Certain concepts considered "too sensitive" are only ever referred to by euphemisms.
The most common example is euphemisms for death in children's shows, even in cases where a character iskilled and they are rendered dead, the script will never use those two words. Almost always, the writers don't even get very creative with poetic descriptions, and will apply basic synonyms of "destroyed" to living things that we usually associate with inanimate objects, or have the characters unable to finish their sentences ("Is he...?"). Hell is also constantly neutered; when the plot absolutely needs something similar, they often resort to calling them "Nether-something" (of course, except for the Netherlands, aka Holland).
Another frequent method is to hastily add dialogue that suggests the people we've just indirectly seen killed didn't really die, e.g. showing a city being destroyed, and having a character note: "Good thing everyone in that city evacuated at the last minute!"
Sex and certain bodily functions also receive this treatment, especially in shows from the earliest years of television. For example, in I Love Lucy, Lucy was never referred to as "pregnant" despite her condition being the focus of more than a few episodes, and the two were never shown in the same bed together, despite being a married couple.
For one reason or another, children's shows also shy away from using "God." Whenever religion comes into play, it is generally replaced with something along the lines of "the big guy". This one also has its roots in ancient tradition: in Judaism, it is considered blasphemous to use any of God's various actual names except in specific prayers, so His titles ("God" is considered a title; also "the Lord", "the Name", etc) are used instead, and over time even these have become somewhat taboo, to the point where very observant Jews will write "G-d". Words such as Damn and Hell will likely be replaced by "Dang it!" while Hell is replaced by underworld or Hades and so on, even though many people claim that anything in the Bible isn't a swear.
It should be noted that one likely reason for this trope is because the demographic is most likely one that doesn't understand the concept of death all too well.
One major exception is the verboseness of a Big Bad usually makes the trope work for him.
Also note that just because a character didn't mention any variation of "dead", "die" or "death", that doesn't automatically make it an example of this trope. Saying something like "It's time to smash you into pieces!" isn't this trope. Saying "It's time to defeat you!" is, because "defeat" is directly used in replacement of "kill". "smash you into pieces" is used for specific wording emphasise. This is not a trope for every single examples where a villain uses wording to do with something other then death when confronting the hero, or vis-versa..
It should be noted also, that this isn't for examples in which a show has a character being "taken away" instead of killed. If the character really was taken away, then it's not an example of this trope. If the character was obviously killed but instead they refer to their death with "they were taken away", of if a certain version of something changes a character's death scene so they never died, then it is an example.
This isn't for complaining about scenes where a character was "killed off the show" in a way other then death.
Please note as well, that this also isn't for complaining about examples where a disaster of some kind resulted in no deaths. If said disaster is something where it's insane to think that no one got injured at all, then it's an example. If it's a disater in which no one getting killed isn't an unreasonable occurrence, then it is not.
Usually a form of Executive Meddling. Compare with: Gosh Dang It to Heck!, Unusual Euphemism, Frothy Mugs of Water, The Disease That Shall Not Be Named. Coming closer and closer to becoming a Discredited Trope. When used as an actual in-world element, it's Double Speak or a Deadly Euphemism. Contrast Try Not to Die. Often, but not always, foisted on the Badbutt, who will instead use words like "toast" or "beat." If they're allowed to say "kill" and "die" but aren't allowed to actually kill characters, then it's Nobody Can Die. If you're looking for a character who never quits and won't back down even in the face of death, then it's Determinator.
But please note as well that just because 'defeated' or 'eliminated' is used in replace of "killed", or "they were...taken from us..." is used instead of "they were...killed", it doesn't make it an example of this trope either. Sometimes alternatives are used because they sound flasher, have a better impact, or because they enemies really do just get "defeated" and fade away. After all, The creators often don't want their characters coming off as cold blooded killers. This is for examples in which is is obviously censors due to the fact that they don't want to mention death. Any other form of replacing death with anything else does NOT count as this trope.If you're looking for the albumNever Say Die, go here.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: Like DBZ, almost every mention of death is switched out for "sent to the Shadow Realm" in the 4Kids translation. Which makes it sound even worse if you know the concept of Heaven and Hell and think of "send to the shadow realm" as a euphemism for "condemn to Hell" body and soul. Sometimes they didn't use the Shadow Realm wording, though, when the story arcs being worked on didn't leave place to put it in. Namely, Pegasus's researchers "vanishing" after researching the God Cards, Noah getting "his body inutilized" (and later "saving himself in a backup file" when his Virtual World is destroyed), Amelda's little brother getting "captured" by the Kaiba Corp, Raphael's family being "saved" by lifeboats after a shipwreck, etc. This is because the network censors can't interfere with 4Kids's productions when they're not made for television. 4Kids's reputation for over-the-top censorship actually comes from the network censors.
Averted in an early episode where Tristan wakes up in a graveyard and finds a tombstone with his name on it. He screams in horror, "According to this, I'm dead!"
Anubis: It is no longer time to duel. Now it is time to die!
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: All mentions of death are replaced to being "sent to the stars", though death was still heavily implied. It became rather awkward when the Supreme King/Jaden's Superpowered Evil Side went on a genocidal rampage.
One Piece: Death was avoided, to say the least. Kuina's death was changed to having her be beaten up by people she lost to, Belle-Mere was "imprisoned in a dungeon for the rest of her life", etc. When death wasn't changed to something else, it was very much toned down. Listening to Johnny and Yosaku talking about how they saw Nami "finishing Usopp off" was a nice source of Narm. There's also the guy who, in the manga, was shot in the head by one of Shanks' crew. In the anime, this scene still ran... with Shanks telling the 'dead' man's crewmates "When he wakes up, tell him it was a popgun".
Shaman King managed to replace all the "die"s for "destroy"s, which is quite an accomplishment on an anime about ghosts.
Sonic X: The dub went out of its way to make sure nobody died; 4Kids didn't just replace instances of 'die' and 'kill', they also added dialogue to make sure viewers couldn't even interpret people as dead. For example, in the Sonic Adventure arc episode with Perfect Chaos, several fighter planes are downed while in combat with the monster. The camera shifts to a few people that are lamenting the condition of the city, and then, offscreen, you hear a voice that says "Don't worry! The pilots are okay!" What's even worse is that said people shouldn't even be in the city. They were all evacuated according to an earlier TV report. There is also the treatment regarding Maria. In the video games (more evident in Shadow the Hedgehog) and the Archie comics, she was shot dead/fatally wounded by a G.U.N. soldier. This is canon, and plays a good part in Shadow's storyline. In the dub, Maria was instead 'captured and taken away, never to be seen again'. Not only does this completely fuck up Shadow's motivation (if Maria is still alive, why is he trying to help destroy the planet rather than trying to find her?) it also ruins a particularly dramatic scene where we see the soldier who killed Maria and has serious mental issues from the experience. There's also Molly from season 3. In the original, she is given a touching Heroic Sacrifice, while in the dub, she just flies off in the middle of the battle, talking about how she won't stop fighting, and then never shows up again, for some reason.
Despite being dubbed by 4Kids, Pokémon frequently averts this, especially in the movies.
Dialogue was arbitrarily changed to turn "kill" into "send to another dimension". This could get quite unwieldy: "My next attack is so powerful, it will destroy this planet and send everyone on it to another dimension!" or "Yeah, Frieza's attack sent me to another dimension, and I need you to wish me back with the Dragon Balls!" The censors initially didn't even allow the use of the next most common euphemism, "destroy". The afterlife was also referred to only as "another dimension" for a sizable chunk of the series. Since the series' uncancelling, the censorship was lessened. Often a good source of comedy in any case because the replacement words are so ridiculous. This got especially hilarious in the Garlic Jr. Movie, where they actually did defeat the bad guy by sending him to another dimension.
