When someone uses a naughty word without realizing it's a naughty word. Quite often, the person (almost always a child) will get into a lot of trouble for using such a bad word without knowing the meaning of the word or what he or she has done wrong.
Related to Entendre Failure
. Compare Fee Fi Faux Pas
. Truth in Television
for kids who are very young or very sheltered. See also Fowl-Mouthed Parrot
if the one doing the swearing is an animal.
Anime and Manga
- In episode 20 of Persona 4: The Animation, Nanako happily announces to the group that the fortune teller at the cultural festival told her that Yu was a "gigolo" (translated as "man-whore" in the dub). The teller is Margaret, though Yu and the audience only know that by her voice.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has a stark, morbid example. Toddler Rei Ayanami calls Naoko Akagi a "hag": Naoko, while shocked, takes it softly and gently discourages her from using the word, but, again, Rei insists that she is a "hag", sincerely and flatly; genuinely miffed, Naoko warns her that she intends to spank her and tell Gendo; Rei asks her why she would tell him, when he is the one who refers to Naoko (his lover) as this, quoting him as saying (of Naoko) "'That hag is useless' . . . 'That hag is unwanted' . . . 'That hag'". Naoko reacts and strangles her to death.
- Donnie Darko: "What's a fuckass?"
- From Blast from the Past:
Calvin: "It's still not safe to go up. We're going to have to wait twenty-four hours."
Helen: "Oh, shit!"
(Helen immediately covers her mouth)
Calvin: "Excuse your mother's French, son."
Adam: "'Shit' is French?"
Calvin: "Its... uh... a colloquialism meaning... roughly... good."
Adam: "Well then.... Shit!"
Calvin and Helen: "Heh heh. (sigh)"
- From Meet The Fockers, Little Jack's first word is "asshole".
- The Pursuit of Happyness
Chris: "The sign is spelled happiness with an H-A-P-P-Y instead of H-A-P-P-I.
Chris Jr.: "Is fuck spelled right?"
Chris: "Well, yes, but you shouldn't use that word, it's a word grownups use when they're angry."
- Coming to America: "What does dumbfuck mean?"
- "GOOD MORNING, MY NEIGHBORS!" "HEY, FUCK YOU!" "YES! YES! FUCK YOU TOO!!!"
- From Mrs. Doubtfire, "We're his goddamn kids too."
- Towards the end of We Bought a Zoo, little Rosie informs a USDA inspector visiting the eponymous zoo that everyone has said that he was "a dick". She admits that she doesn't know what it means.
- The novel My Best Fiend had one chapter where the headmistress was cracking down on swearing at the school. When the main character's friend fell and got a nasty gash on her leg, and all the other kids were crowding round, she shouted "She can't move her bloody leg!" A variant, since she did know "bloody" was a swear, but that wasn't what she meant; she meant the leg was covered in blood. She explained this to the headmistress, who agreed that it was a shame perfectly good words became swears.
- Famous Victorian poet Robert Browning used the word "twat" in Pippa Passes. Browning was under the mistaken impression that "twat" meant a part of a nun's habit.
- It's sometimes mistaken for an example of Have a Gay Old Time. Weirdly, it isn't- everyone but Browning was using it in exactly the same way as now.
- Two-year-old Friday Next in Something Rotten learns naughty words (notably "bum", "bubbies", "arse" and "pikestaff" rendered in an Old English font) from St. Zvlkx. Thursday speaks as if she isn't certain what he said the first time he uses them, but the second time she tells her son, "If those are rude Old English words, St. Zvlkx is in a lot of trouble—and so are you, my little fellow."
- In The Jungle, little Antanas learns "God damn" and starts repeating it after his father reacts to his saying it with laughter.
- In Thud!, Sam Vimes reads his son his own version of Where's My Cow? with the catch phrases of prominent Ankh-Morporkians instead of animal noises, including Foul Old Ron's "Bugrit! Millenium hand and shrimp!" The next day Young Sam announced "Buglit!" to his nanny, and from then on Vimes sticks to the written version.
- In one of the Emil of Lönneberga stories by Astrid Lindgren, Emil decides to teach his little sister Ida all the word he gets chastized for saying, and telling her she must not ever use these words. He is quite honest in his intentions, he's just become victim to some Insane Troll Logic.
- In The Shining, when five-year-old Danny and his mother, Wendy talk about the family car:
Danny: Do you think the bug will break down?
Wendy: No, I don't think so.
Danny: Dad said it might. He said the fuel pump was all shot to shit.
Wendy: Don't say that, Danny.
Danny: (surprised) Fuel pump?
- In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King recalls that when he was a child, he thought that "bitch" meant "an extremely tall woman" ("A son of a bitch was apt to be a basketball player!").
- From a Star Wars EU story: "Daddy, what's kriffing?"
- Dinosaurs had one episode where Baby learned one such word, "smoo". (In the dinosaur lingo, this is a dirty word because it describes debris that accumulates on the sole of a dinosaur's foot. This also doubles as Getting Crap Past the Radar, since "smoo" is also a slang term for the vulva.)
- In Wimzie's House, this is done with the word "stupid" with one cent going into a "charity cup" each time it's said. Only Wimzie's little brother Bo is exempt because A.) He's only 1 1/2 and B.) He doesn't have any money. See more examples under Western Animation below.
- In Little House on the Prairie, the Ingalls briefly move to the city and get a house near the local bar. This leads to the youngest daughter Carrie exclaiming "Damn!" at the dinner table. Pa reprimands her and tells her to ask him about unfamiliar words before using them in the future.
- In Outnumbered episode "The School Run", six-year-old Karen asks her father, Pete about some words she overheard:
Karen: What's a twat? (Pete looks at her surprised) Twat.
