Did Not Do the Bloody Research
Who knew such a term would be highly offensive across the pond?note
It is somewhat more offensive in British use than Americans typically realize.
Sometimes a writer will use "international" slang to make a character seem more salty and "regional" (frequently American versus British usage of a word). Sometimes, however, an expression is still considered vulgar elsewhere. When words like "bollocks" or "wanker" appear in, say, an American work that is otherwise PG, the words create dissonance
in places that are more familiar with them.
This is also used intentionally, to the opposite effect: unfamiliar or foreign swear words
may be used where an equivalent local expression would be inappropriate
. ("Bloody" is about as strong a curse as "damn", and "bloody hell" is about the same as "goddamn", in the UK.)
This works both ways, as there are a lot of words that are offensive in the US, but innocuous elsewhere in the Anglosphere, such as "fag" referring to cigarettes in Britain, but being a slur of homosexuals in the US.
This trope covers any confusion or hilarity
arising from foreign swear words, not just in the US. Since international expletives are often "G-rated" on American TV, "arse" and "shite" can be family-friendly ways of getting "ass" and "shit" past the radar
. In Britain, "ass" is merely the American spelling of "arse" - one may write "ass" to emphasise that the speaker is American rather than English. Gestures may be similarly misunderstood, such as the two-finger V-sign to signal "peace", which, if the hand is turned around, is an insult in some countries.
See also Separated by a Common Language
, Bilingual Bonus
and Have a Gay Old Time
. Can result in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe
Not to be confused with AB Negative
, when the error in question is literally about blood.
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Anime & Manga
- From the mouth of James in Pokémon: "That's why she doesn't know a bloody thing about us, there's no Sinnoh Team Rocket branch!". In a non-Anglophonic variant, the Japanese Lt. Surge (who is supposed to be American) exclaims in an early episode, "God damn!"
- In the Napoleonic Wars, one of the French slang terms for the British was "Les Goddamns", because of how often they said it. On the other hand, randomly cussing for no reason at all is a common Japanese stereotype of Americans, though almost exclusively played for laughs.
- For a different culture's take, see the Cluster F-Bomb from Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai.
- Inverted in the dub of Castle in the Sky, which was originally titled "Laputa: Castle in the Sky". This was changed because "Laputa" resembles "la puta", which means "the whore" in Spanish. And more people in Europe and North America are more likely to recognize a Spanish swear word than in Japan. Obviously, you don't want to take a chance with printing something like that out there.
- The name Laputa was taken from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, so it's not too big of stretch to imagine Swift naming a floating island "the whore" on purpose. Of course, Hayao Miyazaki probably didn't realize the name had a hidden meaning.
- Swift may have called it "Laputa" because it had "no visible means of support", a phrase used in vagrancy laws.
- It may have also been more literal, referencing Martin Luther's "Reason is a whore", seeing as Laputa is a highly advanced society that cannot make anything practical for all its enlightenment.
- NOT averted, out of all places, in the Latin American dub itself. The characters still refer to the place as Laputa, and what's even worse, the pronounciation they give to the word is the exact same you'd give to the actual insult.
- The English dub of Negima!? has two British (specifically Welsh) characters at or younger than ten years old say 'bollocks' on more than one occasion, once in front of a British adult who just giggled. The rest of the language in the show is pretty tame, however.
- In the first episode of Season 3's edited English dub of Dragon Ball Z, the apparently Australian Jiece gives us such lines as, "ah bugger, this blasted thing!" and, "no bloody Saiyan that we've ever met is that strong."
- In the 4Kids Entertainment (of all things) dub of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sid says, "git", which, to Britons, is a very mild expletive but still not one you'd expect to hear on a kids' show.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Jim refers to the Pachycephalo as "Pachy", which sounds a little too much like a racist term for Pakistani people.
- Jaden also likes to make the mistake of "V-sign with palm inwards" that's offensive in the UK. Even worse is he tens to do it after winning, which makes him appear a less-than gracious winner.
- Given that the whole thing runs on stereotypes Played for Laughs, Axis Powers Hetalia has a grand time with this. In particular, the English dub has England constantly calling the other Nations "wankers", while Spain at one point calls Austria a "puta" (bitch).
- The original Japanese comic (and anime) use the F word a lot in the mouths of the English speaking nations. And the alien.
- In an issue of Y: The Last Man, a captured woman calls the leader of the Amazon gang/army a cunt. The Ax-Crazy leader lampshades this by going into a detailed description of the word and how it's not an insult in Britain. The captive responds by spitting on her and getting shot for her troubles. To clarify, it certainly is an insult in Britain, just (in certain circumstances) somewhat more acceptable than in America. Like most expletives, it largely depends on how you're using it.
- In an issue of Generation X, Chamber (whose British-ness is often emphasized) uses the word "wanker" as if it was a rather harmless insult.
- Excalibur, the funny, light-hearted X-Men title, had Pete Wisdom, who tried to include 'bloody hell' in every sentence he spoke. He was supposed to seem rough and a jerk, but it was still slightly uncomfortable if you don't like swearing, especially if you're not quite sure how offensive the swearing is.
- Lampshaded in one The Simpsons comic, Bart and Lisa end up staying with psuedo-South-american freedom fighters. When Bart utters his Catch Phrase "Ay Carumba!" he is immediately beaten down by a woman for using dirty language in front of her child.
- Whoever decided that "wank" would be a good onomatopoeia for Captain America's shield hitting a villain in the face was clearly unaware of the word's meaning in British/Australian/New Zealand slang. Or was 100% aware of it and having a laugh.
- It's even better. Because of the placement of the speech bubble, it looks like "I command you to—WANK!"
- In an early issue of Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian series, British artist Barry Smith convinced American writer Roy Thomas to have a soldier call another soldier a "wank". After the issue's publication, Thomas shortly ended up with more informative letters from British readers than he'd have liked.
- While all the swearing recognizable to American readers of So Bad, It's Good Death Note fanfic Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami is censored out, British ones are not, leading to Watari yelling things like "THAT TIT IS TAKING THE PISS NOW!... WE MUST GET THE WANK OUT OF THIS SODDING CONTRACEPTION!" fully uncensored.
- Same goes for ITS MY LIFE!, to the point that overused British curses were associated with this fic's Wheatley.
- The Final Fantasy VIII fic Phantom Dreams had Seifer refer to Squall as a little bugger, which given the nature of the fic was Accidentally Accurate.
- Really, this is fairly common in most fanfiction written for something that originated in a country different than the one the author is from. The most prevalent example is probably American authors writing Harry Potter fanfic. Seriously, next time you see a long fic by a non-Brit, count how many times 'wanker' is said. It especially happens to Ron a lot, because he is implied to be swearing sometimes in canon, it's just never outright stated what he said.
- In the other direction, "git" is often taken to be far worse than it actually is. It's actually a very mild insult, barely even considered swearing at all (which is precisely why it's one of the few things to get through the Narrative Profanity Filter in the original books).