The original dub of Dragon Ball Z changed "HELL" (which was on the T-shirts of the people who worked there) to "HFIL" — "Home For Infinite Losers." This resulted in an odd in-congruence later on, when the DVDs' subtitles and closed captioning often referred to Hell, while the dialogue did not. The beginning of the series had even more horrible mangling beyond "another dimension." Take, for example, when Nappa and Vegeta land on Earth for the first time in the middle of a bustling city. Nappa, just for the hell of it, destroys the entire city, and the last thing we see before it goes up in flames is a huge, bewildered crowd of people. The very next line is "They may have evacuated, but that'll teach them!". Yes, the entire town evacuated in two seconds. Talk about outrunning the fireball. The censoring of the Hell staff's t-shirts resulted in the phrase "what the HFIL" among the Dragon Ball Z fandom.
They also destroyed a building, lamenting the fact that it was empty because it was Sunday.
After the Frieza saga, the main characters use the dragonballs to wish back all the Namekians killed by Frieza and his men. They notice that one village hasn't resurrected, and Vegeta mentions it was the village he "defeated." No Vegeta, it was the village you massacred.
Then came the scene where Nappa takes out a couple of news vehicles. One, a futuristic hover vehicle, is handwaved as a robot drone, but the second, a chopper, was explicitly shown to have people in it before it blew up. So they dubbed in Tienshinhan's voice saying "It's okay, I can see their parachutes!".
The comic-relief character Mr. Satan alone has spanned a long history of censorship:
The renaming to "Hercule". Many fans consider it to be in the same class of replacements as "HFIL". On the other hand, to a Japanese audience, the name "Mr. Satan" would mostly just connote that he's trying to present himself as a gigantic badass, without any of the religious connotations. In that light, the original name simply wouldn't make sense to an American audience (Nor his adoring fans shouting that they love Satan).
The French dub renamed him Hercule for different reasons: Since every instance of 'Ma' (demon) and 'Mao' (demon king) was conventionally translated as 'Satan', it would've left him the fourth character officially called Satan, one of whom (Piccolo) was already a main character, and the cast was already making an effort avoiding the name of Chichi's father (dubbed Satanirus) since Piccolo's introduction.
It's worth mentioning that in Japanese Mr. Satan's name is pronounced "Satān" (Sa-TAAHN), which implies that it's actually meant to be "Mr. Saturn". (Satān is the orthodox romanization of the Japanicized name for Saturn, and in casual usage diacritical marks are typically omitted. The same phenomenon occurred in some of the peripheral merchandise for Sailor Moon ‒ Sailor Saturn was sometimes disconcertingly written as "Sailor Satan").
Averted in the Latin American and Filipino dubs, where Mr. Satan retained his original name (or, as mentioned before, the mistrasliteration thereof, as it should be Mr. Saturn instead).
Also parodied in Buttlord GT. Snowflake shouts, "Time to send you to ANOTHER DIMENSION!" then crushes his opponent's skull with one hand. And afterwards: "Ah, he's UNCONSCIOUS".
After FUNimation took over, all this fear of using these words ceased. However, in Canada, Ocean took over again from Episode 168 onward. In this case, the words "kill", "dead", and "die" are never mentioned, being replaced with "hurt" (which gets ridiculous in many situations, but "destroy" is used in some cases), "gone", and "leave". The exception is a figure of speech used by Krillin near the end of the World Tournament Saga. However, in Episode 236, when Gotenks races off to fight Buu, Piccolo says "If he gets killed now, all our efforts are in vain." From here, the words "kill", "die", "dead", and "death" are used as frequently as in the FUNimation dub, and are never replaced again.
The CW4Kids version is playing this straight for the remake, Dragon Ball Kai. The Nicktoons version also seems to play it semi-straight — you can say "die", but you can't say "kill/murder/etc". It seems to be random in which it occurs, even kill has been used a few times. No murder, though, yet.
Quite possibly the originator of the "send to another dimension" euphemism was Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs (an Americanization of Sei Juushi Bismarck) in which the villains were re-written as an extradimensional race whose members were teleported back to their own universe whenever shot. Then they came up with the even odder rule that if you shoot them in their own universe, they become human.
The Sailor Scouts in Sailor Moon are "captured" by their enemies and disappearing from the series until Serena "frees" them. The entire point of that edit was destroyed in the first part's "Sailor Moon Says" segment, which showed Serena clearly talking to the ghosts of her "captured" teammates.
After Nephrite (Neflite) is killed, there's a story where Naru (Molly) meets a priest at a cemetery. The dub censored out all use of the word "priest", even referring to him with the curiously non-specific term "person" in the preview for the episode, or in one instance as "a kindly man".
Interestingly, Neflite's actual death scene in the dub is a rare aversion ‒ Molly says "please don't die" as she's weeping over him.
Not even Beryl was allowed to die. The dub added dialog from Sailor Moon saying that Beryl was "banished back to the Negaverse" right after their final confrontation with her in which she is eradicated from skin to skeleton. Yeah, if she was sent back to the Negaverse, where she has been throughout the whole show, couldn't she just teleport back out? Yet we never see her again, except in flashbacks...
In the third episode of Sailor Moon R, however, Artemis does say that Queen Beryl has been "completely destroyed".
Sailor Moon R seems more relaxed about death, in general. Diamond quite literally says he would avenge the deaths of the two whom were killed. It also shows him being impaled by the Doom Phantom, despite Tuxedo Mask's similar impalements from Season 1 getting censored. Blood is also visible and Doom Phantom's declaration of ending all life on Earth is left intact. Wicked Lady is even warned that she won't survive the dark crystal passing through her, though they use the word destroyed when describing it. This may be partly because the second half of the Sailor Moon R dub was produced a few years later (and rather hastily), and was commissioned by the Canadian network YTV for a mostly Canadian audience (which is apparently less likely to be bothered by such things).
This phrase is also used in Episode 4 when Sailor Moon destroys the Negamonster, Derela. She says "I banish you to the Negaverse!" Interestingly enough, when she throws her tiara, instead of saying "Moon Tiara Magic" as she usually does, she says "Moon Tiara Vaporize!" The Negaverse seems to be used as a euphemism death at least three times, though it is not the same as the next dimension or the Shadow Realm.
This is subverted in the second half of the DiC dub as there are several times the characters say die or death, no kill though.
Zig Zagged in the German dub, especially in season 2. Apparently it depended on the translator, whether the D-word was used or replaced by "vanish".
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing was released on Cartoon Network in two formats, one broadcast in the afterschool hours and one at midnight in CN's post-Watershed block. The former was censored, among other ways, by changing Duo's nickname from "God of Death" to "Great Destroyer." The latter, naturally, was not.
Tons of fun when Relena repeatedly begs Heero to kill her throughout the first few episodes..
This gets fantastically bad in the censored version of the movie Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. There's a flashback where Duo is planning to kill everyone in a research facility and then himself with a handgun. They simply cut out the word "kill" and replace each instance with the word "destroy," leading to the ridiculous exchange: "Are you going to destroy me?" "I'm going to destroy everyone here, and then I'm going to destroy myself!" "Then go ahead and destroy me, Duo..."
When Quatre compliments Zechs and Noin on managing to blow through an army of Mooks to get to their objective, he says "You've come so far without destroying one soldier!" This might seem like a straight example, but it's actually a plot pointnote The soldiers were tricked into fighting for a cause they didn't really believe in, so the good guys were deliberately trying not to kill them, and immediately after Quatre's line we get shots of enemy soldiers abandoning their disabled mecha. Though, it still fits here because he couldn't say "kill" on the air.
In one episode Trowa gives the captive Duo and Wu Fei something "to kill time"; the dub changed this to "pass the time". While it means the exact same thing, it's a particularly ludicrous example since the phrase "killing time" is generally not considered objectionable.
In one episode, a pair of OZ pilots launch a sneak attack on an Alliance port base. When the base surrenders, one of the pilots launches missiles at the surrender party yelling "This isn't battle, it's an execution!". In the Cartoon Network dub, it's change to "I'm going to destroy you!". The fact wounded soldiers on foot are still being hit by weapons bigger than they are somehow stayed in.
