 22, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    Bucking Fumb
  • August 22, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Webcomics
    • A November 2009 arc of Furry Experience has Ronnie loose a mild expletive after dropping a coffee mug. Seeing that roommate Catherine is unnerved by expletives, Ronnie torments her with F-bombs. The tables are turned by the end of the arc, and the collegians have yet to utter any further vulgarity.
  • August 22, 2016
    foxley
    Fo Trot: An arc had the kid Paige was babysitting pick up a bad word from the trashy talk show she was watching, followed by Paige's various attempts to get the kid to forget. Paige ultimately comes clean to the mother who says that kids are bound to pick up the occasional bad word and, provided you don't attach any special significance to it, they will eventually stop saying it.
  • August 22, 2016
    foxley
    ^ Er, Fox Trot, not Fo Trot. (Stupid dodgy 'X' key on my computer.)
  • August 23, 2016
    Kartoonkid95
    • South Park Bigger Longer And Uncut takes this trope and turns it on its head, as the uproar among the parents that results when their kids pick up swearing from watching an R-rated movie leads to an all-out war with Canada. The ultimate aesop is that you can't deny your responsibility for your children's actions, and that there are some things that are much, much worse than swearing.
  • January 17, 2017
    alnair20aug93
  • January 17, 2017
    Chabal2
    Does it also apply to situations like In My Language That Sounds Like, Separated By A Common Language, Did Not Do The Bloody Research etc. where a word acceptable by one person is inacceptable by the other?
  • January 18, 2017
    Arivne
  • January 18, 2017
    longWriter
    Tiny Toon Adventures: Invoked in-universe by a Buster on Fowlmouth. Fowlmouth had a verbal tic of swearing (always bleeped), and wanted to ask Shirley Loon to a school function, but the tic got in the way. One of Buster's failed attempts to fix this was to use a machine that punishes anyone that it hears utter a swear word.
  • March 19, 2017
    Getta
    Swear Jar is related.
  • March 19, 2017
    Chabal2
    Foxtrot has one strip where Jason learns his mother is opposed to "crap".
    Jason: But it's a dice game. They play it in Vegas.
    Andy: That's "craps".
    Jason: Oh.
    Jason: Craps. The stupid Simpsons is a rerun.
    Andy: Speaking of high-stakes gambling...

  • June 19, 2017
    LB7979
    Gesture rather than word, but:

    • Seventh Heaven had an entire episode that was about how son Simon gave someone the middle finger because he copied the gesture from someone else without fully realizing what it meant, and his mother Annie's reaction towards that (she pretty much freaked out and scolded him).
  • June 19, 2017
    Skylite
    • In Everyday Heroes: A played with example. A friend of the heroes has a child who refers to curse words as Mom's "office words" and the real humdinger curse words as Dad's "golf words". Which means she had the moment of going from Innocent Swearing. Someone usually gets a hand over her mouth or distracts her with something shiny before she can actually say them out loud. It's one of this character's two {Running Gag}s
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=9pvs8b26xtn5aqprrlly8w6g