- The word "berk", possibly because of its etymology, is often mistaken for far worse than it actually is. In reality, it doesn't even register as a swearword to most people and calling someone a berk is less offensive than calling them an idiot.
- This happens a lot in Sherlock fanfic too.
- Since there's a lot of regional variation in British English, it's not uncommon to see dialogue which covers hundreds of miles in the space of a single sentence.
- In Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, a guy on his Bluetooth rants about "bloody conspiracies", which is somewhat out of place in a normally clean fic.
- The story goes that Steve McQueen didn't know the meaning of the reverse V-sign while making Le Mans and, when told, used the gesture instead of The Finger at the end of the movie as a way of giving his character a European-flair, as a globetrotting racing driver would probably have picked up all kinds of foreign insults on his travels. (There was probably some thought of getting crap past the US radar too).
- The film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has the Highly Evolved Beings a.k.a. mice shout "Oh bollocks!" before being crushed by Arthur Dent. The DVD Commentary states that they wanted to sneak in a curse word which wouldn't be as well known to American audiences.
- Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me had some trouble being marketed in the UK entirely because of this. The posters either partially censored the middle of the offending word or displayed the title of Austin Powers 2. They also had to run different sets of ads before the 9pm Watershed, because they couldn't use the film's full title.
- Jack Sparrow says "bugger" twice in Dead Man's Chest, despite the film's PG-13 rating and otherwise very sparse use of cursing. This might be yet another case of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
- Muppet Treasure Island is otherwise free of profanity, though when Billy Bones is dying, Gonzo and Rizzo lampshade the fact that "this was supposed to be a kids' movie!" Shortly after that, when Billy's shipmates search his room, one of them says "Billy's dead, and he hasn't got the bloody map!" Billy himself asks aloud "How does [Mrs. Bluberidge] bloody do that?" Some versions of the film dub over "bloody" with "bloomin".
- In the first Tomb Raider movie, Lara is fond of the word "bugger". She uses it a couple times, once with something as innocuous as some food blowing up in the microwave. The movie is PG-13, but it's mainly because it's an action movie, so there's very little in the way of swearing anyway.
- In The Avengers, Loki calls Black Widow a "mewling quim" at the end of a particularly vicious rant, quim being old English slang for the female genitalia. The film is rated PG-13. The word is pretty archaic, and even those who know what it means would find it more a novelty than actually offensive.
- Both Thor and Loki tend to use slightly archaic forms of English (although not to the extent of Thor in the comics). This may have been deliberate, and Loki's actor Tom Hiddleston is English and may be familiar with the word.
- A Christmas Carol (2009) has a guest at a genteel Victorian party playing 20 Questions and guessing "Is it an arse?" She meant ass. As in donkey.
- Middle-finger gestures are generally censored in America, but the Trainspotting poster in which Begbie gives a V-sign is shown without any problems.
- The American trailer for Playing for Keeps somehow managed to get away with using "wanker" more than once, most notably being said by a child. It's especially strange in that the MPAA's standards for green band trailers tend to often strict (when not being totally contradictory).
- The Japanese film Why Dont You Play In Hell has a group of amateur Japanese filmmakers give themselves the English name "Fuck Bombers." It's obviously not supposed to be as vulgar to Japanese ears as English-speakers.
- In the Lois McMaster Bujold Vorkosigan Saga novel Memory, Miles Vorkosigan is said to have "buggered the cartridge" from a Sonic Stunner to improvise a grenade. Also, he describes Impsec's security recording as having been "buggered" when he finds evidence of tampering. Nowhere else in Bujold's books do we find this sort of expression. "Buggered" is fairly innocuous US slang for fouled-up or broken (but usually not irreparably). In the UK you can describe something as "buggered" or talk about "buggering [something] up", but in most dialects if you say you've "buggered [something]" you'll get some strange looks. Thus Miles' statement sounds as odd to the British ear as it does to the US ear when a Brit "lights up a fag."
- Used in-universe on several occasions by Diana Gabaldon. She does do the linguistic research, but several characters (from different countries or different centuries) manage to cuss each other out and have it go right over the other person's head. (Such as Claire using the word "fucking" and utterly perplexing her husband.) In a more fitting sense for this trope, the author also gets away with a lot of creative language in the Outlander series by way of it being exotic and Scottish, or terribly dated— and then lets loose with the contemporary profanity.
- Harry Turtledove doesn't do too badly at curse levels, but uses things like 'bloody' far too often in a lot of cases (which has to be quite a bit, given how much we use it). Furthermore, some of the slang is simply wrong. 'Crikey' is an exclamation of surprise, not a swearword that you can chuck in anywhere.
- The aliens in Ender’s Game resemble insects and thus are often called Buggers, which makes an awful lot of the text hard to stomach for British readers... "We can't let the Buggers win!" "I'm going to kill as many of the Buggers as possible!" It would be akin to somebody writing a huge sci-fi epic where we're being invaded by deadly swarms of Dumbasses or surrounded by Assholes. This is lampshaded in Ender's Shadow, which reveals the formal name of the aliens is "Formic" and European-native Bean is entertained by the Americans and others calling the aliens expletives.
- Only the original novel heavily uses the word. Any comic book will use "Formics" instead, and the Ender's Game Alive audioplay only uses "Buggers" when someone is upset and really means it. "Formics" is used otherwise. The prequel novels have many other names for the newly-discovered aliens by the Asteroid Miners, who usually consist of clans from various ethnic groups. When a scientist first finds out that the Venezuelan miners aboard the El Cavador named them Hormigas ("ants" in Spanish), she refuses to use the term, claiming that no scientist would approve of a living being being named in a still-spoken language, preferring to use the roughly-equivalent Latin term Formic.
- The Han Solo Adventures series contains a character named Bollux. Whether that was a deliberate attempt at Getting Crap Past the Radar is up for debate but, unsurprisingly, he was renamed for the UK release. Han specifically asks him at one point if he minds that his name is a rather insulting joke, so it's not really worried about the radar. In some rural parts of the US, "bollocks" is simply used to mean "testicles, usually of an animal", (e.g. in the context of castrating a bull)—it's slightly more objectionable than "buttocks".
- John Brunner, in his dystopian near-future novel The Sheep Look Up (set in a Twenty Minutes In The Future version of the USA), fell foul of this by having a midwestern DJ (who had been poisoned, alongside thousands of others, by leakage into the water table of a military psychedelic) use the word "bollocks" in what is probably the filthiest limerick ever printed.
- In The Kane Chronicles, which is G-rated, except for a Narrative Profanity Filter with Carter sometimes, Sadie uses the word "bloody" a lot.
- Jack Vance innocently named an alien race the Wankh; the resulting book Servants of the Wankh sold quite well in a niche market. For a recent republication he consented to rename them Wannek, irritating at least a few fans because a race that can express a sentence in the overtones of a single chime ought to be monosyllabic.
