Created By: johnnye on February 26, 2012 Last Edited By: kjnoren on January 20, 2014

Unusual Expletive

An ordinary word a particular character uses to swear with.

Name Space:
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Page Type:
Trope

YKTTW Notes:

  • Rolling in examples
  • Claiming this; pruning description and adding examples.

Please everyone, leave a comment in the thread when editing the YKTTW.

Description

"Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!"
Captain Haddock of Tintin

When someone has a particular word or phrase they use as an expletive that isn't otherwise used as an expletive.

This is distinct from Goshdang It To Heck, which are Bowdlerizations of commonly accepted swear words. The Unusual Expletive does not stand in for a swear word—the character uses it as a swear word.

If a word or a class of words are used as expletives in Real Life, then this trope doesn't apply. That means that all names of gods fall outside the trope's scope, fictional deities or not. This also extends to names of sicknesses, sexual acts, or similar. There must be a sense of originality to the unusual expletive.

A kind of Catch Phrase. If the character uses a foreign word as an expletive, it's a Foreign Cuss Word.

The reason to use an unusual expletive can vary. Often, they are used instead of Goshdang It To Heck, like in children's shows where even "darn" can be viewed as offensive, but they can also be used as a way to add character or style to a person or a setting.

Index: These Tropes Should Watch Their Language.


Examples

Comic Books

  • Tintin — "Crumbs!" Captain Haddock often uses "Blistering blue barnacles!". Herge starting using this as a way to keep the comic kid-friendly, but the use of fun made-up expletives contributed greatly to the popularity of the comic and the character.
  • Luther Arkwright: The characters from parallel 00.00.00 uses the names of famous scientists from their history as interjections. Among the names used are Dalton, Marx, and Kepler.
  • In Golden Era Marvel Comics, the Sub-Mariner was known to emit "Holy Haddock" or "Suffering Shad"!

Literature

Radio

  • In Lum And Abner, the characters Lum and Abner use the words "Doggies" and "Grannies" whenever they want to swear.

Toys

  • Transformers lingo generally denotes slag, scrap and frag into swear words, just to grind in the fact that they're robots.

TV Series

Video Game

  • House of the Dead has this used in the Extended Cut version, when Varla starts swearing at Candi, the latter starts saying "Nothing" instead of swearing, misusing the saying, "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all".

Web Animation

  • In Ultra Fast Pony, Fluttershy uses the names of black celebrities as expletives. This gets lampshaded in the second season: "All you ever do is shout out the names of random black people!"

Western Animation

  • Ray in Archer; 'Dukes!' — or, in particularly dramatic cases, 'Double-' or 'Triple-dukes!'
  • Butters in South Park: "Aw, hamburgers".
  • Western Animation/Freakazoid: Freakazoid! uses "Aw, nutbunnies!"
  • Thunder Cats: Lion-o and other characters often say "samaphlange" as a curse word.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) had them use Shell for everything. Because they're turtles its a pun on the A-word, but interestingly enough its also a portmanteau of the S and H words so it can literally be used for everything.
  • Recess devoted an entire episode to explaining their Unusual Expletive Whomps, which the faculty tried to ban along with other curse-words when they found out the kids were using it as such.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: Both Spongebob and Patrick uses "tartar sauce", "fish paste", and "barnacles!" which occasionally elicits gasps out of other sea creatures.
  • Prep and Landing: The elves use "frostbite".
  • Danny Phantom: Teacher and Vice-Principal Mr. Lancer swears exclusively in titles of classic literature.
Community Feedback Replies: 52
  • February 26, 2012
    Alvin
    In 'Pimpernel Smith', the title character uses the first line from 'Jabberwocky' ('Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe...') as this, and mentions it someone else.
  • October 30, 2012
    ExOttoyuhr
    In 1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum, the heroine's usual oath is "Applesauce!"
  • October 30, 2012
    dvorak
    If it's actually a dirty word in another language, its Foreign Cuss Word.
  • October 31, 2012
    GKaiser
    The Blue Senturion's go-to swear word is "Fiddlesticks".
  • October 31, 2012
    TonyG
    Freakazoid's "Aw, nutbunnies!"
  • October 31, 2012
    NimmerStill
    How is this not simply Unusual Euphemism? That trope's description doesn't mention it only being used once.