Pete: It's not a very nice word for children to use. Where did you hear that - you've been watching Trisha or something?
Karen: No, last night when you were arguing with Mum.
Pete: Well, mummies and daddies do argue sometimes, don't they? You shout sometimes, don't you? Did you... did you hear any other words?
Karen: There were some other words that I heard but I just can't remember them.
Karen: Something about midlife. Something about... pillock, and there's pillock and another word. I think it's ponk. And there was one and it was tight-bum.
Pete: Right, well, probably best not to use those too often.
- An episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show revolves around Richie learning several swear words from another kid he made friends with at school. The episode ends with Rob and Laura confronting the boy's parents about what he's been saying, only to find that they wanted to talk to Rob and Laura because their son was disturbed about some things Richie had been saying as well.
- At the climax of the first season of Between the Lines, the main villain becomes tangled up in a group of schoolchildren while trying to flee the heroes. As he tries to push the kids out of the way, one of them can clearly be heard to say (probably unscripted) "you dirty bastard!".
- The Family Circus had this with Jeffy, who got spanked.
- For Better or for Worse had an example involving April.
- One storyline in FoxTrot has Paige watching Jerzy Spaniel while babysitting. Of course, the kid hears the word and starts repeating it. In the epilogue, Paige reports that the mother said kids always hear bad words and repeat them, but if you don't use them often or attach special significance to them, they'll eventually drop it. Then they discussed watching Jerzy Spaniel while babysitting...
- A storyline in Baby Blues had infant Wren naming her stuffed puppy a curse word (censored with Symbol Swearing). Her parents calmly explain to her that she can't call her puppy that, so she gives it a different name... a DIFFERENT curse word that was presumably even worse.
- In one storyline Marvin learned a swear word, represented by him yelling "Censored!" He figured it meant "mommy", as every time he said it she'd run over urgently.
- You Damn Kid at one point recounted an incident with the author's little sister who asked him who Sunsub is and why he itches when something bad happens. Things didn't click for him until at the dinner table when, after his dad tells a story, the sister shouts, "Sunsub itches!" (say it out loud if you haven't figured it out).
- Questionable Content has a twist on this one. After Pintsize tells Hannelore that robot swear words come from mashing on the keyboard, she asks him and Winslow what "qwerty" means. They're shocked.
- Moon Over June gives us June Akagawa's first words (on one of the few remotely SFW pages in the entire series).
- This exchange from Homestuck Act 6:
The last thing i need on my bday is another installment of and i quote manbro bukkake theater. TT:
You still don't actually know what that means, do you. GT:
Not really? It's your friggin figure of speech man. I gathered it just meant getting slimed like in Ghostbusters
or somesuch. TT:
Kind of. I told you to look it up. GT:
Yeah yeah. Im a busy fella dirk!
- YouTube has plenty of examples of toddlers mispronouncing words. For example, "dump truck" becomes dumbfuck, and "vacuum" becomes fuck you. Some adults in the videos exploit this: "Say 'awww, truck'."
- Arthur: In "Bleep," DW hears a bad word and wants to know what it means. (She doesn't know at all that it's a bad word.) She accidentally gets her entire preschool class saying it. The Tibble twins tell her it's a hypnosis word, and saying it will make adults follow their orders. Her mother finally tells her, "You could say, it means 'I want to hurt your feelings.'"
That's what it means? Why didn't somebody just say so?!
- In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Curses", the girls overhear Professor Utonium using a naughty word and start using it themselves. Many Sound Effect Bleeps ensue.
- An episode of Rugrats entitled "Word Of The Day" had Angelica overhear a Depraved Kids' Show Host state, rather sarcastically, that the "real" catchphrase of the show is that the children who watch it "are all little (censored by outside noise)" while auditioning for it. Angelica, being a toddler, thinks this is sincere. Hilarity Ensues
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Sailor Mouth", SpongeBob and Patrick read a bad word written in a trash bin and start using it. Patrick claims it's a "sentence enhancer". Later Mr. Krabs ends up launching into a whole tirade of every one in the book, which even makes Spongebob aghast.
- After overhearing Homer one day on The Simpsons, one of the Flanders children swears twice at the dinner table ("Hell, no!" and "I don't want any damn vegetables.") The humor turns heartbreaking after he is scolded and runs from the room crying, not understanding what he has done wrong.
- In a different episode: Moe has turned his tavern into a family restaurant and has worked himself near to the breaking point. And then one little girl complains that her soda is too cold, causing Moe to erupt into a sanitized-for-primetime Cluster F-Bomb, ending with:
Moe: And I'll tell you where you can stick your freakin' sodie too!
Todd Flanders: Ow, my freakin' ears!
[crowd gasps again]
- Seen in a story from the Franklin television series. The word in question? "Stupid." Done using the same word on Caillou as well. The moral of the Franklin story was that the words you use say a lot about you, and it actually works fairly well if you can get past your knee-jerk reaction to the idea of "stupid" as a swear word. (It's credible too, since the writing on the show is monitored carefully for the language they use, and normally they don't use "stupid.")
- Done on the PBS Kids version of The Berenstain Bears with Sister Bear and her friend using the word "furball" after watching a video that belonged to Lizzie's brother - Trouble at Big Bear High. Apparently this is highly offensive to anthropomorphic bears. The book that inspired this episode never said exactly what word Sister learned and repeated from the video, just that it sounded offensive.
- "Dingle-Dangle-Doodle" in Rolie Polie Olie. The title is the bad word in question.
- In one episode of Baby Looney Tunes, Daffy learns a swear word from a passing garbage man. He later tells the other Tunes about it.
- Implied on the Goofy short "Fathers Are People". A photo on Goof Jr.'s baby album marked "Baby's First Word" is of Goofy washing his mouth with soap.