- Some of the Warhammer 40,000 novels in The Space Wolf Omnibus seems to have very little cursing other than this.
- In The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, Zynn utters the priceless line "That’s why I’m the leader of this pathetic group. The only thing you little buggers do is ask questions". Seeing as the author marketed the book for children ages six to twelve, she presumably was unaware of what "buggers" actually meant.
Live Action TV
- Spoofed in 30 Rock: After the supposedly British Phoebe accidentally used an American accent when she got upset and Liz called her on it, Phoebe picked up her British accent again and replied "I don't know what you're on about, you daft wanker."
- In one episode of Friends, Chandler calls a character a "wank", to which many British viewers react with surprise or disbelief.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel lived and breathed this trope through the character of Spike and occasionally Giles.
- Giles also repeatedly calls people "pillock," which despite being a mild swear word in the UK, stands out compared to the American characters' cleaner language. Especially given Giles' clipped and somewhat posh phrasing most of the time.
- Not to mention Spike used a V Sign several times, probably the director worked under the assumption that no-one outside of the U.K. would know it's offensive when the back of the hand faces the recipient. It's even in the Season Five opening credits.
- Then there's the hilarious moment in the episode "Tabula Rasa" where Anya accuses Giles of using a lot of British slang that she doesn't understand. When he argues that she couldn't possibly have heard him say any of them words she mentioned (they had lost their memories at this time), she retorts, "Oh, bugger off, you brolly!" which is a slang term for umbrella. Clearly Anya overestimates her curses.
- There's a truly startling moment in Angel where Spike instructs Angel to "wank off," the writer apparently believing this is analogous to "piss off." It really isn't. It's commonly believed that Joss knew what was meant. The creators have joked in the commentaries about how they could use language that would never have made it past the censors if not for the fact that it was British, rather than American, obscenity. Although it may have worked well for American broadcast, it somewhat spoiled the UK transmission of the show, which had to cut the "wankers" and the "bollocks" from pre-watershed airings, thus making dialogue occasionally choppy and nonsensical.
- Spike tells Xander to "fag off" in a season 4 episode of Buffy. The word "fag" has several meanings, but "fag off" means nothing on either side of the pond.
- Spike is just wonderful for this. He at one point dismisses another character as a "bloody poof." In the UK, the word is only slightly more acceptable than "faggot" and was probably not intended to be so harsh.
- Arrested Development Michael's British girlfriend refers to him as a pussy and he assumes he's being called a wimp. A voice over explains that in England this is actually a term of endearment. It's not clear whether the writers were mistaken or simply invented a fact for the sake of the joke.
- In an episode of iCarly, a one-shot British character calls the main characters hob-knockers at least five times. Only one of them knows "what it really means", however, and they don't say it out loud to the viewers. In this case, Brits would be equally mystified: the insult appears to be either made up or an archaic dialect word.
- In Leverage, which is otherwise almost entirely devoid of profanity, Sophie Devereaux is introduced in a flashback where Nate shoots her and she snarls, "You wanker!"
- Ewan McGregor was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few years back, and the conversation turned to the V-sign. McGregor was asked to explain the history of it (the false folk etymology based on the English longbowmen at Agincourt), and while doing so he demonstrated it to the entire audience. The audience cheered madly, and McGregor started laughing about how he had just flipped off both live and viewing audiences and was being applauded for doing so. He actually looked rather embarrassed by it.
- Dinner Impossible chef Robert Irvine frequently throws out stuff like "bollocks," "bugger," "bloody," and "tosser" and Food Network never bleeps any of it. It's only when he uses profanity that's unsuitable for US TV that they bleep him.
- In Corner Gas, when Davis feels the need to use British English words ('football') over their Canadian English counterparts ('soccer').
Davis: Thanks for donating the footballs.
Lacey: Well, it's the least I could do for our soccer team; give them some soccer balls, to play soccer with.
Davis: The proper term is 'football'. It's good for the kids to hear some of the British terminology.
Lacey: So what's the British term for a person who uses stupid British terms?
Davis: A wanker.
- Given the entirely-innocent grin on Davis' face, he likely didn't realize how offensive the word was. Which was probably part of the joke.
- It's a little jarring, considering the superficially clean nature of MST3K humour, to hear them burst out with the occasional stronger-in-Britain profanity. They use the terms correctly, it's just an unexpected comedy bonus as there's virtually no US profanity in the series.
- Neil Connery inviting someone to 'kiss my white Scottish arse.'
- Receptionist at 'Nirvana Village' doppling centre: "Your kind has to take what you can get." "And what's that?" "Bollocks!"
- In Weird Science, Lisa once used 'wank' to mean any pointless pastime. "Then you can wank to your heart's content. Wank, wank, wank."
- Irish actor Colm Meaney got away with saying "bollocks" in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Time's Orphan". The BBC airing was edited accordingly.
- On an episode of Judge Judy (which is available on her DVD "Justice Served"), a man is suing a woman he had a one-night-stand with for allegedly stealing his checkbook the morning after. The judge at one point says his bank account was "all bollocksed up," which passed uncensored. Presumably, JJ was not aware of the potential vulgarity, and neither were American S&P censors.
- Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, a spinoff of an American show made in Canada, featuring mostly British actors, seems to have Alice and/or the Knave of Hearts say the phrase "bloody hell" in nearly episode, as well as other occasional phrases like "sod off". This is a family show, right?
- The English Sarah and Fee from Orphan Black are, fair enough, the most likely characters to swear like sailors anyway, but really. Besides which, "Get your fanny out of there?" No. That's not a thing.
- For unknown reasons, the German dub of How I Met Your Mother often leaves the english word "Bimbo" as unstranslated Gratuitous English. The problem is that Bimbo is already a German word and it is a rather offensive synonym for the N-word.
- Frank Zappa wrote a song called "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead", which appears on his live album Bongo Fury, sung by Captain Beefheart. He was unaware of the meaning of "Poofter" and just thought it was a funny British word. When a British journalist told him what it actually means (a less offensive version of faggot), he was shocked. Unsurprisingly, this song is hilarious to British listeners in a way that was never intended.
- The Monkees were told their song "Randy Scouse Git" was not acceptable in the UK because of its title, and would have to be released with an alternate title. So, they called it "Alternate Title."
- On LoveLine, Adam Carolla once pondered if it was okay to say "shite" on the radio at 10 PM pacific (it is, or at least it was when he said it).
- A succession of radio commercials with an Austin Powers tie-in had him openly talking about "shagging" every thirty seconds, apparently without any notion of what the Belgium it MEANS.