    Or are we really talking about words which are offensive in-universe, but not in Real Life, like Battlestar Galactica's "frak"? If so, the South Park example wouldn't qualify, and probably none of the others here either, and really there wouldn't be very many examples.
  • October 31, 2012
    DRCEQ
  • October 31, 2012
    MrRuano
    • Transformers lingo generally denotes slag, scrap and frag into swear words, just to grind in the fact that they're robots.
    • House of the Dead: Overkill has this used in the Extended Cut version, when Varla starts swearing at Candi, the latter starts saying "Nothing" instead of swearing, misusing the saying, "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all".
  • October 31, 2012
    acrobox
    • The 2003 Ninja Turtles series had them use Shell for everything. Because they're turtles its a pun on the A-word, but interestingly enough its also a portmanteau of the S and H words so it can literally be used for everything.
    • Recess devoted an entire episode to explaining their Unusual Expletive Whomps, which the faculty tried to ban along with other curse-words when they found out the kids were using it as such.
  • November 1, 2012
    TBeholder
  • November 1, 2012
    StarSword
    Don't think it's a supertrope. I'd be more inclined to think it's a subtrope of Unusual Euphemism and Catchphrase.
  • February 15, 2013
    Met
    In the radio show Lum and Abner, the characters Lum and Abner use the words "Doggies" and "Grannies" whenever they want to swear.
  • February 15, 2013
    StarSword
    The definition of Unusual Euphemism is a euphemism or curse or whatever the writers just made up. I do not see the difference between that and this.

    Motion to discard.
  • February 15, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    ^I think this is tropeworthy as a subtrope of Unusual Euphemism, which is one used over and over by a certain character.
  • February 16, 2013
    SneakySquirrel
  • December 27, 2013
    Dalillama

    (edited to fix link)
  • December 27, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^^^ I do not see a difference at all. a consistent swear is still a swear. Tropes Are Flexible. we don't have Precision S Strike for a reason, since Precision F Strike covers any swear word.

    also, this is ancient. let this die in peace.
  • December 27, 2013
    DAN004

  • December 27, 2013
    Stratadrake
    IMHO I think we do need a page called Unusual Expletive to distinguish it from Unusual Euphemism - they may be related, but "euphemism" and "expletive" are different things that should not be necessarily conflated.
  • December 27, 2013
    Lakija
    ^**Spongebob and Patrick also say "barnacles!" which occasionally elicits gasps out of other sea creatures.
    • In Maze Runner the kids use strange swear words like "shuck you."
  • December 27, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Oh, they also used "fish paste" at least once.
  • December 28, 2013
    Chabal2
    One of the Polly Olivers in Monstrous Regiment gives herself away when she uses "Oh, sugar!" as an expletive, something no male would do, especially if surrounded by other males.
  • December 28, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    Stratadrake, right now, Unusual Euphemism actually covers curse words more than it covers actual euphemisms per description.
  • December 28, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Then we have a problem. An expletive is, by definition, an interjection. It is not an "issue" that requires euphemisms to talk about (a la Never Say Die).
  • December 28, 2013
    HumanTorch2
    The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy: In Life The Universe And Everything, a single use of the word "Belgium" is treated as being far worse than a Cluster F Bomb would be.
  • December 28, 2013
    kjnoren
    If Unusual Euphemism is used for interjections, it's because of the lack of proper tropes for swear words, like this one. I just looked over the list myself when mining tropes for another work, and couldn't find one that fit this usage.

    Comics:

    • Luther Arkwright: The characters from parallel 00.00.00 uses the names of famous scientiests from their history as interjections. Among the names used are Dalton, Marx, and Kepler.
  • December 29, 2013
    MetaFour
    Also related to Oh My Gods, where fictional deities' names are used as profanities.