At first, fans of Naruto were afraid that the dub was going to suffer from this; In the first few episodes, most instances of a character using the words "death", "kill" etc. were replaced with "destroy" (though Naruto does threaten to kill Mizuki in the first episode). Thankfully, right around the beginning of the Wave Country arc (when the real killing starts), this practice was dropped.
And let's not even start with how they're not even allowed to show swords, apparently. Zabuza's big entrance, ending with his sword sticking out of a tree and him standing on it, was edited so that only the handle is un-painted away, and Zabuza is standing perfectly straight on thin air.
Not to mention the fact that Sasuke's whole backstory doesn't make any sense, because nobody can know that his clan was *gasp* killed. Instead, it was said they were "held captive".
Also, the condition for unlocking the Mangekyo Sharingan was changed from "kill a friend" to "betray a friend". So Itachi never killed that one guy who went missing, he just made sure he would fall into the river ... and no further elaboration was provided. This makes Sasuke's lamenting about how he won't fulfill the condition after his fight with Naruto in the Valley of the End especially silly, considering that if betrayal is all it takes then he did fulfill that condition.
The first Clash of Ninja Revolution game was pretty silly with this. Any death references are replaced with "defeat" or "destroy". It makes Sasuke sound like Itachi is his rival instead of wanting to kill him. And it's strange because the previous games were okay with mentioning death.
The Naruto: Shippuden broadcast version on Disney XD has shown that this is in full effect for the most part; for example, they changed Itachi's line in the first episode into "You must DEFEAT your best friend. You must DESTROY him."
On the same note as the German dub, the less said about the infamous Jetix UK cut, the better. It was basically the already-edited dub that showed on Cartoon Network US, but edited in such a way that manages to outdo some of the stupidest 4Kids edits, almost on the same level as One Piece! Aside from all the cuts to violence and all, Never Say Die was in full effect, which resulted in some lines being mangled and cut (An example being in the first episode: "If you ever lay a hand on my sensei..."*Cut to next scene*). Amazingly though one or two lines slipped through (Like Sasuke's "I promised myself that I'd stay alive...until I killed him..." line in episode 16).
In the Lion Version of Voltron, the main characters had a nearly clairvoyant ability to tell whether or not the citizens of a destroyed city or planet had evacuated, just by looking at the burned and blasted out remains of said city or planet. Just about every other Never Say Die rule was in effect for this series (although the censors did let at least one "peasants being eaten whole by monsters" scene slip past them.)
Whenever possible, scenes that might have involved the killing of human beings are dubbed so that the destroyed creatures were actually robots.
Early in this series, one of the main characters (Sven, former Blue Lion pilot) is killed. Instead of saying he was killed, they say that he went back to the evil planet to help with a rebellion. It was quite confusing with everyone standing over his grave, crying, and talking about how he was really hurt and then had to go away, but he wasn't dead, really.
When the character (in the original, a brother of the character) reappeared in the story, his absence was explained by a bout of insanity. When this second character fell from a great height while grappling with the main villain, his death was dubbed away, to the point of the main cast (with shocked expressions and streaming tears) saying "He fell into the water..." A brief voice-over informs us that he was alive, but just really badly hurt.
The Vehicle Force Voltron also had this. (Example: one of the villains is actually killed in an early episode, but in his death scene, an image of him saying "I'll be back" is spliced in) Look up Voltron on Wikipedia and you'll see how different the American and Japanese versions really are.
A specific example from Vehicle Force is when the Voltron team befriend a young bad guy, who's then attacked by the rest of the bad guys, and trapped in a burning fighter. The animation shows that Jeff is being restrained from a futile rescue attempt, but we cut to an unconvincing scene explaining that the bad guy had set off happily to another base...
While it didn't always shy away from the topic of death, Battle of the Planets included a Robot Buddy, 7-Zark-7, whose primary function was to reassure viewers that each episode's high body count was Mecha-Mooks, unmanned aircraft, merely stunned, just pining for the fjords, and so forth. In one episode, for example, the team's mission is to rescue two captured astronauts; Zark informs us that they got away safely. But their escape is never shown on-screen, for the simple reason that in the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman original, they were killed and their corpses used as bait in a trap.
The American English-translated version of Pokémon Special plays this trope painfully straight. During the Yellow arc, for example, the Nerd (who moments earlier was trying to kill Yellow) says that the "defeat" of Misty, Erika, Brock, and Blaine will make everything much more fair. The four react as if he had said "deaths" because... he does. In the original (really, Viz?).
It gets worse! The Vizkid's version seems to flip between using this trope and averting it. The next mention, where Agatha tries to kill the nerd because He Knows Too Much, they note that the nerd will die if it continues.
Volume 5 gives us the gem of Lance vaporizing a city, followed by him only wanting to "hurt" Yellow. And then proceeds to nearly drown her, and leaves her as she is sinking into the sea.
In Volume 1, the Arbok that is cut in half is referred to as a Zombie Pokemon immediately after; 5 Volumes later you find out that it lived anyways.
Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure plays this straight too, to an extent. A character attempts suicide but they still refer to it as "going" (as in "We don't want you to go") rather than "die". It's not as apparent as other examples as people often do use that euphemism, but it still counts.
Digimon Adventure starts with it being an ironclad rule: the first die-related word uttered is Myotismon saying of the Eighth Child, "and when we do find him, then he must die!" The fandom was in total shock at it. Each successive season gets a little more comfortable with it - by the last arc of Tamers and the first arc of Frontier, hearing death words (in an actual end-of-life context, not "Mom's gonna kill me if I don't get home in time for dinner!") ceases to be remarkable, only for it to return full force in Digimon: Data Squad.
It's worth noting that the one continuity in which Digimon can permanently die, Tamers, isn't shy about using the word. "Deletion" shows up, but only as a Deadly Euphemism from characters who don't consider Digimon's lives to have value.
Data Squad plays the trope very straight — the word "die" is used twice, maybe three times throughout the whole series, and only to say that Digimon-don't-die. Every other death, Digimon or human, is euphemisized.
As for "god," the dubbers have usually replaced it with "sovereign" or something like that. They also seem to be doing away with the word "lord," despite it also having a non-religious definition. In the first series' dub, pretty much every bad guy was referred to as "lord" at some point; there's even a scene where DemiDevimon insists the Digi-Destined call Myotismon "lord." (Not to mention, there's the VenomMyotismon arc where the brainwashed humans were chanting, "Myotismon, lord and master!") But in later seasons, the use declined to the point where a character named LordKnightmon had his name changed first to Digimon Frontier (due to his effeminacy) and then to LoadKnightmon. Now, "master" is more often used.
The established dub name for him/her in Frontier was Crusadermon. It's said that Powers That Be in Japan told the American producers what name they wanted to use (whether katakana that amounted to Rhodo Knightmon was meant to mean Lord Knightmon or actually Rhodo Knightmon due to his/her coloration was quite debated) and landed in Narmville.
Done to ridiculous lengths to all anime aired on German TV station RTL2, who were somewhat pioneers in terms of animes but have since pedaled back A LOT. This worsened over the time, beginning with simply cutting out all blood and death scenes and culminated in censored dialogue in Digimon Tamers. Right now, the censorship policy seems to be as follows: Death has to be changed to "being captured", "don`t feeling well" or "being asleep", with "Fight" being changed to - "Game!". One can imagine how ridiculous the typical Naruto episode sounds like with these changes.
The same goes for Digimon Tamers, in which there's no resurrection and dead means dead. If having someone's hand driven through your body, whereupon you give a Final Speech and dissolve into bits of data that is absorbed by the enemy, and your death has a big hand in the rest of the series... there's no way to turn that into "asleep," and if it becomes "capture..." well, it's workable, but the killer does a Heel-Face Turn eventually, and he'd be quite the Jerkass for not letting the "captured" character go.