- Having researched Victorian thieves' cant enough to create a glossary but not enough to know which words were still in use, the Dungeons & Dragons setting Planescape also included "berk" on its list of slang. To make matters worse, most of the books were written in-universe style, slathering virtually every character's speech with cant, and that was the writers' single favorite word. Most Brits don't know what berk derives from, so it does sometimes get used casually in the UK as well, but it is still a reasonably strong term (equivalent to "moron") even if you don't know its history. note
- Though the few still-in-use terms included in the Cant were jarring enough (Bloody and Sodding being the most jarring) the use of the word Pike for "move on" was ill-advised, since the only derivation still in use is "Pikey", which is rather racist
- Strangely enough, "pike" is still in use in Australia and New Zealand (where it isn't offensive at all, and means "to cancel at the last minute on a social engagement"), along with "piker" (one who is notorious for doing so). "Pikey" is however completely unknown (or at least it was, until Snatch).
- The term Fan Wank: There's usually discord between it and the tone of the environment in which it's being used. This gets even more discordant when someone describes a claim as being Wankable. And of course, if you know what it means you could take it as a compliment (it's used as one in porn reviews).
- That apparently metaphorical meaning of 'wank' seems to have overtaken the literal British meaning on the Internet. Apparently alternate history's full of wankers.
- However, the term Fan Wank often has a more literal meaning when used by Brits. In the Doctor Who fandom, for instance, Fan Wank is used to mean "Continuity references put in the script to get the fans off", as if the writers were tossing the fanbase off. This is closer in spirit to Script Wank, which is as if the writers are tossing themselves off.
- In Recettear, Charme, The Lady Thief, repeatedly introduces herself as a "professional Berk." One wonders whether Carpe Fulgar knew exactly where that quaint colloquialism came from. note
- Sonic Rush Adventure got a 12 rating in the UK partly because the (American) translators gave Marine the Raccoon, who speaks in an exaggerated Australian accent, a line involving the word "bugger." It still got a G rating in Australia, because Australians tend to take swearing much more in stride.
- Sonic 3 had a a tank-like, insectoid badnik named in the manual as Buggernaut.
- The European box art◊ for Sonic Heroes has the titular hedgehog holding up three fingers to symbolise the three-character teams used in the game. The three fingers in question are his thumb, index and middle fingers, from the back. The American box art◊ doesn't show his hand.
- Mario Party 8 (seen above): The line "Magikoopa magic! Turn the train spastic!" in the Shy Guy's Perplex Express board game initially caused the game to be recalled in the UK, where "spastic" is seen as an insulting term for the disabled. It was changed to "erratic" over there.
- Before that game, Mario Party 7 did this in the intro to Grand Canal. Toadsworth said the word "bugger", which can lead to a big faulty disaster in PAL regions...
- The GBA game Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga features a race of snails named 'winkles'. Nothing wrong with that in America - 'winkle' is simply a shortened form of 'periwinkle', which is a snail. But in the southern UK, 'winkle' is also an old-fashioned childish word for a male organ. And this is a game primarily aimed at kids.
- Super Mario RPG has Croco refer to Mario as a "persistent bugger" at one point; when Europe finally got SMRPG on the Virtual Console, it got changed to "persistent pest" to avoid PEGI giving it a 12+ rating.
- Reverse example. In the DS version of Dragon Quest V, Prince Harry tells the main character, before his wedding to not "cock it up." Cue the player making innuendos about the wedding night. Although, considering Prince Harry's choice of souvenir for his own wedding (he has musical instruments made so he can gleefully present the player with his very own *coughcough* "marital organ,") this one might be intentional.
- Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacyl features a fisherman with a stereotypical pseudo-Bristolian seafarers' accent. He describes unwanted fish as "buggers". The game got off with a 3+ ("general") rating.
- (Perhaps) unintentional: Shagohod. Makes perfect sense if you understand the Russian name. If you don't, you might only pick up on the first few letters...
- If you do, don't go to Russia. "Shag" by itself means "step", so you'll be exhausted by giggling every time it's used in about an hour and a half.
- Subverted by Ratchet & Clank. The American subtitle of the third game is Up Your Arsenal; for some reason, they decided to drop the subtitle for the European release. It's almost certain they knew what they were doing given the subtitles of the other games, such as Going Commando (which also didn't make it across the Atlantic without a rename), and Quest for Booty (which did).
- And the previous game got away with a character saying 'arse'. However, the third game is careful to avoid the trope. A character uses the word 'bollocks', but it's censored.
- Jazz Jackrabbit 2 fell into this trope in Britain, due to Jazz's brother being called Spaz. "Spazzy" in American English simply means "zany" or "crazy", which definitely describes him, but anywhere else it would be like naming him "Retard."
- An interesting version that's actually not with American and British English but Japanese and American English happens in the little known PSP game Po Po Lo Crois. A monster fought very early in the game is called "Pecker". Well yeah, it is a bird after all, except guess what "Pecker" means in English? It's a slang word for a penis. It's unknown whether the game is rated "T" in North America for this reason or because there are some rather violent scenes.
- On Team Fortress 2, the phrase "bloody" is pretty common in the vocabulary of Demoman, a Scotsman, and Sniper, an Australian. Sniper is also keen on using the word "wanker." The game is rated Mature (17 and up), but the other characters keep to milder language, in keeping with the lighthearted tone of the game (the strongest words they use are "ass" and "son of a bitch").
- Note however that between the well-established insanity of every character in the game and the sheer enthusiasm in the delivery of these lines, the offensiveness to British ears is seriously diluted. Most of the stronger language just comes across as being used ironically.
- The Korean-developed Alliance Of Valiant Arms has one of the EU side's taunts vocalized as "Go ahead, shoot some more, you bloody tossers!" One can suppose it was the British voice actor ad-libbing a bit, as the other English taunts use somewhat more benign words like "rascals" and "cowards".
- The manual for Crash Team Racing offers advice for avoiding missile attacks by saying that, if the player is, 'being tailed by one of these buggers,' it's a good idea to drop something behind you. Could be Getting Crap Past the Radar.
- Chrono Trigger features enemies called Buggers (possibly a Shout-Out by the translators to the Ender’s Game example, but as they are robotic and accompanied by enemies called "Debuggers" it is likely to be a coding reference and unintentionally funny). The Nintendo DS release had a new translation that changed the enemies' names to Verminator and Deverminator respectively since that release was the first time the game made it across the Atlantic. The new names seem to imply that they're rogue pest control robots.
- Non-offensive example - the band of carpenters are referred to as "blokes" by their boss. Obviously the translator has heard that "blokes" = "guys" - however, when an English-speaking player sees "Come on, you blokes!" it stands out like he had greeted a group of women with "Come on, you females!". In Australia the terms are interchangeable, but the character's supposed to be British, and British people don't use "blokes" that way. "Mate", "pal", or "chum" would make more sense in context.
- Early on in the game, one particularly disgruntled character will tell you to "take your bloody time!".
- Star Wars Battlefront 2 is almost completely devoid of profanity, which makes it surprising when an Imperial officer acknowledges a particular Jedi Master with what seems to be a sarcastic, 'Yoda? Bloody wonderful' (if it's not 'bloody', it's something similar enough to be a euphemism).
