R2-D2: (electronic beeps)
C-3PO: You watch your language!A completely nonsensical word (sometimes made up, sometimes not) established as being "inappropriate". In order for it to fit this trope, and not other foul language tropes, the audience should not be able to recognize the word as a swear except via the reaction of others. An alien shouting something in his own language after something bad happens is a case of Pardon My Klingon. The same alien talking casually with no tone change, only to be admonished by another character for using foul language is this trope. Compare with Felony Misdemeanor. Related to Unusual Euphemism and a sub-trope of Perfectly Cromulent Word.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In Nodwick, one issue revolves around the word "Krutz", a fictional swear word , intentionally created by a cabal of villains hoping to resurrect a powerful warlord, that ends up being a one-issue Berserk Button to Piffany. It even comes with its own marketing campaign!
- Sweary Mary of Viz invents a new swearword. "Fitbin" is both (we are informed) obscene, and also obscure enough to put on the front page of a comic.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the word Belgium, is the most vulgar expletive, and properly reserved for use in Serious Screenplays, by Zaphod Beeblebrox in times of extreme stress, and on one small planet where they don't know what it means.
"Are we talking," said Arthur, "about the very flat country, with all the EEC and the fog?"
"What?" said the girl.
"Belgium," said Arthur.
"Raaaaaarrrchchchchch!" screeched the pterodactyl.
"Grrruuuuurrrghhhh," agreed the seven-toed sloth.
"They must be thinking of Ostend Hoverport," muttered Arthur. He turned back to the girl.
"Have you ever been to Belgium in fact?" he asked brightly and she nearly hit him.
"I think," she said, restraining herself, "that you should restrict that sort of remark to something artistic."
"You sound as if I just said something unspeakably rude."
- Oddly, though, the entire gag originated in the radio series, but was added only to the US edition of the book. The prize in question in the UK version was just for the most uses of "Fuck" in a serious screenplay, and passed uncommented upon. Later on, when Life, The Universe and Everything was adapted for radio, it became "the most uses of *starship engine* in a serious screenplay" every time it needed to be mentioned, since it was to be broadcast at 6:30 pm. Though "fuck" is still in the script.
- At one point in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Manny starts calling Greg "pootie" out of the blue. Thinking it is a "little kid bad word", Greg asks their mother about it, though she is clueless and does nothing about it — freeing Manny to use the word wherever and whenever he wants. Later, while the family is in church, Greg uses the name on Manny to get him to stop bugging him, and Manny becomes hysterical — only then does the word become obscene in their mother's eyes.
- In Hogfather, carolers have changed the lyrics to a song so it starts "the red rosy hen" (presumably the word used to be "cock"). The book goes on to say that the carolers often had to stand and show people where they thought the obscenity was before they would be offended by it (and being bewildered that they had to point it out).
- At one point in The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) by Ellen Raskin, Mrs. Carillon is jailed and protesters gather outside the prison. Because the signs the protesters are using were painted over and reused after a grape farmers' strike, one sign that was evidently left unfinished inadvertently reads "GRAPE MRS. CARILLON". Nearly everyone who sees the sign comes to the conclusion that "grape" means something horribly offensive, culminating in a bystander attacking the sign-holder and yelling "Grape Mrs. Carillon? Grape you!".
- Harry Harrison's Bill the Galactic Hero introduced 'bowb' as a made-up all-purpose swear word to substitute for the rich variety of vulgarities in use by soldiers (in order to keep the book from being censored):
Don't give me any of your bowb!
Get over here, you stupid bowb!
What is this, "Bowb Your Buddy Week?"
"Every week is Bowb Your Buddy Week."
- Samuel Blink And The Forbidden Forest: Stinkymudfungle!
- Alluded to with "cagal" in Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted.
- In one of the Oz books, in a moment of great rage, the Nome King exclaims "Hippikaloric!" The narrator helpfully notes that this "must be a dreadful word because we don't know what it means."
- In the ninth Animorphs book, the Yeerks set up a front organization called the Dapsen Lumber Company. Ax is amused by that, since apparently "dapsen" isn't a very polite word on other planets.
- In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Roxim has to apologize to his neighbor at the dinner table when he lets slip a "by George!". Since these are dragons we're talking about, it makes sense.
- In Ender's Game a group of playground bullies repeatedly insult Ender by calling him "Third," a reference to his status as the third child in his family. The society they live in only allows two children per family, and Ender's parents were only able to have him with special permission from the government; the other kids look down on him as a lesser person for it.
- In the society of Brave New World, the words "mother" and "father" have become obscenities; all women are rendered sterile by having their eggs extracted, and babies are grown in incubators.
- Done in Harriet the Spy, when Harriet overhears her father angrily complaining about all of the troublesome "finks" at his office, and assumes that it's an all-purpose swear word. Later, when she gets into an argument with her parents after they try to force her to take dance lessons, she screams "I'll be FINKED if I go to dancing school!", much to her parents' puzzlement.