There's also an Arabic Digimon dub that censors "evolution," rumored to be because of the "evolution-vs-intelligent-design-vs-why-not-both" thing - it can be a religiously-charged thing if you must make it one. The Digimon are said to switch out for their "big brothers," and there's even a (never-seen) base where the "big brothers" hang out. You'd think it would be easier to just change the word; "Agumon upgrade to Greymon!" can't offend anyone, can it?
The American dubbed version of Baldios - The Movie (renamed The Battle for Earth Station S1) goes to great pains to point out that a villain is only 'stunning' a group of guards. And then leaves in the bit where Earth's population is all but wiped out by a massive environmental disaster.
Star Blazers is aggressive about removing deaths from the original Yamato series. The series was edited so that people "had time to evacuate", "were covered by avalanches", "were actually robots", "got out just behind you", ad nauseum, instead of being killed.
Zatch Bell! had one strange example of this trope - in a certain episode telling us the events of Sherry's childhood, we learn that she had Abusive Parents and tried to commit suicide by throwing herself off a bridge on a stormy night. Viz's dub did something weird here - it edited the dialogue to Sherry "walking next to the river and almost falling", but edited very little of the footage. Most people who watched the dub version will still tell you that she tried to commit suicide. Maybe...
The series in general averts the trope sometimes, other times play it straight. One filler character who had his parents dead in the original had them "sent to a hospital" in the dub.
Interesting case in Studio Ghibli's My Neighbor Totoro. Some time after Mei goes missing, a sandal that looks a lot like hers is found floating on the surface of the lake, and everyone immediately suspects the worst. Satsuki runs to the lake without another word, the old woman next door is seen praying, several dozen people are searching the lake for a body... and yet no one says anything about what they think happened to Mei. No "death," "die," not even "drown." Absolutely nothing is said about it.
In the first three chapters of Bakuman。, Moritaka (mistakenly) thinks that his uncle Nobuhiro, a mangaka who made one hit series, committed suicide after falling into debt trying to make another. The chapters that appeared in Shonen Jump have him using euphemisms, such as thinking that his death was "something worse" than overwork, or that he "end(ed) it all". As such, Moritaka's mother's shocked expression when he claims that was how his uncle died loses some of its impact.
Averted in Robotech. Ironically, this show was produced by the trope namer of Macekre.
Inverted in Haiyore! Nyarko-san where Nyarko and Cuuko talk about how they killed the latter's Clingy Jealous Girl cousin Cuune, only for Mahiro to immediately point out that she's not dead, she literally is trapped in another dimensionnote The three aliens set up individual bedrooms in a Pocket Dimension; when Cuune fell asleep in Cuuko's room, Nyarko closed it up and then removed the door.
Played straight in the English dub of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, though in a comedic fashion.
And now, I will take...a nap!
In Avengers: The Initiative, this is specifically mentioned. Cloud 9 is shocked when she blows up an enemy plane, saying that "I mean in cartoons when that happens you see the guy bail out with a parachute..."
Happened in regard to the word rape during the West Coast Avengers storyline, where Mockingbird was drugged and raped by the Phantom Rider. It was usually referred to as him having forced her to love him (which was something the drugs also did). Averted in Hawkeye & Mockingbird, though, as she flat out tells the Phantom Rider that he raped her.
Played straight with Applebloom with a Bowdlerised version of the "I'm To Young to Die" stock phrase
Apple Bloom: Ah can't "go" before I get mah cutie mark.
In the W.I.T.C.H. comic book, the rather violent and quite graphic death of Big Bad Nerissa is described as her being "destroyed".
In Marvel Adventures Super Heroes, Deadpool was never referred to by his code name. Instead he would be referred to as "Wade" or "Wade Wilson, better known as D-" before being interrupted by another character.
They are also not quite as liberate with religious terms; the use of "Gosh" is very frequent, and at one point, the utterly hilarious line "Oh my gods!"
There are, however, cases of religious terms being used, most notably during the famous Hellfire sequence in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Frollo: Destroy Esmeralda/And let her taste the fires of hell!
The only time this is played straight in the Kung Fu Panda series is whenever someone mentions Tai Lung after Po uses the "Wuxi Finger Hold" on him, which seemingly causes him to blow up in a golden burst of chi, and yet all we hear of him at the end of the movie is that Po "defeated" him. During the holiday special, however, Tai Lung shows up in a dream and Po states, "I thought you were d—" before he gets clobbered, unable to finish his sentence; then again, the one having this dream didn't even witness Tai Lung's fate. Other than that, this trope is averted, especially in Kung Fu Panda 2, which outright states whenever characters are Killed Off for Real. Of course, there's not much of an excuse to use this trope when you have genocide as a major plot point.
There are still some cases of this being played straight, though. During said genocide, Lord Shen tells his minions to "get" the pandas and later tells Po that he "took away" his parents.
Both played straight and averted in Chicken Run. Although the human characters are planning a mass slaughter of the chickens, they never, ever say they are going to kill them. The chickens, however, use not only "kill" but also "die," "death," and even "suicide." Lampshaded by Rocky after he tries and fails to keep such words out of conversation to avoid panic. Apparently Americans care more about this trope than British do.
Parodied and lampshaded in Bartok the Magnificent, the Big Bad orders her Obliviously EvilMinion to kill the Prince of Russia, but phrases it "Get him out of the way", so he does just that, locking him at the top of the tallest tower in the palace. When she finds him, the exchange goes like this:
Villain: The Prince? I told you to get him out of the way!
Minion: He's in the highest room in the tallest tower, how much more out of the way could he be?
The Rankin-Bass adaptation of The Hobbit gives a puzzling version of this trope in the song "Fifteen Birds" sung by the goblins as they have Bilbo and his party trapped in burning trees. They list method upon method of graphically killing and eating the dwarves, but when it comes time to say "die..." See for yourself.
The release of Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (the VHS version) had several small pieces cut out, one of which was part of the scene where Nemo gets the incantation to activate the Royal Scepter's Wave Motion Gun function. Specifically, the part where it's brought up that since Nemo is just a kid, firing the Scepter will kill him.
Films — Live-Action
Muppet Treasure Islandplays with the trope: Billy Bones' death after getting the Black Spot (a) is totally overblown for comedic effect, and (b) gets a reaction of "He's dead!? But this is supposed to be a kids' movie!" along with, "Guys... we are standing in a room with a dead guy!" There's also a "character" (just a skeleton wearing a pirate hat) named Dead Tom (introduced in succession after Old Tom and Really Old Tom). This was taken further when a pirate is crying over a recently shot Dead Tom until another pirate patiently explains he was already dead. That's why he's called Dead Tom. The bereaved pirate unceremoniously drops the skeleton and moves on.
This is spoofed in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, where the villainous Acme Chairman orders one of his henchmen to "Destroy the duck! And when I say destroy the duck, I mean KILL HIM! Messily and painfully!"
The narrator of George of the Jungle takes the time to explain to the audience that no one in the film is allowed to die, they just get really big boo-boos.
Bodily functions taboo lampshade: In Pleasantville, Jennifer is astonished to find the girls' room at Pleasantville High has no toilets. Apparently it exists only as a ceramic-tiled girls' chat-retreat with running water, as the Fire Department exists only to get cats out of trees. As for death... what's that?!
In a variation on this trope, the film The Pope Must Die (about a newly elected Pope being plotted against) was forced by Catholic outrage to change its name to The Pope Must Diet (about a fat... newly elected Pope... being plotted against). The "t" was added to the cover art as if cut from a magazine. No dieting happens in the movie.
In Drop Dead Gorgeous, one of the brainless bimbos talks about her previous dog, a German Shepherd who went to 'live on a farm' after attacking her. Naturally, she doesn't get that it's a euphemism.
In the Victorian farce The Wrong Box, young idlers Morris and John (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore) need to procure a death certificate to cover up an untimely demise; they get a lot of mileage out of the word 'thing':
Morris: Now you remember that chambermaid you got into, umm...
Morris: Thing. Who was the doctor who did the, umm...