- The Australian versions of the New Play Control Pikmin games change the name of the Pollywog and Wollywog to Pollyhop and Wollyhop, respectively. ("Wog" is a slur for Mediterranean people, and the words "pollywog" and "wollywog" are evocative of "Gollywog", which are offensive caricatures of black people.)
- British players of Escape from Monkey Island have been rather taken aback upon hearing the usually family-friendly Guybrush Threepwood describe a group of termites as "little buggers."
- Portal 2 features Wheatley, a personality core with a pronounced British accent and vocabulary to match. Later in the game, when things stop going his way, he begins tossing around "bloody" an awful lot for a game rated E10 in the U.S. (One must also however consider that Wheatley was made in the United States in-universe, so it could just be stupidity on the part of Aperture.)
- It should be noted, however, that Cave Johnson also uses the word damn in a couple of his recordings so the ESBR's decision to keep it an E10 rating probably wasn't cultural blindness.
- Any number of online swearfilters for games: take this list of banned words (rather obviously NSFW) from Warhammer 40000 Spacemarine, which includes typos and foreign language swearing (as well as every single Scunthorpe Problem word), but not bugger, arse, bloody, wanker, sod, shag...
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution's Missing Link DLC, being made outside the UK, shows the development team isn't too experienced with the lingo; an Irish character comments on a weapon being "the bollocks", which, most likely to the confusion of whomever wrote the subtitle script, has compromised with "bullocks". The proper expression is "the dog's bollocks", meaning "really good" (simply calling something "bollocks" means it's bad).
- Rocket Racoon in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 gets away with calling people 'wankers' just by having a British accent. Which is strange, since one of his other taunts gets censored to "Flark-Face".
- Actually, the term "Flark" is commonly used in the comics by Marvel's cosmic heroes including Nova and Star-Lord. Whether or not it's supposed to be a swear in the cosmic culture or a case of Gosh Dang It to Heck! is not clearly defined.
- The Banjo-Kazooie games contain a lot of racy Britishisms that slipped past ESRB censors and got an E rating. Note that given Rare's sense of humor this was almost certainly on purpose.
- Rareware inverted this trope with its next game Donkey Kong 64, using the line "One hell of a guy" in the infamous D.K. Rap.
- In Super Paper Mario, Dimentio, trying to provoke Luigi into fighting him, refers to his mustache as a "shag," to which Luigi takes offense at. Shag in America means unkempt. In British English, however, it's slang for a sexual encounter (it can also serve as the verb for the act), so they altered the line to simply calling Luigi a pushover.
- In Luigi's Mansion, Professor E. Gadd refers to a ghost as "the little bugger". In the UK, at least, this seems unusually strong language for a kid's game.
- Kabam's Kingdoms Of Camelot on Facebook has sound effects for various actions and screens within the game. Some are just sounds and some are spoken words supposedly by your troops or whoever. When you're attacked and you click on the report, if it's one where you lost, you can clearly hear someone saying "bugger off" in the string of words and sounds, intended to convey depressed and disappointed troops, that accompany it.
- The original box art for Left 4 Dead 2 showed the back of a hand with the middle and index fingers raised, a fairly innocuous gesture in the States, but not so much elsewhere, requiring a change to be made for overseas boxes. Can be seen side by side here◊.
- Foggyland is the equivalent of England in the Earthbound verse, but Dr. Andonuts uses the word "fag" as an insult rather than a cigarette in The Halloween Hack.
- Bosco in Sam & Max: Freelance Police exclaims 'Bugger' and 'Bollocks' while impersonating a stereotypical British gent in Situation: Comedy.
- In one strip in Irregular Webcomic!, Colonel Haken discovers what he assumes to be a coprolite, only for Erwin to tell him it isn't one yet. Haken drops the brown object in question and exclaims, "Ach! Verdammte Scheiße!" David Morgan-Mar assumed the word "Scheiße" was a mild German word, only to be informed by German readers that it is actually a very rude one.
- Played straight and averted by Survival of the Fittest, as some British characters are played by British handlers themselves, while others do tend to lapse into this.
- Bakura in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series swears one bloody hell of a lot. You wankers.
- Invoked since the maker of the videos actually IS British.
- While swearing is very infrequent and mild in the Homestar Runner universe, in sb_email 22, Strong Bad receives an e-mail from a fan from England. Since the e-mail concluded with "Thank You," Strong Bad told the sender he would sound more English if he used something in its place like "Cheers," "Cheerio," or "Nevermind the Bullocks." Of course, knowing Strong Bad he probably didn't know or care he was being offensive, or perhaps thought he was but wasn't, since the British term is 'bollocks', and 'bullocks' refers to cattle.
- Swearing is mild and rare except for the fact that the use of the word "crap" was a running joke in some of the Strong Bad e-mails.
- Linkara once, "borrowed a phrase from the British" to describe people as 'twats', but pronounced it 't-wot' - to rhyme with hot, instead of 't-wat' to rhyme with hat, cue many confused British people wondering what the hell a twart is and why it's apparently British.
- In his second "Top 15 Screw-Ups", he notes that his use of "heroic spaz attack" has been discontinued after his British fans informed him of its association with cerebral palsy.
- Bravest Warriors never uses strong language intentionally, but there is a character named Wankershim.
- Wil Wheaton exclaims 'Bollocks' multiple times in the Ticket to Ride: Europe episode of Table Top. This is later discussed in the episode's gag reel:
Wil: We can say 'Bollocks' in America like crazy, and nobody knows what we're saying, but over in Europe they have a real problem with that. Also, hello, England. Fanny.
- Happened in The Simpsons several times - Bart has used the word "wanker" several times, and more egregiously, Groundskeeper Willie used the word "shite" to describe a tractor. You'd think people would notice that it's just one almost silent letter away from its American counterpart. (Sky1 apparently didn't notice this until after their first airing of this episode - unsurprisingly it's cut from future screenings, and as Channel Four runs the series at 6pm it's safe to say it's snipped there as well.)
- One episode featured a Sex Pistols parody including a song consisting entirely of "<Noun> is bollocks!"; for comparison, this is essentially equivalent to "bullshit." When the episode was aired on Sky in the UK it was the first Simpsons episode ever to premier after the watershed.
- Winked at in an episode where Homer is forced to ensure the safety of a screaming caterpillar taking up refuge in their garden. After making it clear several times he wishes to kill it but knows he can't, Homer accidentally (almost) kills it. The judge then sentences him to community service for (among other things) "...aggravated buggery."
- The episode Wild Barts Can't be Broken features a spoof of classic English horror films, which centres on a group of children being able to tell the adults of the village their secrets. One of the children accuses two men of rogering a woman. That scene is uncensored on Channel 4.
- The episode "Trash of the Titans" features the Irish band U2, and repeated use of the word 'wankers'.