- In the early Literature/Deryni novels, Deryni characters occasionally swear "Khadasa!" We are never told what this is, but it is presumably not nice.
- In E. E. “Doc” Smith's The Vortex Blasters (a novel loosely associated with the Literature/Lensman series), the ultimate unrepeatable expletive on Tominga (where the language metaphors all revolve around plants) is "srizonified". Sentient telepaths, just like the Lens, leave this untranslated, but we are told that it is loosely rendered as "descended from countless generations of dwellers in stinking and unflowering mud."
- In the Poul Anderson / Gordon Dickson Hoka story "Undiplomatic Immunity", "Garrasht!" is a swear word in Worbenite. This later enables the hero to unmask a surgically-altered Worbenite spy.
- In Cordwainer Smith Norstrilians swear by the mutated sheep which are the foundation of their One Product Economy. At one point Rod is even admonished for his "sacrilegious" language.
- In the Redwall novel Lord Brocktree, one young squirrel is constantly being Dope Slapped before he can open what we're told is a filthy pottymouth. When we do get to hear him swear, it falls under this trope.
Live Action TV
- The Trope Codifier is Monty Python's Flying Circus, where, after a sketch filled with naughty words, Michael Palin appears to show us a list of words that will not be tolerated on the program. After a list of (decidedly British) dirty words, the word "Semprini" appears. A woman then comes on screen and says, "Semprini?" prompting Michael to throw her out. Incidentally, the word is the last name of composer Alberto Semprini.
- The album Another Monty Python Record has a cut about how to keep from being embarrassed and starts off with words that supposedly make people feel embarrassed. The first group is "shoe," "megaphone" and "grunties." But even words like "tits," "winkle" and "vibraphone" can't compare to the embarrassment potential of noises.
- [Dinosaurs had one episode in which a great controversy erupted over the word "smoo".
- Not to mention flark, and glick.
- A Bit of Fry and Laurie had a man on trial for public obscenities, all of them bizarre.
- This was actually a joke about censorship which was set up in the previous sketch. The show started with them claiming that their next sketch would involve a lot of "language of the street", but that the censors wouldn't allow them so instead they were inventing their own swear words which no one could stop them using (which became the words in the next sketch).
- Another sketch involved a business deal between an English-speaker (Laurie) and a Strom-speaker, with a translator (Fry). Seemingly innocent English phrases such as "long-term contracts" and "after sales service" have different meanings in Strom, at one point prompting the Strom-speaker to slap Laurie across the face.
- The classic jailhouse comedy Porridge wanted to show the prisoners cursing but was unable to use actual swearwords. The solution was to invent the term "naff off," which after all was technically a four-letter word and sounded like an actual curse (in fact, some people started using the term in Real Life as a milder alternative to the F-bomb.)
- Red Dwarf:
- According to Holly, Tottenham Hotspur counts as a euphemism for shit.
- This series also gave us "Smeg!" which was intended to be this but turned out to have an obscene real meaning.
- The episode of Doctor Who, "A Town Called Mercy", has the Doctor stating that he speaks horse . He rides a horse out past the outskirts of town in order to find a crashed space ship, conversing with it the whole way, his side of the conversation giving the viewer the idea that the horse has a bit of an attitude. At one point the horse whinnies, and the Doctor replies "Oi, don't swear!"
- System of a Down's not particularly subtly named "Vicinity of Obscenity" uses object and visual imagery to suggest sexual and scatological themes without saying anything even remotely dirty in a literal way.
Banana banana banana banana terracotta banana terracotta terracotta pie!
- In a brief arc in Bloom County, moral guardians were cracking down on the strip for the use of "inappropriate language", citing frequent uses of "the four-letter H-word, the four-letter D-word, and the fourteen-letter S-word". After heavy speculation as to what this latter word is, one of the characters announcing this can only think of "Snugglebunnies?" In the next strip, the two remark on how somehow saying "Snugglebunnies" is bad enough to get the strip cut. Their response: "We have one thing to say to that. Snugglebunnies! Snugglebunnies! Snu-" and the strip gets cut mid-word. Interestingly, later in the strip's run, the word started showing up frequently.
- In another strip, Opus, who is working at the Bloom Picayune, is trying to help a shy woman write a personals add. He suggests using the word "snugglebunnies", but she wonders if it's too tame. After a Beat Panel, he says, "Madam, I have to write something," and she suggests, "Sweaty snugglebunnies."
- "Snugglebunnies" was also briefly the original name for this trope, until it was renamed because it was too obscure to use.
- There is a Shaggy Dog Story about a man who repeatedly gets into progressively worse trouble (culminating in a courtroom case) for uttering the phrase "purple flower", because he keeps saying it when asking people what it means and getting into trouble instead of getting an answer. The punchline involves him getting hit by a truck or something and suddenly dying just as he's about to find out. Other variants involve a boy getting kicked out of school for a similar infraction. The word/phrase varies with each telling, with examples including "two pink elephants", "purple passion", and "branchwater".
