Sometimes creators use Vulgar Humor, and the Moral Guardians just cannot let anyone say that word. Not here where everyone can see it.
So what to do? The creator can't just change everything. The movie is done, all the dialogue has been recorded, or the song is in the mixing process. At this point, there's just one thing you can do: censor the title. Don't advertise using the word "shit" — say "crap" or "stuff", depending on how you mean the word. Use acronyms or anything else to cover up the real title. Sure, the work itself is still as offensive as it was before, you just need to pay a little more attention to realize that.
This trope is when the title of a work is censored so that it can be advertised. As noted above, there can be various reasons for this, either creator decides to use the title or executives or distributors refuse to use the uncensored title.
Note that this only applies to the title being censored while the rest of the work isn't changed.
Not to be confused with Bowdlerization, as the work only seems less offensive on the surface. Related to Gosh Dang It to Heck! and Sound Effect Bleep. Sometimes used when the creator is trying for an Intentionally Awkward Title and the executives say no.
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666 Satan became "O-Parts Hunter" (a mistranslation of "OOPArts") in America, as the country's sizeable Christian population wouldn't tolerate something so Satanic for children.
The Preacher side-story starring Arseface was titled "The Story of You-Know-Who".
Viz has a variety of creative ways to mention strips with sweary titles on the front page, such as Spoonerism, other creative misspellings, and even in a couple of cases Censor Steam.
The second Austin Powers film was advertised as The Spy Who... on most poster sites, leaving off the "Shagged Me" from the end of the title. In some countries, it was simply named "Austin Powers 2". Averted (possibly inverted depending on your point of view) by the Norwegians, who called it The Spy Who Spermed Me.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno was often listed as simply Zack And Miri, and one poster didn't have the title at all, just reading "Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks made a movie so outrageous that we can't even tell you the title."
Occurred with the DVDs of Knocked Up, in which the "ed Up" part was covered by a huge, orange sticker listing the price at a Walmart.
The Pope Must Die, in which Robbie Coltrane plays a chubby priest accidentally raised to the papacy (who faces an assassination plot as a result). In some markets, retitled The Pope Must Diet - which, one might argue, is even more offensive!
TV ads for Inglourious Basterds (at least in the UK before the Watershed) just called it Inglourious. Some of them, mysteriously, showed the full title onscreen while the voiceover announced the censored version. Maybe the rules about written swearwords are different...or possibly because it's spelled differently.
Meet The Fockers had parts of the last word replaced by asterisks in some published reviews. Note that they were only able to get that title by proving that there is a real family with the last name Focker.
Gregg Araki's early independent movie Totally F*** ed Up.
S.F.W., a movie from The Nineties featuring Stephen Dorff and Reese Witherspoon, is normally known by its acronym. The full title is So Fucking What.
Some posters and ticket counters for Kick-Ass called the movie "Kick-A* $" or "Kick-Butt". This is also done on the packaging for the action figures of the film, presumably so they can be sold in mainstream retail stores like Toys 'R' Us. The "Ass" part of the title is obscured either by a picture of the character, or a spray paint-like effect.
Fucking Åmål was released under various alternate titles, in the USA as Show Me Love.
In the U.S. most newspaper ads for the 1987 British film Sammy And Rosie Get Laid often had the last two words deleted in, as did their film listings.
In Barbados the newspaper ads for Doctor Detroit changed "He's got five personalities. And they've all got a one-track mind" to "He's got five lovely women. (Etc)." The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, meanwhile, was advertised with "Whore" cut out (literally) and "Fun" stuck in instead.
Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers had its title censored twice, being released as first Ten Little Indians then And Then There Were None.
Go the Fuck to Sleep: Either the "Fuck" is censored with a lighting effect meant to look like the moon, or the title is changed to Seriously, Go to Sleep.
Seriously, Go to Sleep became the title of the censored version of the book that was written because it became so popular. The censored version had all instances of "Fuck" changed to "Seriously" so that parents could read the book to their kids.
When Penn had his own (FCC-regulated broadcast) radio show, he would often discuss the show, which he would refer to as "Bulls..." [beat] [beat] "...HIT!"