John: Thing? Pratt, Doctor Pratt.
Morris: Was he a venal doctor?
John: I didn't think to ask.
Morris: Well, did he do the -
John: Thing? Yes.
John: But what's he got to do with it?
Morris: He's part of the plan! Now, you and I are the only two people in the world who know that Uncle Joseph is...
Morris: Dead. (And so forth and thing...)
In Bugsy Malone, pie takes the place of guns and bullets. Characters who get pied are said to be "finished," and never show up again.
In The Warriors, the slang terms "waste" or "wasted" are always used instead of "kill" or "dead." This was probably done to make the violence seem casual to the characters, rather than soften it for the audience.
Censors forced Anatomy of a Murder to replace the word 'penetration' with 'violation', even though 'penetration' is the word actually used in Michigan state law's definition of rape.
Subverted most notably in #22. Rachel initially wants to say she's going to 'destroy' Sixth Ranger Traitor David, but that's a 'weasel word' and she admits to herself (and the reader) that she wants to kill him. Badly. While Cassie comes up with the only safe alternative to killing David, Rachel is stuck struggling with her violent tendencies for the rest of the series.
Again subverted when a family of campers gets caught up in a battle between Yeerks and free Hork-Bajir, who have, until this point, stubbornly refused to believe that the battle was real no matter what evidence they'd shown. They'd appeared to believe, but we find that they didn't really get it until this scene happens: (Paraphrased)
Jake: Try not to get killed. Camper: When you say killed, you mean killed as in "captured" or "stunned," right? Jake: Unfortunately, I mean killed as in dead.
However, in other instances, this trope is played straight - the kids talk about how the Yeerks would "destroy" them and their families, and so on, also using "annihilate" as a euphemism. However, as the Yeerks are parasites, these vague euphemisms could be used to mean "killed or infested".
Piers Anthony does this on purpose in his Xanth series. Instead of going to the bathroom or engaging in sexual activity, characters merely see ellipses.
Deconstructed in Hogfather, where the Tooth Fairy's country is defined by the belief of children, looking like a children's drawing for instance, and death does not exist there because no-one tells children about it. People just disappear when fatally injured. And the molecular-thin blade of Death's sword cannot exist there.
There are a few instances when main characters are dying where death is referred to as "going to hunt with StarClan" or something similar for poetic effect.
The word "pregnant" is never used, regardless of how often characters have been pregnant throughout the series. They simply say "bearing kits" or something similar. This can be somewhat justified, because that could actually be how cats talk, similar to the series' use of Gosh Dang It To Heck.
There is also when Lionblaze is trying to threaten Ashfur and he says "I can beat you in a fight if I have to." even though it's somewhat obvious he's threatening to kill him.
At one point, they refer to Scourge having "destroyed" Tigerstar, but they probably used that word because saying he "killed" him would have been a huge understatement.
Subverted in Into the Wild:
Firepaw: He wants to get rid of Ravenpaw.
Graypaw: Get rid of him? You mean kill him?
Because this trope is averted so much, when characters kept referring to Hollyleaf as having been "lost" instead of "killed" when a rockfall collapsed on her and they assumed No One Could Survive That, fans figured she was alive since they made such a point of avoiding the word.
Played for Drama in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, where Francie is made by her mother to cross out every instance of the word "drunk" (a frequent condition of her father) in her diary and replace it with "sick."
The Green Sky Trilogy doesn't have issues describing something as dead, but as pacifists, they replaced with word "Kill" with "dead", and stigmatize the usage as a verb.
The novel The Impossible Bird plays this trope a bit more literally: only people who have killed someone are physically capable of saying the word "die." (It's never explained exactly why this is so, although all the killing does turn out to be important to the plot.)
From Borges' "Narrative Art and Magic": «Saracen historians, whose works are the source of José Antonio Conde's Historia de la dominación de los árabes en Espańa, do not write that a king of caliph died, but that "he was delivered into his final reward or prize" or that "he passed into the mercy of the All-Powerful," or that "he awaited his fate so many years, so many moons, and so many days."»
Comes up in A Brother's Price. When she hears that her big brother is going to leave the family to be married, little Bunny Whistler wails "I don't want Jerin to go away like Papa did!". Immediately Jerin assures her, "Papa died, honey. I'm not going to die. I'm just going to live at someone else's house." It's a subversion, but one that initially looks like this trope.
In Watership Down, characters mostly use the phrase "to stop running" as a euphemism for death. That said, the concept of death is not swept under the rug at all, and is an omnipresent threat throughout the story, and the word "kill" is frequently used with no hesitation or sugar-coating.
Wizards of Waverly Place: Averted in the movie when Jerry says that every year two or three wizards go looking for the Stone of Dreams and wind up dead.
Young Hercules: Ares says several times that he will 'destroy' Hercules, but never actually mentions killing him. In fact, throughout the whole run of the series, only two characters were actually shown being killed onscreen. The other two references of death occurred either between episodes or in the pilot movie.
Sesame Street: Averted famously in the "Goodbye, Mr. Hooper" episode that opened the 16th season. Will Lee, who played longtime "Grandpa" figure and curmudgeonly storekeeper Harold Hooper, had died in December 1982, while filming for the 1982-1983 season was still ongoing. The remainder of his episodes were aired in early 1983, after which his character is absent and no mention is made of either that or why he is missing... the subject not dealt with until that fall. Several options on how to explain why Mr. Hooper was missing were debated, including him having retire and leave Sesame Street, before the definitive episode on explaining death to a child became the final product. The producers decided to make it part of the show that Mr. Hooper died and, on the advice of child psychologists, they pulled no punches. Big Bird is told that Mr. Hooper died (not "passed away," not "moved on") and will not be coming back. Big Bird is confused and angry, and the adults (with actors not attempting in the least to hide their tears - many holding hands throughout) tell Big Bird that's it's okay to be sad and to miss him. One of the best moments in the history of TV.
The A-Team. Since it was classified as a children's show, you have the ridiculous premise in which the A Team amasses a massive arsenal of machine guns and weaponry, faces off against a similarly armed force, exchange thousands of retorts of gunfire - and no one dies. Man, their aim sucked. Parodied in Family Guy when Peter and company, dressed as the A-Team, attempt to stop a construction crew from demolishing a park using guns and ramming into things with their vans. The main characters are surprised when the construction crew assumes Peter and friends are trying to kill them.
Webster: In early first-season episodes, the title character (played by pint-sized Emmanuel Lewis) was told that his parents were "away" (they had actually been killed in a car accident) and that he was merely staying with George and Katherine. George decides he can no longer put off telling Webster the truth ... and does in a truly heartbreaking scene.
Power Rangers goes overboard with this, sometimes to (unintentionally) comic effect, speaking of people as having been "destroyed." In one particularly comic example, a well-known proverb becomes, "Those who live by the sword shall come to their end by the sword." Which made it all the more surprising when the Pink Ranger in Time Force screams that she would "not let [her fiance's] death be in vain," (though at other times, she says that he was "destroyed"). Of course, it turns out that he's Not Quite Destroyed.
An example was the episode of Wild Force in which the impostor Master Org gloats about how he killed Cole's parents. He manages to refer to it with the most contrived death-word-aversions, never using the same one twice and making what would've been a much more intense scene if they'd only stuck with the usual "destroy" into not quite Narm, but it does sorta break the flow of the scene. You forgive it because, after all, they have this unbreakable rule that decrees they must absolutely, positively never utter any die-related word come Shadow Realm or high water, and then the new villain, in the very next scene, says "The real Master Org died three thousand years ago and is never coming back!" before announcing himself the new Big Bad and tossing "Master Org" to his Not Quite Death, er, destruction. If they can use death words a few times, why not make one of them during the scene that needed it most?
The most noticeable one: "I will destroy you or be destroyed trying!"
