Mouthing the Profanity

"And not only that, something happened to my ... voice, so whenever I say the word ..., no ... sound comes out!"
Robert De Niro parody, The Late Show (Australia), "The Psychopaths"

This trope is about situations where a character, usually as a result of witnessing something that leaves them in a state of utter disbelief, visibly mouths a profanity but doesn't actually make a sound. Usually a case of Getting Crap Past the Radar if it appears in a show where the characters don't normally swear.

Not to be confused with Sound-Effect Bleep, where the character says the profanity but gets drowned out by background noise. In literature and similar works, Narrative Profanity Filter is likely to be used as an equivalent of this trope.

See also Curse Cut Short and Precision F-Strike.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Films - Animated 

    Films - Live-Action 
  • Blade strikes a blow against Deacon Frost that should have killed him. However, Frost has recently performed a ritual that makes him invincible to said attack. After Frost gets back up, Blade mouths "What the fuck?"
  • Immediately after Batman swerves to avoid hitting the Joker in The Dark Knight, The Joker can be seen mouthing the word "fuck".
  • In Gone Girl, when Nick Dunne sells out his lover during a public speech regarding his wife's disappearance, she mouths "asshole" at him from the crowd.
  • At the climax of The Graduate when Ben interrupts Elaine's wedding, Elaine's mother, father, and almost-husband are seen yelling silent profanities.
  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. During the First Annual Youth Gang Competition, one of the events is a gang of teenagers stripping a car down to its parts. A referee uses a stopwatch to time the event and when they're finished, he mouths the word "fuck" and then says "It's a record!"
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie segment "A Fistful of Yen". Loo must fight Butkus, Dr. Klahn's The Dragon bodyguard. The second time Loo knocks Butkus down he jumps on him, with sound effects of bones breaking. When Butkus rises yet again, Loo mouths the words "What the fuck!".
  • Our Man Flint. Gila tries to kill Flint by firing a drug-tipped dart at him using the strings of a harp. When she misses and hits Lloyd Cramden instead, she mouths the word "shit" and escapes.
  • Revenge of the Sith: During Anakin's duel with Obi-Wan, Anakin appears to mouth "fuck you" while choking his former master.
  • Sink the Bismarck!: Though two films released in 1967 (Ulysses and I'll Never Forget What's'isname) are the first to feature characters vocalizing the word 'fuck', though they are preceded by 1960's Sink the Bismarck for the first implied use of it in film in which a ship's captain mouths the words "Fucking Bismarck".
  • This happens in the climax of The King's Speech, with King George's advisor Lionel encouraging him to swear to stop his stutter. Since this is live on air and to the entirety of the British Empire, neither of them say the words out loud.
  • The Intern: In an early scene Ben Whitaker is trying to avoid the advances of a woman from his neighborhood. He later shows up to a funeral with another date he met at his new job, and the other woman can be seen mouthing "F-U" at him.
  • Mel Brooks seems to enjoy this trope, as it's done in a few of his movies— specifically Blazing Saddles and The Producers, as Hedley Lamar and Max Bialystock each can be seen mouthing "what the fuck?" in one scene of their respective films.
  • The Fugitive. While Kimble is escaping from Deputy Gerard he manages to get on the other side of some bulletproof glass. When Gerard fires repeatedly at him but the glass stops the bullets, Gerard mouths the words "son of a bitch".
  • Live and Let Die. When James Bond's boat jumps over him, Sheriff J.W. Pepper says "What the" and mouths the word "fuck".

    Live Action TV 
  • Combat!. In "Far From the Brave", while Littlejohn shows Kirby how a grenade works, he has a brief (and unscripted) struggle getting the safety pin back into place, and you can see him mouthing, "Son of a bitch."
  • In a segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver parodying the hypocrisy of Mother's Day coupled with very little rights and benefits given to mothers in the US, one mother is seen mouthing (or screaming, made inaudible by the voice-over) an Atomic F-Bomb in frustration at one point.
  • This is a recurring gag on Miranda, who will especially mouth "sex", "breasts", and "moist". This is then played with when Miranda's mum (it all runs in the family) does something similar, but mouths the innocent words around the profanity instead, notably in such an embarrassing way as: "I'd say she was company, but [whispered] she looks like [shouted] a HOOKER!"
  • The Benny Hill Show: At the end of several sketches a post-punchline shot will show Benny's character giving a disgusted take to the camera and mouthing "Oh, poo!"
  • Saturday Night Live
    • One sketch has Joe Pesci playing his "Goodfellas" character buying a pinkie ring. He goes to the mirror to try it on and begins miming a conversation which ends as an angry argument full of F words. Today, censors would pixelate his mouth and no one would get the joke.
    • Another skit, titled "Who Wants To Be Groped By An Eleven-Thousandaire?" had a studio audience deciding which of three contestants—two women and a very confused man—would be sent to the thousand-aire's car for the so-called groping. When the man received 98% of the vote, his portrayer, Chris Kattan, promptly looked directly into the camera and mouthed, "What the FUCK?"

    Music 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE Smackdown: During a match featuring Team Xtreme (Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy and Lita) as Lita is making her way up the ramp to escape some carnage suddenly The Undertaker (who Team Xtreme were feuding with at the time) comes out of the back. Lita can clearly be seen saying an unheard "Fuck!"

    Theatre 
  • In The Most Happy Fella, Cleo reacts to Marie's malicious gossip about May December Romances and to Pasquale pushing Herman around by silently mouthing "I'll be a God-damned son-of-a-bitch" to a few bars of discordant music.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy:
    • In one episode, Stewie mouths "fuck you" to Brian. Brian was able to read his lips and threatens to tell Lois on him. Stewie then tries to tell Brian he was really saying "vacuum".
    • In a crossover episode of Family Guy and The Cleveland Show, Peter tries to avoid Cleveland, and is eventually caught in his car. The car is closed, with the windows up, so whether Peter says or mouths the word 'fuck', it's not audible.
  • The 1939 Warner Bros. cartoon "The Hardships of Miles Standish" featured a scene in which a cockeyed Indian plunks a fellow Indian with his bow and arrow. The hurt Indian turns angrily and (from what is known) lips the words "Goddamn son of a bitch!" There was some speculation that the Indian actually vocally said it but it was excised by the Hays Office. Similarly at the end of "Rhapsody Rabbit" after a mouse beats him into playing the finale on the Hungarian Rhapsody, Bugs Bunny angrily plays the last few notes and mouths "son of a bitch!".

    Real Life 
  • In 1971, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (father of future Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) was accused of mouthing "Fuck off" to his opposition in the House of Commons. Trudeau later told reporters that he said "Fuddle duddle".
  • In an infamous video with Chris-Chan of Sonichu infamy, he maced a Gamestop employee in the face after being asked to leave for prior offences. Since the employee cannot swear with children in the vicinity, he quite clearly mouths "what the fuck"?
  • According to this article, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley mouthed "fuck you" during the speech of his political colleague Abraham Ribicoff, specifically at the Democratic National Convention of 1968.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MouthingTheProfanity