Furthermore, whenever the show is listed on-screen, it appears as "Bulls...", or "Bull!", or "BS!" or even just "Penn & Teller", depending on the provider.
The TV adaptation of the Twitter feed for $#!+ My Dad Says, used Symbol Swearing characters. It is usually referred to out loud as "Bleep My Dad Says''. Which caused a lot of problems for people trying to program their DVRs for it (while that can't be blamed for its cancellation after one season, it certainly didn't help).
Pre-watershed trailers for The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl simply referred to it as "Secret Diary".
GCB was based on the book Good Christian Bitches and was changed to Good Christian Belles before becoming GCB. Even so, some still find the title of the show offensive.
The TV adaptation of the book Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea had its title shortened to Are You There, Chelsea? This one's particularly egregious because a) "vodka" isn't profanity (though the edit could have been done to appease censors who think that mentioning alcoholic beverages could encourage younger viewers to drink or be considered insensitive to recovering alcoholics — yes, it's Political Correctness Gone Mad) and b) it completely changes the title's intended meaning, considering the premiere episode starts with the main character in jail for DUI.
British EPG listings for Gossip Girl's "The Blair Bitch Project" and no less than three episodes of Ringer - "A Whole New Kind Of Bitch," "If You're Just An Evil Bitch, Then Get Over It" and "It's Called Improvising, Bitch!" - had "bitch" blanked out.
Married... with Children had a season three episode where a fishing trip between the Bundys and the Rhoades (Steve and Marcy) goes to pot when Kelly has her period, and soon Marcy and Peg have it as it is physically possible for women's periods to sync up so that way they all have it at the same time. Originally, the episode was called "A Period Piece," but FOX censors objected (never mind that Married... with Children never showed its titles onscreen and it wouldn't be until the rise of the Internet and cable that viewers would get to see episode titles of their favorite shows), and the show creators retitled it, "The Camping Show." The E! True Hollywood Story about Married With Children discusses this and other censorship issues (like the Banned Episode "I'll See You in Court" and when the mom from Michigan protested against "Her Cups Runneth Over").
Marilyn Manson's "This Is The New Shit" became "This Is The New *hit" when censored, which is, ironically, still fitting. "Pretty As A Swastika" became "Pretty As A $" which is likely the biggest "Fuck you" done via censorship ever.
"Stuff is Messed Up" by The Offspring — the chorus uses the phrase "Shit is fucked up", but the band made the title different so it could be printed on the CD case.
"Waif Me" is an alternate title for "Rape Me" by Nirvana, changed so that the album In Utero could be sold in Walmart and other stores with CD censorship policies. To clarify, "Waif Me" is just an alternate title... on the track listing on the back of the CD case. The liner notes in the CD booklet still refer to "Rape Me," and in the song itself, Cobain sings "Rape me." The only reason the band agreed to such a title change (as well as a change to the back cover) was that when Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic were growing up, the only place to buy records in their home town was Wal-Mart and they empathized with kids in similar situations.
"Randy Scouse Git" by The Monkees was aptly called "Alternate Title" when the song was released in the United Kingdom. Micky Dolenz, who wrote the song, heard the phrase on the TV show, 'Til Death Do Us Part, and hadn't realized that "Randy Scouse Git" in Britain, is slang for "Horny Idiot from Liverpool." (It doesn't appear in the lyrics either way.)
"Star Me Kitten" by R.E.M. In the actual song the F-word is used.
The song "I'm in Miami, Bitch" by LMFAO is called "I'm in Miami, Trick" (and also censored in the same way in the song, in versions which are censored).
On Warren Zevon's album Life'll Kill Ya the song "My Shit's Fucked Up" was left off the song list on the outer casing.
Rap group N.W.A. (the full name, "Niggaz With Attitude", not generally being printed on the albums or posters). Likewise their 1991 album, whose title "Niggaz4life" was printed reversed (mirror-image) on the album—the album is often referred to as "Efil4zaggin".
The Liz Phair song titled "H.W.C." (abbreviation for "hot white cum", the phrase used in the song).