In an episode of Power Rangers S.P.D., a monster goes so far as to announce "I hate empty buildings!" before smashing one to pieces, assuring the audience that no one was inside to be hurt. There are also occasional references to various battles taking place in the "Abandoned Warehouse district", which just smacks of poor urban planning.
No less than a season later in Power Rangers Mystic Force, we're told by the team's mentor that Plucky Comic Relief Clare's mother "depleted her life force" sealing the gate keeping the villains in the Underworld. Oddly, a later episode includes a Monster of the Week stealing people's life force, which seems to make them unconscious/zombified but quite alive, returning to normal once the monster was defeated and the life force was returned. You really have to wonder if Clare's mother is locked up somewhere in the base until she can get a life force infusion. A later episode averts this, with Daggeron declaring he would "rather die with honor then live without it."
This actually becomes quite an impressive accomplishment in Power Rangers RPM, where they manage to kill off 99% of humanity without using the "d" word. Ranger Blue uses "die" twice, though... a record for actual life-threatening circumstances. When Ziggy becomes a target of several mob cartels, he fears being 'Ghosted', a term the mobsters also threaten him with; as the d-word was used elsewhere in the series - maybe it's gangster Future Slang? (We did get repeated death words way back in Space, when Zhane was Mistaken for Dying). And two of the Ranger characters had backstories involving the deaths of people close to them, both of which were shown on-camera in flashbacks. (If you count a plane blowing up with its pilot not visible to be "on-camera.") And yet nobody actually says they're dead or were killed.
It also extends to some forms of weaponry. Power Rangers villains almost never use "bombs." Rita and Zedd have used "implosion devices" that sure seemed to explode, Divatox used "detonators," and a Monster of the Week used "charges."
So it was quite surprising when, in the episode with Robogoat, Goldar said Tommy was going to die.
You know how trailers sometimes have "clean" alternate takes of dirty dialogue? Well, in the trailer for Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie, Billy says that Zordon is "aging at an accelerated rate", instead of what he says in the actual movie: "He's dying."
Averted in Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie with Bulk telling Skull that Lt Stone was "gonna kill us for being late!!"
Soap Operas are notorious for having couples "make love" instead of "have sex"; perhaps the most egregious example was when General Hospital's Laura Webber recalled her rape by Luke Spencer as "the first time we made love". Pregnant women also seem to be fond of referring to themselves not as "pregnant" but as "carrying [baby's father's name]'s child," although this is starting to change.
Part of the "carrying [baby's father's name]'s child" might have come from the fact that soap operas can be so damn confusing, they might need to remind the audience who did what to whom and when.
Squeamishness about sex does not seem to be the reason for the use of the term "making love" as soaps often show sex scenes.
Australian soap opera Home and Away was notorious for doing rape storylines without actually being allowed to use the word "raped", resorting to euphemisms like "attacked" or "assaulted" (or, on one occasion, "violated) which left some viewers thinking the girl had just been mugged or sexually assaulted but not actually raped.
One of the worst was in late 2007 with the return of Michael, the adopted son of an insane cult leader who had brainwashed him with drugs and (apparently) forced him to rape Tasha, with the intention of getting her pregnant. Belle described his crime to Annie with the words "she had a baby with him when she didn't want to." Things have now relaxed somewhat, with the word being used during the storylines with Joey and Charlie in 2009 and Bianca in 2011. However, viewers still have to sit through scenes of it being described as an "attack", one of the worst examples being when Bianca discussed her rape with a counsellor without either of them once using the word.
There was also a scene in 2007 where Peter mentions "date rape" when Belle tells him about the drugs she found in Kellie's bag. Ironically, this was not during a rape storyline, and it came before Michael's return.
Neighbours has been guilty of the same thing leaving out the word "rape" during such storylines as Izzy lying to Karl that her baby with Gus was the result of rape, Rebecca admitting to Paul that Oliver and Declan's father raped her (conceiving Declan in the process) and Bridget accidentally killing a guy who was trying to rape her. Especially strange when you consider that back in 1993 they had no problem with the scene where Julie reveals to Philip that her conception was the result of rape. Or Scott sarcastically calling himself a rapist during the first week of the show back in 1985).
Discussed in Lie to Me when an alleged rape victim said "he sexually assaulted me". Foster deduced that she was lying because actual rape victims don't shy away from saying "rape".
Played with in Arrested Development, when a doctor appears to be doing this by saying "we lost him," but it turns out that George Sr. just climbed out the window to avoid going back to prison.
Interestingly, The Dick Van Dyke Show never used the word with regard to Laura's pregnancy (which was visited repeatedly in flashbacks), but could use it freely regarding animals, as in the 1962 episode "Never Name a Duck."
British children's Game ShowRaven The Island used a lot of euphemisms for the contestants "dying". "Perished" was the closest they got.
Speaking of British children's Game Show, the hard to win Knightmare uses "death" a lot.
This was an expression of frustration on Mr Hyneman's part that was allowed into the edit - the use of "genetic material" in the first place was at the Discovery Channel's specific request. The words "expression of frustration" and "Mr Hyneman" in the same sentence should give a clue as to how annoying this trope can get. Especially since they were allowed to say "sperm" several times in an earlier episode. (One of the myths about cola they tested in Season One was whether it would act as a spermicide).
They did go an entire episode of "flatus" themed experiments without once using the word "fart". But this was only because they thought that it was classier to avoid it, not for censorship.
There's also the episode of sayings where they had to shine poop. Adam provides the caveat that they can't use certain words by listing them while being bleeped.
When the Mythbusters Top 25 episode was done during the Discovery Channel's 25th Anniversary celebration, they played quite a few segments of older episodes where the Mythbusters crew exclaimed "Holy crap!" completely uncensored (in response to either the unexpected scale of destruction a particular test caused or when something failed to work properly), while the original episodes had the second word bleeped out.
Despite being overwhelmingly the most-requested subject for Beakmans World to tackle, the show waited until the very last segment of the very last episode to tackle flatulence. (And they got away with saying "anal sphincter").
The famous episode "The Contest", about the characters competing to see who can hold off from masturbating the longest, probably only made it to air because none of them actually say the M-word. Although it's really pretty well done, as the dialogue never seems forced to avoid the term.
Also, the episode where Elaine tells Jerry her date "took it out" while they were in the car. The term it is repeated several times, not once explaining what exactly it means. It is the guy's penis. What really makes the moment is when Kramer enters halfway through the conversation and immediately knows exactly what they're talking about.
The Sarah Jane Adventures, normally a show with a low body-count, has Sarah Jane encounter Oddbob, source of the Pied Piper myth. Naturally, when he disappears children, they don't "die", but are sent to another dimension. Since his powers have No Ontological Inertia, his defeat frees them. But as it would be a storytelling inconvenience to deal with the reappearance of the hundreds of children he's abducted over 700 years with only three minutes of show left. So this possibility is ruled out with the explanation that the abducted children do not die but "fade away" over time. Frankly, the idea of the abducted children "fading away" seems a bit more nightmarish than to just explain Oddbob as a prolific alien serial killer. Especially since it wasn't afraid of using the word die in Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? when Maria tells Andrea she was meant to die and Andrea repeats the line back to her in disgust.
In an episode of iCarly, the kids have to find a bunch of newly-hatched chicks in four hours or "bad things happen".
Kamen Rider Dragon Knight uses being "vented" to explain that the defeated riders are sent to the "Advent Void," the nexus point between the mirror world and the real one, and will not be able to ever return. This seems to be one more case of replacing death with a Fate Worse than Death.
One episode is actually entitled "Vent Or Be Vented".
The series actually runs with this idea, later revealing that the Advent Void wasn't meant to be a Fate Worse than Death, since the Riders' leader had the ability to retrieve them from the Void and thus it was more of a temporary break than a permanent banishment. Of course, at the start of the series he's not around, so it is a prison for a while.
The forgotten The Mystery Files Of Shelby Woo never lets anyone die, which, for a grown up, is jarring in a detective series. The closer the show ever got to show a character dying (or even saying the d-word, for that matter) was when a victim was attacked... and fell into a coma.