- It's also gone right over Principal Skinner's head on one occasion:
Bart: Oh, come on, everyone knows the first day of school's a total wank.
Skinner: If by wank you mean educational fun, then stand back, it's wanking time.
- Family Guy have also used to the 'w' word - when Stewie makes it to the set of Jolly Farm Revue and is told to "Piss off, you grotty little wanker!" Although Family Guy being the tasteful show it is, they probably knew what was being said.
- Almost certainly the latter, to judge by previous examples of FG fun with Anglicisms:
Cleveland: The only British idiom I know is that "fag" means "cigarette."
Peter: Well, someone tell this "cigarette" to shut up.
- Stewie (who has a fake British accent because he's a villain), uses both British and American words. Cue hilarity when he vainly refers to his backside as his "fanny".
- In the Daria episode "Depth Takes a Holiday", the Holiday Spirit of Guy Fawkes Day punctuated nearly everything he said with the word 'Bollocks!'; "wanker" and "tossers" also make an appearance. As a result, the entire episode was (mercifully, one imagines) cut from the UK presentation of the series. The fact that the episode played mostly uncut on Noggin, when the song 'Gah God Damn It!' from "Daria! The Musical" was removed, is the source of quite a few snickers by those few US fans who were in the know.
- One episode of The Powerpuff Girls featured the Mayor catching a flying object and exuberantly yelling "I've got it, I've got the little bugger!" The first part of the line was apparently looped when it aired in Europe.
- Animaniacs: Amusingly, Wakko, who speaks with a Liverpudlian accent, has used the term "fanny" a few times.
- Mighty Max had an episode featuring swarms of killer insects in which Max regularly refers to them by the term "bugger". It's not clear whether the creators wished to imply that he was a closet Orson Scott Card fan (unlikely given his Book Dumb tendencies), were Getting Crap Past the Radar or genuinely didn't know what it meant in the UK. Hilarity Ensued when the show was picked up for syndication over here and transmitted without anyone bothering to watch it all the way through first...
- This clip from The Flintstones where Wilma says bollocks.
- Wilma actually says "bollix," which comes from the same root (balls) and actually means the same ( messed up) as "bollocks." In the US at least, bollix can be used in polite society,whereas, while we might not know the root or real meaning of either word, we have a feeling that bollucks shouldn't be used when ladies are present.( If Lady Snootington is present, its best not to use bollix either, lest she deem us to be a wanker.
- The Transformers episode "The Girl Who Loved Powerglide" opens with a man with a British accent saying "I feel like an absolute bloody fool."
- Lizzie in Cars refers to her husband as a 'persistent little bugger'.
- Perhaps she had shag carpeting in the boot ( Boot UK = trunk US)
- Hey Arnold! is jam-packed with this:
- When there is a British character featured with dialogue, they nearly always use "bloody" as a casual adjective.
- It gets worse when Brit fashion designer Johnny Stitches shows up to make Helga his new muse. He casually swears all the time, and punctuates his exit with one almighty "BOLLOCKS!" Oddly, this remains uncensored on Netflix UK.
- The local themepark the kids always talk about is called "Wanky Land"
- A mild version crops up in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic in the episode "Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000". Specifically, the fact that in North America, "cider" is generally used to refer to a non-alcoholic drink whereas across the pond it's generally assumed to be alcoholic, what Americans would refer to as "Hard Cider". As a result, a lot of Europeans got a kick out of the cast going to ridiculous lengths in order to get cider. Although the cider foaming at the top combined with some of the ponies' reactions to drinking it may make this an intentional case of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
- BBC America lampshaded this in an advert that went "Bugger. Roger. Wanker. Shite. Find out what they mean before the censors do."
- "Bloody" is not generally considered an offensive swear word in America, Canada and Australia, while it is to some degree in the UK.
- For Americans, it's the most well-known foreign swear word and famous for not being vulgar at all to themselves. Americans will often throw it out casually when attempting a stereotypical British accent.
- The term is safe enough for police forces in Alberta and Saskatchewan to run a series of ads with the slogan, "If you drink and drive, you're a bloody idiot!" The ads did draw protests from Canadians, but for using the word "idiot."
- In Australia, "bloody" is simply an emphatic way of saying "very", with little residual offensive value.
- In the UK, "bloody" is generally considered worse than any simple blasphemous curse still in use ("hell", "damn", "Christ", etc.), even though the origin is rather obscured.
- Like the above examples of Americans using British swear words, most younger Asians know the meaning of these words (more or less), but find them cute or funny because, as foreign words, they don't have the same emotional impact. Similarly, many Japanese people, particularly young ones, are aware from movies that the middle finger gesture is rude in the United States - they just don't realize HOW rude, and will happily throw it around as if it was just a gesture of wacky mild defiance. Manga and anime characters are sometimes drawn making the gesture as well, with the same not-meant-to-be-offensive context, which can be very jarring for American manga readers who aren't used to that kind of thing.
- To English speakers, cojones is no more offensive than "balls," and may even be used as a euphemism. In Spanish, it's considered rude.
- Some years ago, a US network purchased an Australian tv show (The Flying Doctors) but required certain dialogue changes made - specifically, when a young boy describes his injuries as hurting 'like buggery'. In Australian, although most people are aware of the actual meaning of the word, it's rarely used that way or censored when used in other ways. The comedy troupe Doug Anthony All Stars got considerable mileage out of variations on this joke:
Richard injures himself
Paul or Tim: Does that hurt, mate?
Richard: Yeah, it hurts like buggery.
Tim and Paul in chorus: No Richard, nothing hurts like buggery...
- In America, "spaz" is a gentle insult to say that someone is prone to going crazy or acting silly. "Spazzing out" is a casual term for temporarily going crazy, but not considered vulgar or rude in and of itself. In the UK, however, its original form "spastic" is used to describe someone with literal developmental or physical disabilities, and its use as an insult is taken seriously. Its original usage was a clinical term to simply describe muscle spasms.
- "Retard" is a stronger pejorative in the UK than the US, though the gap is narrowing due to some highly publicized backlash against the term in America.
- Due to years of enforced squeaky-cleanliness by the Franco regime, there was an enormous backlash of profanity on Spanish television during the transition to democracy. This has led to Spaniards being comfortable hearing "joder" being dropped left and right in early evening sitcoms. Exporting them to Latin America, on the other hand...
- Often satirized on British magazine TV shows such as That's Life, which sometimes featured foreign products which accidentally fell into this trope — such as (Danish) Bollux washing powder. Such a pity that was never marketed in the UK, imagine the campaign; "To all your tough laundry stains, say Bollux".
- French from France and Quebec French have various dialectal differences. When the Premier of Quebec visited France in 2009, a French member of parliament thought that it would be a friendly gesture to welcome him with a nice, informal Quebec phrase. His staff found a phrase online meaning "I hope you're not too tired" (from your trip.) Unfortunately, it was J'espčre que vous n'avez pas la plotte ŕ terre, literally meaning "I hope you don't have your cunt on the ground." The story (in French).