"Star Star" by The Rolling Stones was originally "Starfucker" but changed at the insistence of the record label. The chorus is still a huge Cluster F-Bomb though, and the band always refer to the song as "Starfucker". (Atlantic Records distributed the label's releases. Ahmet Ertegün actually wanted them to also change the lyrics... to remove mentions of Steve McQueen, John Wayne and Ali McGraw, since he was afraid they would sue.)
Similarly, Nine Inch Nails' "Starfuckers, Inc." became "Starsuckers, Inc." for the single.
The Ween song "L.M.L.Y.P." (Let Me Lick Your Pussy).
The Seether song "FMLYHM" (Fuck Me Like You Hate Me.)
Beck's debut album, Mellow Gold, featured two songs with strong language in the titles. On the censored version of the album, the songs in question are listed as "%*!@?# With My Head (Mountain Dew Rock)" and "&*$^?#%*@!#" and even the version with the parental advisory censors them to "F _ _ _ in' With My Head (Mountain Dew Rock)" and "Mutherf _ _ er."
The Canadian rock group Barenaked Ladies is occasionally referred to as simply BNL in places where Moral Guardians might complain. Emphasis on the "occasionally"—they once hosted a WB Saturday morning cartoon block with their normal name (with characters such as the Animaniacs commenting on how they're all fully-clothed men), but they've been censored on the Disney Channel and elsewhere. They ran into this piecemeal in different areas - "The Ballad of Gordon" was a PSA they did early in their career that aired on Fox Kids, but the title card saying the name of the band wasn't run in all markets. "Weird Al" Yankovic revealed in interviews that he had a considerable fight with CBS to call the band by their full name when they were on The Weird Al Show, and there was concern they'd be censored piecemeal as well.
The Britney Spears song "If You Seek Amy" (which actually is a remake of an old song called "If You See Kay," which also met with controversy over what it implied) is often changed in radio edits (both in title and in the lyrics; see the Bowdlerization page) to "If You See Amy" or just "Amy"
The Bloodhound Gang album Hooray for Boobies was sold in some stores as simply Hooray.
In some markets, MTV credits blink-182's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket as "Take Off Your Jacket and Pants" during their music videos.
The Korn song "K@#0%!", probably since no printable title could be drawn from the lyrics.
The Black Eyed Peas song "Don't Phunk With My Heart" is replaced with "Don't Mess With My Heart" on some radio stations because "phunk" sounds too much like "fuck". Or in some cases, dropping the word altogether and replacing it with a drumbeat. In some areas with multiple radio stations, this was especially obvious, because one station would play the edited "Don't Mess With My Heart", another would play the uncensored "Don't Phunk With My Heart", and a third would play "Don't _____ With My Heart", which just sounded really stupid when the edited version was obviously available.
While Squarepusher's "My Red Hot Car" may not seem like this at first, those listening closely to the vocals will realize he's really singing about "my red hot cock."
A non-vulgarity example - to preserve copyright, Vicks threatened They Might Be Giantswith a lawsuit if they went forward with calling a song "Nyquil Driver." TMBG compromised by calling the song "AKA Driver" on the album cover and leaving the lyrics out of the liner notes, but the song was unchanged.
The music video for Cee Lo Green's Fuck You! opens up with a title card spelling out F**k You! The censored version replaces it with Forget You! When the song was nominated for a Grammy, it was officially listed as "The Song Also Known as 'Forget You'."
The radio version of "Shit on the Radio" by Nelly Furtado was simply titled "...On the Radio" and was also listed under this title on the back of her "Woah, Nelly!" album. However, the album insert lists it under its uncensored title.
Green Day's live album, Awesome as Fuck, has the title Awesome as F**k on its cover.
KISS. According to Gene Simmons, they wouldn't let him name the band "Fuck". Similarly, it was pointed out to Lemmy that he wouldn't get on Top of the Pops with a band named "Bastard". So he went with the semi-covert drug reference instead.
"Die MF Die" by Dope. Take a guess at what MF is shortened from.
Anal Cunt is normally written as "A.C." on their album covers, although the band's logo makes it clear what those letters stand for.
Gravediggaz' album 6 Feet Deep was originally called Niggamortis.