Only for demons. The words "death," "die", and "kill" are still used for humans, except for sarcastic expressions like "Somebody vanquish me!"
Monty Python's Flying Circus, the dead parrot sketch: "'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile! This ... is an ex-parrot!"
More appropriately, subverted in the railway timetables sketch. After seeing the corpse
Has he been... ?
Yes, after breakfast. That doesn't matter now, he's dead!
Scrubs: "We never say die! Except when a patient actually dies. Then, we're kind of forced to by law."
There's a flashback at one point to when Elliot tried being the doctor-who-never-says-terminal. She had a very hard time explaining to a patient that his mother was in fact... terminal...
Man: Is it terminal?
Elliot: I wouldn't say that.
Man: So she still has a chance?
JD has rattles off a quick list of variations on the word "die" that can be used while trying to teach intern Keith how to break news to a terminal patient including such gems as "deadsies" and "Deadwood" (did you know Cowboys used to curse?)
In one episode of Happy Days, ABC's Standards and Practices department forbade a priest character from using the word "God" in a comedic context: instead he pointed ceilingward and spoke reverently of "Him".
The Nineties children's show Shining Time Station, in one of the later episodes where Billy's nephew Kit comes to visit. Billy asks Stacy if she'd heard about Kit's father, and she responds, mournfully, "Yes, I'm sorry."
Played with in-universe on the Bones episode "The Body In The Bounty", when the host of a kids' science program wants Brennen to guest-star on his show. People dying on Bones is nothing new, but one of the characters expresses doubt as to whether Brennen can avoid talking about autopsies or grisly modes of death long enough to appear on a kiddie Show Within a Show.
On That '70s Show, they rarely said exactly what it was they were smoking, calling it "the stash" instead. In some cases it wasn't too awkward, such as when they were around adults.
The smoking itself was only implied. The only time characters are actually seen smoking anything in the circle is an episode where they're smoking cigars, causing one character to comment, "This is way worse than what we normally do in the circle. THIS should be illegal."
In-universe, this was attempted but ultimately subverted to hell and back in an episode of Roseanne when Jackie tries to break some bad news to a relative that is hard of hearing.
Similar to the Goonies example, Black Sabbath wrote a song insisting that you "Never Say Die," and named the album after it. Averted in which the title was not picked for the sake of euphemism, but instead, it is to give a message of optimism to listeners.
Iron Savior would also like to remind you to "Never Say Die".
The Cheetah Girls' song "Girl Power" contains a literal example of this trope, as the phrase "Never Say Die" is actually in the refrain.
YUI has a song entitled "Never Say Die".
The Gothic Archies song "Freakshow" has the lines "real people ask you why/with a face like you've got, won't you just lie down and..." with the obvious missing word being "die".
Averted with Pinball Dreams, as the "Nightmare" playfield has rollovers that spell D-I-E.
At WWE Extreme Rules 2011, when John Cena announced to the crowd that Osama bin Laden had been killed, he stated that he had been "captured and compromised to a permanent end." This from a man who used to say "bitch" frequently. When he was the hero.
Rush Limbaugh often refers to the recently deceased as having "assumed room temperature".
Religion and Mythology
In Christian theology, "death" refers to being spiritually dead — that is, condemned to Hell. Thus, other terms may be used for death of the body.
In his biblical epistles, Saint Paul would never refer to dead Christians as having died. He would say that they have "gone to sleep". Since Paul did not want to imply damnation by any means, he used a euphemism.
Jesus also uses the term "fallen asleep" (in John 11:10) to refer to the soon-to-be-raised Lazarus. He actually has to explain what he means to his disciples, as they don't get it.
In at least one translation of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) people don't die, they "pass from life into life". The reason is the same as Paul's.
Older Than Dirt: The Ancient Egyptians believed that to record something in writing made it more real. Scribes usually did not speak of death, only of euphemisms such as passing west (towards the setting sun and The Underworld) or joining the sun god's barque in the sky. Set was never said to have killed or murdered his brother Osiris; instead he knocked him down.
The Qur'an explicitely forbids to call martyrs dead because "they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision".
In the Mage Knight miniatures game, a critter is explicitly dead when its dial is turned and three skulls appear in its stat slot. In Hero Clix, by the same company, there are no skulls — instead, three big red 'KO's appear, and the rules specifically refer to such as state as being 'defeated'.
In the Yu-Gi-Oh Card Game, any card with the word "Death" in its name has it changed to the deliberate transliteration of "Des." So we have Des Koala and Des Frog instead of Death Koala and Death Frog. Additionally, cards with the word "Demon" in their name got it changed to "Archfiend," so "Red Demon Dragon" is "Red Dragon Archfiend" now. Unfortunately, some "Demon" cards had been released with various other renames before those names actually became gameplay-relevant, so an Obvious Rule Patch had to be put in play designating all those cards as "Archfiends" even though their names weren't changed. (Later, a type of rules text called an archetype condition was added to the game, allowing the cards to specifically name themselves as Archfiends, rather than players having to look up the list online to prove the cards were Archfiends.)
The word "Hell" in some card names was changed to "Chthonian", or "Stygian".
Reversed in Magic: The Gathering: since the Magic 2012 expansion, creatures are said to "die", not merely "be put into the graveyard from the battlefield". (The "graveyard" is the main general-purpose discard pile zone, the "battlefield" is the zone of cards in play.)
Other grim terminology is older (an amount of damage that would kill a creature is "lethal"; effects that attempt to move permanents, including noncreature ones, from the battlefield to the graveyard "destroy" them) or discontinued (effects that tried to destroy a permanent without a chance of saving it with regeneration were said to "bury" it).
However, players with no life left just "lose the game", and really gone cards are merely "exiled" (formerly "removed from the game").
Two very similar abilities that make creature return from the graveyard are called "Persist" and "Undying".
In general, well-defined and intuitive technical terms are more important than avoiding scary words; individual cards are far more creepy in any case.
Lycee TCG has an interesting take on this trope. Characters that left the field due to losing battle or hit by certain effects is said to be 'discarded', as though they are merely cards in your hands or decks. There is no clear border between 'a character' and 'a character card', unlike Magic or similar competitive card games. Which helps the players in not imagining what logically happens: it doesn't matter if your Ibuki Fuuko is knocked out by Shiina Mayuri, Serpent of Akasha, or Demonbane, she's only 'discarded' into your 'dustbox'.
The word slipped through a couple of times, but the early years of BIONICLE mostly used "destroy" and "defeat". This has been generally averted in later years, however. Its replacement, Hero Factory, being much Lighter and Softer, seems to play the trope straight again, though even it seems to be veering away from this slowly.
The German release of the third BIONICLEDirect-to-DVD movie cut the bit when Roodaka expresses her need for the corpses of the Toa, even though it's the whole point of the rest of the scene, and the first movie's German dub averted this trope.
In Halo, Spartans in-universe are persistently rumored to be immortal as a form of psychological warfare against the Covenant, and to boost morale in the UNSC. Thus, even when they really do die, they are never listed as "KIA", only "MIA" or "WIA".
In Soul Blazer for SNES, the characters repeatedly say people "passed away".
In both Dynasty Warriors and sister series Samurai Warriors (and, by extension, the mash up series Warriors Orochi), this can be appropriate as many defeated characters are explicitly NOT killed and instead forced into retreat.
Also, there are weapons where taking a person down wouldn't kill them, such as the feather fans, at least not necessarily, so it's justifiable for that reason as well.
Averted in the US version of Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage where the KO count was changed to "Kills", since claiming someone who just burst into bloody giblets or was sliced into confetti is only KOd is REALLY stretching the definition. The achievement icons involving a large number of kills were left unchanged and still read "KO" though.