- There is a technically work-safe Shaggy Dog Story in which a man hears someone claim to have attained ultimate pleasure through having received a 'sleeve-job'. The protagonist is too embarrassed to admit being ignorant of the nature of that act, but eventually obsessed, he goes on a bit of an odyssey in search of one...meeting with great disgust at all turns. It doesn't end well for him.
- In Adventures in Odyssey episode "War of the Words", two kids overhear Eugene call Connie a "maladroit", which they don't understand, but like the word anyway. They proceed to call various people "millijoit" before they get in trouble. The episode ends with An Aesop about speaking respectfully, regardless of what words are used.
Table Top Games
- In the BattleTech universe, the Clans consider all words that are connected to birth or pregnancy extremely obscene, and to call someone a Freebirth (a human who has been conceived and born the natural way and not grown from the Clan's artificial "Iron Wombs") is among the worst of insults.
- Technically, this is the second worst possible insult. "Truebirth bastard" is the worst, because it invokes both the out-of-wedlock status of trueborns (created by the Clans' eugenics program) and their privileged status within the Clans as a whole.
- In Aquapunk, "cet" is the Sennan catch-all profanity and expletive.
- A Penny Arcade strip showed Microsoft using the Precog-system from Minority Report to predict words that are ABOUT to become profanity. The word that gets pulled down is 'Ham Doctor'.
- One Ugly Hill strip reveals that the word "wink" is used as a racial slur against one eyed monsters in the strip's universe.
- In Drowtales, "motherkiller" is the Drow equivalent of "motherfucker", though it has extra connotations with treason. This makes sense, as Drow society is matriarchal and loyalty to one's family and clan is highly valued.
- A Something Awful Let's Play of Quest for Glory stars a hero with the pseudonym "Nike von Slartibartfast"; when questioned, the hero explains that he chose nonsense words that most people would think sounded dirty. Douglas Adams came up with the name Slartibartfast by working backwards from a string of obscenities (Phartiphukborlz) to come up with a name that sounded very rude but could be read over the air for the original The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series.
- Family Guy has something like this, where Tom Tucker mentions the "trendy new curse word — clemen." According to the DVD commentary, Seth MacFarlane jokingly said that if "clemen" does become a real-life curse word, then the scene of Tom Tucker mentioning it will have to be censored in hindsight.
- On Recess there was an episode where T.J. was brought to court for use of his Catch Phrase "This whomps". The judge decided that "whomps" was not dirty in and of itself, and that only a dirty-minded person would think it was.
- The irony in all of it was that T.J. made up the word to avoid swearing.
- In the South Park episode "It Hits The Fan", The Knights of Standards and Practices each represent a different bad word. One of these: Meekrob, the name of an actually delicious Thai dish that Cartman had earlier said he was going to start using as a swear word.
- In The Boondocks episode, "The S-Word," the eponymous 12-letter "s" word is "spearchucker." While this is a derogatory (if somewhat antiquated) term for a black person, the fact that the school district expects people to automatically know what the "twelve letter S-word" is is what makes this an example. Of course, the entire episode is a non-stop mambo over the N-Word Privileges line.
- An episode of SpongeBob SquarePants claims that there are thirteen dirty words, all of them represented by some sort of sound effect, the most prominently featured being a dolphin's chirp. This appears to be an odd version of Sound Effect Bleep until a moment of Lampshade Hanging at the end of the episode in which an actual car horn is mistaken for a character swearing.
- Which makes one question, [[Comically Missing the Point what kind of car has a horn that sounds like a curse word?
- In another episode Sandy and Spongebob are trading insults, and when she calls him a "chum-chewer" he acts absolutely horrified.
- In the Berenstain Bears, "Furball" is considered horribly offensive, as Sister found out when she and Lizzy learned it from a video Lizzy's older brother rented.
- In an episode of Rolie Polie Olie Zowie learns not to use bad words like "dingly dangly doodles."
- In Futurama, when Zoidberg gives Fry a physical he asks Fry to "open your mouth and say some [unintelligible alien gibberish]." Fry botches it.
Zoidberg: What? My mother was a saint! Get out!
- Peridot from Steven Universe uses "clods" as her epithet-of-choice for the Crystal Gems. As clod can mean both "idiot" and "lump of dirt", it's surprisingly suitable for insulting sentient gemstones.
- The humorously-named Water buffalo incident at the University of Pennsylvania, in which a Jewish student shouted "Shut up, you water buffalo!"note to a mostly-black crowd of sorority sisters. What ensued was not pretty.
- During Clint Eastwood's infamous "Invisible Obama" performance at the 2012 Republican National Convention, he implies that the President has just told Romney to go fuck himself.