The "clean" version of Butthole Surfers' Electric Larryland goes so far as to credit the band as "B***h*** Surfers" on the cover. Similarly, in certain parts of the country, the band would advertise themselves as "BH Surfers".
Revolting Cocks albums are increasingly likely to credit the band as "Revco" on the cover. It might have something to do with their newer albums being distributed by Sony BMG Music, although their major label debut used the uncensored band name, and "Revco" is in fact a long established nickname for the band.
The iTunes store censors song titles that could be deemed offensive by replacing all but the first and last letters of the offending word with asterisks. They also at least sometimes do this when a song title includes a trademark - Tad's "Jack Pepsi" is rendered "Jack P***i" for example, making it sound more offensive as a title than it really is. Another quirk is that song or album titles can be censored, but artist names cannot, as this would make it difficult or impossible to search for certain groups: Thus the title of Starfucker's Self-Titled Album is almost entirely asterisked out, even though the uncensored band name appears directly below it.
The Reverend Horton Heat's "Five-O Ford" most likely qualifies, as the lyrics pretty clearly refer to "my fucked up Ford".
Local H's "High Fivin' MF". It should be pretty obvious what the title really should be.
Max Romeo's 1969 reggae hit Wet Dream was not only banned from the air by the BBC, its title couldn't be metioned either. This led to listeners to Alan Freeman announcing the new chart on Pick of the Pops hearing him mumbling "the Max Romeo record" before passing quickly on to play the next entry. Mark Goodier employed the same tactic in 1996 when he simply said "There's a new entry for Super Furry Animals" without naming or playing it. The song in question being "The Man Don't Give A Fuck".
Some copies of The Lemonheads' It's A Shame About Ray list "My Drug Buddy" as just "Buddy". The lyrics remain uncensored though.
Tool's song "Stinkfist" is called "Song #1" on MTV. VJs of the era would occasionally brandish and/or smell their fists before announcing the replacement name.
Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog" was originally titled "Son of a Bitch," but the title was changed at the request of A&M Records—although the song itself was not censored, and has been an album-rock radio favorite for years.
The Man With A Mission's song "Never Fucking Mind The Rules" has been officially released as "Never Fxxkin' Mind The Rules".
Rammstein's song "Pussy" appears on the sleeve as "P***" and "Te Quiero Puta" ("I Love You, Whore") censors the word "puta." However, "B***" is not an example of this trope, as the word it's "censoring" ("Bueckstabue") is a nonsense word.
"Pound Sign (#?*!)" by Kevin Fowler.
The Argentine punk rock band "Los Violadores" (the name means "The rapists"). During the 1976-1983 military government, the band was promoted as "Los Voladores" ("the flyers")
Limp Bizkit's collaboration with Method Man was originally called "Shut The Fuck Up." It was changed to "N 2 Gether Now" for marketing purposes.
The Musical F#@king Up Everything.
The play Shopping and Fucking was usually listed as Shopping and F*** king in ads. It was also known as Shopping and F$$$ing.
The well known theatre production The Vagina Monologues was retitled The Hoohah Monologues when locals in Atlantic Beach, Florida complained. Until Eve Ensler heard that they had retitled it, and told them that since changing the name was Comically Missing the Point, they had to perform it under the real name or not at all.
An Erie, Pennsylvania high school performance of Urinetown could only be advertised as simply the school's "Spring Musical" because the principal objected to the "vulgar" title but not at all to any of the content of the show itself, which is odd considering the libretto contains the word "Urinetown" sung & spoken several times, plus a character who hints at having undergone a sex change and one use each of the words "piss", "hell", "damn", and "goddamn".
The iTunes edition of the Avenue Q soundtrack has a song called "It S***s to be Me". What does the "s" stand for? Sucks.
New York newspapers had a difficult time reviewing a 2012 play with Chris Rock called The Motherfucker with the Hat, while getting it across which play they were reviewing. Radio and TV ads were upfront about not being able to use the title.
The episode "Chicken Lover," in which the eponymous criminal is actually dubbed 'Chicken Fucker.'