    Perhaps Unusual Euphemism could cover examples where the word is an obvious stand-in for a real profanity or obscenity ("buck" in place of "fuck", "shell" in place of "hell", etc.), coming across like the writer wanted the character to cuss but the censors wouldn't let them. While Unusual Expletive could be words/phrases that don't match to real obscenities.
  • December 29, 2013
    DAN004
    Unusual Euphemism is broad, anyway. It can cover swear words, death (Deadly Euphemism), "sexy" words, and anything else that sounds too pejorative.
  • December 29, 2013
    kjnoren
    It's not written broadly, though. It's used broadly, however, due to other lacking tropes.
  • December 30, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    Still don't see why we need separate pages for expletives and euphimisms. both cannot pass the radar, like you can't say either the pejorative fuck or "having sex" in a children's show for one. so both should be treated as one.

    "what the duck" vs "making babies", etc. same thing.
  • December 30, 2013
    kjnoren
    They are different within the work, ie the characters have different relations to the word.

    An Unusual Euphemism is used because the characters for some reason are uncomfortable with using the "straight" word. Look at all the synonyms that have been used for the toilet. "Huge tracts of land" from Monty Python And The Holy Grail is another great example.

    An Unusual Expletive is exactly what the characters mean to say. There is generally no phrase or word that has been substituted. The Captain of Tintin uses a huge range of original expletives, but they're not euphemisms. Likewise for "drokk" of Judge Dredd, or the exclamations of famous scientists in Luther Arkwright.

    Goshdang It To Heck can be viewed as the intersection between the two usages: it's expletives that at the same time are euphemisms. In natural languages, these can further evolve into full expletives, and need a new euphemism.
  • December 31, 2013
    MetaFour
    Anyway...

    Web animation:
    • In Ultra Fast Pony, Fluttershy uses the names of black celebrities as expletives. This gets lampshaded in the second season: "All you ever do is shout out the names of random black people!"

  • December 31, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^^ okay.. i guess we're gonna have to play that game.

    out-universe, there is no difference between expletives and euphemisms. they are used because the character is not allowed to say profanities or risky words.

    in-universe, usage wise, both are used for when the characteri is Getting Crap Past The Radar or says it as a joke.

    character wise, Unusual Euphemism goes both ways, e.g. Oghren uses them to characterize him as The Gadfly or whatever you call someone who loves to tease others.

    given his usage is consistent we can assume just he just loves using them to make others uncomfortable without offending them. so it's not just that "he's uncomfortable"

    Unusual Expletive also goes both ways, like in the Blaze Union, example. had they used "i'm gonna rape/fuck you" as opposed to "Im Taking You Home With Me" (which sounds cheesy to add to the humor) the situtation would have been very crude and out-of-place.

    alternatively, if you think about it Goshdang It To Heck implicitly covers Unusual Expletive already. just check out the examples.
  • December 31, 2013
    kjnoren
    Yes, there are examples where an euphemism is used as an expletive. But the two play fundamentally different roles in language.

    Expletive:
    1. a word that contributes nothing to meaning but suggests the strength of feeling of the speaker
    2. a word or expression that is strongly impolite or offensive

    Euphemism: a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant.

    Or put another way, trope names matter.

    Yes, I've seen the examples of Goshdang It To Heck. What you see as a trope covering Unusual Expletive is what I see as Trope Decay due to a missing sister trope, that is, Unusual Expletive.
  • December 31, 2013
    Stratadrake
    I agree that if Unusual Euphemism is intended to include expletives then the name is broken. The page image has nothing to do with expletives (which was probably a deliberate choice), and out of four paragraphs of description (not counting the list of comparable tropes) only one of them mentions its utility for expletives. The non-split examples on page are admittedly about Bowdlerization of profanity and not euphemisms (I haven't checked the subpages). Unusual Euphemism was taken to TRS once back in 2011 (but for a non-related issue).
  • December 31, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    it would be Trope Decay if expletives and euphemisms were that different in purpose the first place. i.e. being "substitutes to offensive words" mean they are one and the same.

    their role in language doesn't matter. after all, "episode" only covers episodic works and not it's (broader) definition of "An incident or event that is part of a progression or a larger sequence.".

    okay i'm kidding.