- There is a chain of themed pubs (traditional Irish apparently) in Australia called Pug Mahones. Wonder how many people know that 'pugmahones (póg mo thóin)' is Irish Gaelic for 'Kiss my arse'? There is probably as much if not more Irish ancestry in Australia than English. Plus, kiss my arse is pretty mild for Australians. And with this being Australia, it's more than likely it's entirely intentional.
- It's also the derivation of the band name "The Pogues", originally "Pogue Mahone". They shortened it when BBC airplay became a likelihood, as it was pointed out that there are Irish-speakers who listen.
- In Aussie slang, the word "root" is somewhat offensive, depending on its context. It's generally considered vulgar, but not actually swearing as such.
- After the 2008 Olympics, when Australian diver Matthew Mitcham won the gold medal in a pretty amazing come-from-behind (no pun intended) victory. He was apparently pretty amused and surprised when he heard a bunch of American fans saying "they were rooting for him."
- One of the sponsors of the 2010 Olympics was a Canadian clothing company called Roots (a longtime Olympics and NHL supplier, and Canada's answer to The Gap) . One wonders why the Australian team seemed so interested in wearing their stuff...
- On a similar note, in the promotional trailers for the Yogi Bear movie in Australia, they left in the voiceover saying "It's time to root for the bears."
- The word 'twat' in some parts of Britain is just as offensive and has the same meaning as the C-word, but in Scotland it is often used as a marginally-more-offensive form of "twit" (as in "you complete twat"). When a scientist was quoted as saying anyone who thought the Large Hadron Collider was going to destroy the world was "being a twat," it was rather amusing to note the difference in how many letters of the word, if any, various newspapers chose to censor.
- It's also worth mention that "Twat" is actually a less extreme epithet than the "C-word", even in Britain (with "fanny" being far, far less offensive, school-child version of both) however none of these words is considered as bad as it is in the U.S., where calling someone "female genitalia" is potentially grounds for divorce proceedings to take place.
- It's also worth mentioning that to twat something means to hit it extremely hard in some regions of the UK. Hence, all the original Red Dwarf videos were rated PG, except for series III part 1, which was rated 15. This was due to the episode Polymorph containing the line from a Lister temporarily devoid of fear, talking about an emotion-devouring shape-shifting monster, "Well I say, let's get out there and twat it!"
- For reference, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a 'twat' as a 'small gap or forest clearing'. So now you know. This is why it appears in some place names, much to the amusement of tourists.
- Note that it's usually pronounced to rhyme with 'hat', but can be pronounced to rhyme with 'hot', as sometimes done in America.
- When it rhymes with "hot" in Britain it usually doesn't carry the same weight, like "fucking" and "frigging". Saying "You daft twot" is funny and/or affectionate. There is no way that "twat" itself could ever be either.
- In American English, it's an old-fashioned euphemism for "buttocks", and is not considered offensive at all. In British English, however, "fanny" is a crude term for female genitalia, it and words like it (minge and so forth) carry the same impact as "pussy" in American.
- In Australia, "fanny" is the generally accepted word that children use for vagina, much like "willy" or "doodle" for a penis. The fact that it's offensive makes its use in Australia all the funnier.
- Fanny was also at one time quite a popular name for girls and dogs in many parts of the world. This has led to generations of juvenile sniggering when 'classic' literature comes up with lines like "Will no one come and play with my little Fanny?".
- Fox Sports showed a lot of interest in British sports by being one of the first outlets to report on English footballer Wayne Rooney's plan to leave Manchester United. Just as impressive was their choice of article name - 'Later, wankers.' It was changed, but British papers and panel shows had a field day.
- Many cursewords are loanwords from Russian and Arabic, and are perceived as far milder in Hebrew (actually, only elderly people in Israel would really frown upon cursewords nowadays). For instance, the common phrase kus emek "כוס אמק" (literally 'yo' mamma's cunt' in colloquial Arabic, used as a very strong version of 'fuck!' or 'fuck you!') could startle Arabs but is seen as a frequent term of displeasure for Hebrew, albeit somewhat crude (somewhat like 'damnit'). Similarily the most common Russian curseword in Hebrew, k yebyona mat, literally meaning 'to the fucking mother', is pronounced kibinimat "קיבינימט" in Hebrew, with the vast majority of native Hebrew speakers entirely unaware of its meaning and using it as an equivalent of 'kus emek', or as the equivalent of English 'Hell' or 'to Hell' ("send them kibinimat"/"to kibinimat" is like a crude version of 'to Hell with them', and 'go kibinimat' is, well, go to Hell).
- These habits may have been picked up osmotically from Polish, where the equivalent of kus emek - kurwa mać is used exactly the way described above, and the expression kibinimat (or kibinimater) is still in use, though to lesser extent than it was before the World War II.
- Israelis have also picked up on English swearwords, but they don't carry the same offensive connotation as they do in the United States or Canada. It's not uncommon to hear a little Israeli boy say "fuck" or "shit" with no one batting an eye.
- Other popular Arabic curses include 'In-al dinac' (curse your religion) and 'Tiz a nabi' (ass of the prophet). Both are offensive to Muslims and used by Jews without understanding the true meaning. In particular, the latter is used to denote a forsaken, far away place.
- Another pearl is the Ladino/Spanish/Italian 'De mi culo' (literally 'from my ass'). Israelis somehow decided this means corrupt/incompetent adjective. In one notable instance, a parliament member called her own party that...
- In Germany and the Netherlands, English curse words are used quite often and are usually considered to be less offensive than the German equivalent. So any German who visits the US should remember not to say shit or fuck as they're used to doing.
- In an accidental inversion of this trope, English-language works of fiction will often have a stereotypical French-speaking character shout "Zut alors!" To French speakers, this is very mild language.
- In Norway:
- The word "skitt" is a slightly informal word for "dirt" (the verb form, "skitten" is the common term for "dirty"), but can also be used as an extremely mild expression of anger (we're talking about as offensive as saying "oh no" here), as well as a very mild insult typically directed at physical objects (around the level of calling something a "stupid thing"). The word is pronounced exactly the same way as the English "shit". Cue not-very-English-savvy Norwegians picking up the word "shit" from English television and movies and assuming it's as inoffensive as the Norwegian word, then trying to use it in English-speaking countries.
- Also, "homo" is a common shortform for the far more stiff "homofil" (homosexual), and also an informal, though not rude, word for "gay man". Assuming the same is the case in English-speaking countries is not good for your health.
- While the horns are used as a warding/cursing gesture in most Latin countries, in 'some' of them (mainly Brazil and Italy) they can also mean "your wife is cheating on you". Incidentally in some latin countries (mainly Brazil and Italy, notice a trend here?) "your wife is cheating" is considered one of the worst possible insults, and in the wrong company can easily get you stabbed for the trouble. (Which, in turn, makes the trope played quite literally).