The term "Chicken Lover" was used in the episode, to be fair—three times by Officer Barbrady and once by Cartman.
Officer Barbrady: "Uh, Mayor, please. When we're around children we prefer to call him the "Chicken Lover".
Also, 'An Elephant Makes Love To a Pig'. Was lampshaded in the pre-show teaser on the home video releases, with Trey Parker and Matt Stone who refer to the episode by its original title rather than the censored version.
"Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride" was listed on TV Guide as "Big Al's Big Boat Ride."
There was also the You Got Served parody episode whose official title was already censored ("You Got F'd In The A"), but still had a couple other cleaner titles, such a "You Got Served" or simply "You Got..." In Britain, it's called "You Got ——— in the ——" on the Sky TV guide.
British TV guides refer to "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?" as "Do the H———— Go to Hell?"
"Whale Whores" often appears on cable guides as "Whale W...." Likewise for "Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy," in which it appears as "Miss Teacher B.... a Boy" (though the unofficial alternate title to "Miss Teacher Bangs A Boy" is "Nice").
Also, in the newspaper's TV sections, "Make Love, Not Warcraft" became just "World of Warcraft"
"The Biggest Douche in the Universe" is truncated in TV listings to just "The Biggest". The two-parter that closes Season 1 ("Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut") and "officially" opens Season 2 ("Cartman's Mom is Still a Dirty Slut") has "(is) a dirty slut" replaced by ellipses. The "bitch" in "Butters' Bottom Bitch" is replaced with a "B".
Some Looney Tunes cartoons have gone through title changes when aired on CBS in the 1970s and 1980s. 1949's "Curtain Razor" was changed to "Show Stopper," presumably because the censors thought even the suggestion of a weapon was grounds for being "too violent" (even though there are no razors in the cartoon; the cartoon is about Porky auditioning a string of freaks, weirdos, and funny cartoon animals at his talent agency). "Prince Violent" (a Bugs Bunny/Yosemite Sam cartoon with Yosemite Sam as a Viking) was changed to "Prince Varmint" on all TV versions (including cable, since the original title wasn't readily available).
Daria had two when the show was rerun on Noggin/The-N:
"It Happened One Nut" (the episode where Daria gets a job at a nut kiosk at the mall as part of a school project) is called "Daria Gets A Job".
"The F Word" (the episode where Mr. O'Neill assigns his students to succeed at failing at something — with unlikely results) was infamously retitled as "Fail".
The King of the Hill episode "Three Men and a Bastard" (where Bill finds out that his latest girlfriend had sex — and an illegitimate child — with John Redcorn) went by the name "The Untitled Blake McCormick Project" as FOX objected to the word "bastard" being used.
The Black Dynamite episode "Bullhorn Nights" has two alternate titles. On cable guides, the alternate title is "Madingo's Got a Pink Toe." On [adult swim], it's "Murder She Throats."
Used as a Take That with Animaniacs. The original title of the episode where the Warner siblings torment the Grim Reaper after Wakko wins a Swedish meatball-eating contest was "Death or Consequences." Since most American children's TV shows have a strict rule against depicting death (even going so far as to not even talk about it — which was definitely the case in the 1980s and 1990s), the censors wouldn't have it. It was then retitled "Meatballs or Consequences", as if to sarcastically convey, "There, Warner Bros. BS&P, are you happy?!"
The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "The Show That Dare Not Speak Its Name" was originally titled "Cubix Rube." It was probably changed because of legal issues (the creator and/or owner of Rubix Cubes threatened to sue over use of the name without express written permission, even if it's a spoonerism), rather than being vulgar or sexual.
The first episode of SheZow is called "SheZow Happens" in Australia. In the United States, it's called "You Go Girl!" in some guides, but the title card is left unedited.
The roleplaying supplement for BESM titled "Cute And Fuzzy Cockfighting Seizure Monsters". The "Cockfighting" had to be removed from the title to sell it in regular stores (comics/gaming specialty stores still got the uncensored title).
Reginald D. Hunter had a tour in the UK titled "Trophy Nigga", it was advertized as "Reginald D. Hunter Live" everywhere.
Damned Small Linux is often referred to as "DSL Linux."