    though really, regardless of "what they mean". In This Wiki, we don't exactly use the actual definitions on a lot of words. and their common usage in the wiki "trumps" their definition most of the time. e.g. Fantastic, it doesn't mean "fantasy(genre)-like", but "fantasy(unreal/dream)-like", but we use the former here In This Wiki.

    by that logic, given we already use it to cover both, it should stay that way, unless it gets wayyyy out-of-hand and the Unusual Euphemism page grows too big.
  • December 31, 2013
    kjnoren
  • January 1, 2014
    Stratadrake
    ^^ Unusual Euphemism is already large enough to have its examples hard-split by media. I'm aware that technically a euphemism is any replacement word deliberately chosen to avoid using another word that would (for any reason) be considered inappropriate to use in that context, but the claim remains that a large share of examples (exact statistics not proven) appear solely about censoring of profanity.

    As a quick example of the distinction: Never Say Die.
  • January 2, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Would you give me a distinction between Never Say Die, Deadly Euphemism and Nobody Can Die?
  • January 2, 2014
    kjnoren
    ^^^ For that matter, Unusual Expletive isn't about replacing words, it's about using unusual words as expletives. Sometimes this is done euphemistically in-universe (like in the House Of The Dead example above), sometimes it's done euphemistically out-universe (like Captain Haddock in Tintin), and sometimes it's not done euphemistically at all (like the Luther Arkwright example).
  • January 2, 2014
    Stratadrake
    ^^ Nobody Can Die means nobody dies, usually because the series is targetted at a younger audience. Never Say Die is about how death is described or discussed in-universe (but also usually because the series is targetted at a younger audience), regardless of whether it implicitly happens or not (e.g. Bambi).

    If anything, we probably have too many established tropes for overlapping ideas.
  • January 2, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    This is perharps a subtrope of Perfectly Cromulent Word, or perhaps The Same But More Specific.
  • January 2, 2014
    kjnoren
    ^^ I'm not sure we have too many tropes here per se, more that we have too many poorly defined tropes, or tropes with artificial distinctions.

    ^ Perfectly Cromulent Word is wholly another trope. And I get itches since it misuses the word cromulent.
  • January 2, 2014
    deaconsfan21
    Does this have to be in-universe, or does it just have to sound weird to us? If the latter is true, then The Wheel of Time has quite a few examples, namely Mat's "Blood and Bloody Ashes" and Uno's use of "flaming" as a catch-all adjective.
  • January 2, 2014
    kjnoren
    Unusual should apply to the reader, to me.

    I'm somewhat on the fence with The Wheel Of Time examples. One one hand, they are made-up by Jordan, but on the other hand they're not that unusual in and of itself. "Bloody" is just all the time as an expletive, and "flaming" doesn't strike me as particularly original either.

    But that might be me having a too narrow a view of what should be considered unusual. That said, I think I remember Siuan and Birgitte using quite colourful expletives at times, but it was far too long since I read the books.
  • January 2, 2014
    KomodoClassic
    • Real Life: real-world examples abound. Many people will say "Fudge!" or similar instead of swearing.
    • Disney's Prep And Landing: the elves use "frostbite."
  • January 2, 2014
    kjnoren
    ^ "Fudge!" might fit better for Gosh Dang It To Heck, since it's relatively close to "fuck".

    Thanks for the Disney example, but please remember to namespace the works and mention which media they are to be sorted under.
  • January 2, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    Stratadrake

    well, that's a good point for a split. i admit i overlooked that.
  • January 18, 2014
    GuyWeknow
    In Golden Era Marvel Comics, the Submariner was known to emit "Holy Haddock" or "Suffering Shad"!
  • January 18, 2014
    Alvin
    Live-Action TV: Jed of The Beverly Hillbillies said "Doggies!" a lot. I guess he got it from Lum And Abner ( I did not know that before I read it here) .
  • January 20, 2014
    LordMelchior
    • Danny Phantom: Teacher and Vice-Principal Mr. Lancer swears exclusively in titles of classic literature.
  • January 20, 2014
    aurora369
    Beyond The Dawn: the elves use "Salamander!", as opposed to full blown profanity used by the men.
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