- "Where the bloody hell are you?" Australian tourism ad. Banned in American (for hell) and Britain (for bloody).
- The N-word:
- It's made its way to Bosnia through rap videos on MTV, where black people throw the term around casually as a term for friends. Cue Bosnian youths greeting each other with "Vatz-ap mah nigga" and some very pissed off tourists. Also South Slavic profanities are infamously crude, creative and ubiquitous, so most English swear-words are barely acknowledged as such.
- In Russia, ironically, calling someone "black" can be much more offensive than stating that someone was or is "Negr". Russians never had a problem linked to objectifying black people, you see, but "black" is also used to generalize and label people from Caucasia, which has a whole different level of emotional load.
- Has a funny case between Estonian and Finnish. In Finnish the neutral word is "musta" (literally "black") and the word "neekeri" is offensive. Meanwhile in Estonia, the neutral word is "neeger" (pronounced almost identically to the Finnish version) and "must" is the offensive word (because in Estonian, the word means both "black" and "dirty"). The fact that the two languages are just barely similar enough for exactly the wrong amount of understanding makes for some awkward situations.
- Romanian language has made (over centuries) the slang word for a Jew (jidan, borrowed from Slavs) to turn into a rather mild and acceptable insult, due to endless repetition in informal speech and jokes. It has similar meaning to the closely-related word yid as used in modern English language and it's just as offensive.
- Many half-decent tries at imitating a Jamaican accent depend heavily on an irate tone and liberal uses of the word "ras claat" or "bombo claat" without the speaker actually understanding what they are saying. For all intents and purposes, the speaker is calling the object of their annoyance a used tampon. This insult is (for obvious reasons) hardly ever used on a daily basis, being reserved for the worst sort of people; by hilarious contrast, it most probably appears more times in imitations of Jamaican speech (because of how strange it sounds to outsiders) than in Jamaican speech itself.
- Used brilliantly by an American prisoner of war in Vietnam to show his cruel treatment by the guards. They 'interviewed' him about conditions in his prisoner of war camp and made it very clear that if he didn't say he was well treated they would punish him. When they photographed him to send the photo along with his statement back to the US he gave the photographer a Double Middle Finger. The guards, not familiar with the meaning of the gesture sent the image back to the US. His middle fingers were airbrushed out and the image was used as on the front page of Time Magazine.
- This popped up in a summit between Spain and Argentina, where some Spanish politician used the word "coger". While in Spain it means just "take" or "pick", in Argentina it's something entirely different.
- In American Sign Language, the sign for "vagina" is made by holding your hands flat, fingers together, thumbs extended, and the tips of the thumbs and forefingers touching. Now think of how many times you've seen a hearing person making that sign or a close variation of it when they don't know what else to do with their hands. Notable example: Michelle Obama on the cover of the Dec 2011/Jan 2012 Reader's Digest.
- University of Oregon sports fans cheer on their teams by making an "O" with their thumbs and forefingers. This has caused problems with Pac-12 officials who didn't realize the "vagina" sign is made by pointing the index fingers down with the palms in instead of up with the palms out. It's also a frequent topic of bad tailgate banners during Civil War games with rival school Oregon State, whose mascot is...a beaver.
- In Britain, BBC4 found it necessary to issue a warning that in one particular episode of Danish political drama Borgen that there would be "strong language". Borgen is subtitled rather than dubbed into English. While it is true that this particular episode contained a few "shit"s and the occasional "fuck" in the subtitling, what completely passed under the radar is that these words are not considered the strongest expletives in most Scandinavian languages, on a par with "bloody", "bugger" and "sod". Other episodes lacked no such prefatory warning at all, despite use of Danish terms roughly meaning "Go to Hell!" and related high-emotional damning, despite the fact that in Denmark, Sweden and Norway this is the worst possible "Fuck Off!" that you can say to somebody. Expat Danes in Britain might justifiably have wondered where their advisory warning was...
- Another Australian vs American language example: In Australia they're called thongs. In America, they're called flip-flops. Confusion regularly ensues. They used to be called "thongs" in American dialect as well, though more often said as "thong sandals." It was the rise in popularity of the underwear that led to the term falling out of favor for the footwear.
- In America, it's an eraser. In Britain, it is often called a rubber. Given rubber is also American slang for condom, asking to borrow a rubber can earn you weird looks in public.
- Trope may even strike in a single country: In Bavarian dialect, you can say "Fotze" to mean the mouth (it's a bit rude, but no profanity). In the rest of Germany, you...better don't, it means another orifice. (Etymologically, both derive from a word meaning "bag".)
- "Baka" is considered a slightly worse insult in Osaka than in Tokyo. Someone from Osaka will use aho when they mean it affectionately.
- In the West, "otaku" has become a less pejorative, more affectionate term for a lover of Japanese culture (especially anime), akin to the modern usage of "geek" or "nerd." You'll find a lot of American anime fans calling themselves this as a mark of pride. In Japan, on the other hand, "otaku" is not a positive term at all; it means a loser with no life and an unhealthy obsession with some topic of interest. (And it doesn't always refer to anime fans; an otaku can be obsessed with celebrities, military, technology, or anything else under the sun.)
- In standard Malay, "betina" is used to refer female non-humans and using it ogn a woman is worse than "bitch". In Kelantanese dialect, it's a neutral term referring to all females, human and non-human.
- Any work of media that portrays the word "goddamn" as being used in the American Bible Belt without incident qualifies. Although not universal, many who live in the Bible Belt are, as the name implies, Christian: to non-Christians or those of more liberal mindsets, it's only slightly worse than "damn". To conservative Christians, it's on par with "motherfucking", if not worse (it tends to be seen as not just profane, but blasphemous). This tends to ruffle some feathers when the word appears in PG-rated movies.
- This has somewhat become the case with the word "fag" in recent years. Having long been a slur towards homosexuals (though it's had nearly a dozen entirely unrelated meanings over the last century as people just seem to like using the word), in the current internet generation it's become by many just a generic insult, with calling someone a fag or faggot basically being the equivalent of "moron" or "douchebag". This doesn't really carry over to anywhere else in the world (aside from self-deprecation among actual gays).
- Slavic languages can have a lot of fun with this as they are to various degrees similar and often one word in one Slavic language means something else in other Slavic language. One example for all - quite an embarrassingly high number of Czechs got ruffled in a pub while talking to their nearest cousins Slovaks and telling someone they are "sprosty" which in Czech means "You curse a lot", but in Slovak it is the equivalent of saying "You are an idiot".
- The word "snigger" is used commonly in the UK and Australia, but not in Canada and the US due to its similarity to the racial slur. Hilariously, the Canadian/American substitute - "snicker" - sees little use in the UK and Australia due to its similarity to slang for women's undergarments.