An egregious if little known example is Dragon Ball Z Legendary Super Warriors on the Gameboy Color. It appears that at some point the translators did a find/replace on the words 'die', 'died', 'death', 'kill' and 'killed' and switched them all for 'lost', regardless of sentence structure. So while things like "I can't believe Piccollo lost!" make sense, more or less, you also get dialogue like "Lost, Vegeta! Lost!", "The entire planet will lost!", and "I guess you DO want to lost!"
The English translation of Final Fantasy VI was forced to avoid explicit mention of death. One dungeon is the tomb of Setzer's girlfriend, Daryl. In a flashback she states that Setzer can have her airship, the Falcon, if "anything happens to her". You even get to see Rachel's preserved corpse, and hear the story of her death, but again, no d-word.
The suicide attempt scene especially, has any mention or notion of suicide removed.
Exception: After Kefka gives Celes a sword on the Floating Continent, he tells her, "Kill the others and we'll forgive your treachery! Take this sword! Kill them all!"
Most Final Fantasy games would also avoid using words related to death early in the series when it came to your party's status after their HP hits zero, using words like Swoon, Disabled, Stun, etc. Final Fantasy VII averted the trope by referring knocked out characters as Dead. However, using Dead lead to confusion when one of your party members was killed off due to the plot and people wondered why a Phoenix Down wasn't used to bring them back to life. The series then use KO (knocked out) to describe defeated party members, dipping back into the trope.
The words "death", "dead" etc. were formally banned from all Nintendo games for many years as part of their policy for family-friendly content, back in the early days. Abandoned in later years, of course, though The Legend of Zelda series in particular still insists on describing enemies as being "defeated" after you slice the hell out of them. One of the bosses in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening even lampshade this. He sends a variety of minions at you, and after you're finished with them, he yells "You K-K-K-Beat my Brothers!!!"
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles don't die, they "get caught". Justified at least in the NES version since they DO get caught if defeated and can be found tied up in a chair and rescued in later levels.
The SNES port of Flashback renamed the Death Tower the Cyber Tower.
City of Heroes uses the ambiguous "arrest" or "defeat" to let the players decide whether their heroes use lethal force or not. This is subject to much Lampshade Hanging in fan works and sometimes the game itself. Yes, you can "arrest" people with a katana or giant lightning bolts, apparently.
The manager of the Monkey Fight Club insists "The monkeys ain't kilt! That's de-feat-ed!"
The developers seem to have become more lenient over the years, though - there are obvious instances of characters outright dying, and plenty more where it's left easy to assume. Although there is one character that some players seem to wish had died in the first appearance, considering the result when they returned.
More specifically, all the game's system messages ever say is "defeated." What "defeated" means is subject to context if the particular story involving the "defeat" chooses to elaborate. Some elaborations involve capture and interrogation, some involve death and killing, and some involve the defeated character "teleporting away." There is no default stance given to what a generic "defeat" should mean, however.
Parodied with a generic activist who describes War Witch (a ghost) as "breathing-challenged".
Megaman Battle Network: Killerman.EXE, a shinigami-styled assassin Navi, cries, "Jigoku ni ochi na!" ("Fall into hell!") as he buries his scythe in his victims. The English adaptation switched this to whispering "Sweet dreams" in the victim's ear. Hell, the guy himself is an example; the translation changed his name to "EraseMan" (with his chips still in the "k" code). Yeah, we're buying that.
The man who created Pokémon, Satoshi Tajiri, wanted his series to focus on the collecting potential of the Game Boy's Link Cable, instead of the violent nature of many an RPG, hence why the Monsters don't die in battle, only faint. That didn't stop Team Rocket from murdering Marowak in the original games, even in the English versions. Your Rival even points out this difference when you fight him in Pokemon Tower.
TIME: Still, American kids like Pokémon, even without the blood.
Tajiri: I was really careful in making monsters faint rather than die. I think that young people playing games have an abnormal concept about dying. They start to lose and say, "I'm dying." It's not right for kids to think about a concept of death that way. They need to treat death with more respect.
In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, rated E for Extreme Technicality, this seems to be part of an overall pattern of very thinly veiling all manner of terrible, terrible things. This could actually make the game more disturbing, since it sometimes ends up reading like the characters are too innocent to come to terms with what's happening to them enough to talk about it straight-forwardly. And in Explorers, two of the characters seriously contemplate committing suicide without ever stating it out loud. Gates to Infinity substitutes the word for "disappear", "destroyed", and possibly "defeated" on multiple occasions (The context it's used in makes it unclear as to whether or not death was actually involved). It also uses the sentence cut short variation on one occasion where no other word could possibly have filled in for it.
The Stadium games also mention how a Pokemon is "about to die" if you send it out while their HP is low.
Several Pokédex entries do, however, use the word "die" in the context of "cessation of life" (Spoink for FireRed, Alakazam for Silver, Lampent for White). In general, the English Pokémon games tend to reduce the number of mentions of "killing" and "death", but don't eliminate them entirely.
Likewise, in Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, you see two sailors tossed off the S.S. Libra during Cipher's attack in the intro, and yet there's no word on the fate of the ship for three days. On top of that, the only guy onboard who isn't a criminal doesn't look like he's part of the ship's crew. The game does such a good job glossing over the fact that Cipher committed mass homicide on the ship's human crew that younger and/or more naive players may not understand just what kind of people they're dealing with.
"The man's Pokemon went off to war. Time passed. And then, one day, the man was given a tiny box."note In the image, the "box" is unmistakably a coffin, which almost makes the line more heartbreaking than if the word "death" was used.
The game even keeps with Mr. Tajiri's ideals, as outlined above: while the game is far more involved with the concept of mortality, the heroes very much call out the main villain on his cavalier attitude toward killing, and much of the theme of the game, even the sidequests, is that life is worth living.
Yveltal in Japan is a "Death Pokemon" and has a move called "Death Wing". In English, they are respectively changed to "Destruction Pokemon" and "Oblivion Wing" which sounds more epic.
Less of the "Never say Die" sort, but still worth mentioning: The German Pokémon games refer to the Dark-type Pokémon and attacks as "Unlicht", which means not light in English. And even though the ban of "bad words" in video games has been lightened, the type is still named "Unlicht".
Mega Man Star Force never uses the verb, neither to humans nor to aliens. They also never use destroy, but some really poetic terms ("not among us anymore" or "he/she is in Heaven") or the sentence is never completed ("If you keep doing this, she will..."). In a part of the game, "die" is replaced by "hurt", creating this very stupid dialogue:
Geo: "W-W-W-Wait a sec!! If you do that, you'll hurt the other guys, too!"
Mega: "Then what do you suggest? Leave them be and let them cause an (car) accident and get hurt that way?"
In the third game the translators really had no choice, as such a high number of characters die, though mostly not permanently, yet they still danced with euphemisms quite a bit. When Ace dies, "kill" and "die" are used freely, repeatedly in the mourning dialogue. When Luna dies though, it's Never Say "Die" to the rescue.
The Kingdom Hearts series uses this trope oddly. When in Disney worlds, the words "kill" and "death" can be used freely... by everybody EXCEPT the main characters. In the game's "real" storyline though, the words are completely forbidden, often being replaced by "destroyed", "finished", "defeated", and "sent to Oblivion".
The main exception to this rule was in the handheld Chain of Memories. After battling Riku Replica in the "Reverse//Rebirth" mode (playing as Riku), he talks about his own death as he fades, even asking where his heart will go, or whether it will just disappear. Thanks to that the remake got a 10+ rating (surprisingly, the original GBA game didn't have trouble with that - possibly because that rating didn't exist then). Also, Vexen never actually said die - but Axel probably wasn't doing the game's rating any favors when he cut off "I don't want to [die]" by setting him ablaze. The remake also averts it, with Axel saying "don't you go off and die on me now" before fighting Sora the first time.
The whole "Never Say Die" thing is even written into the story. Even if the world is consumed by darkness, the people living there don't die. Some of them become summon crystals, while the rest fall dormant until their world is restored. Even the people taken by the Heartless don't really die - when Sora "kills" a Heartless, its heart is cleansed and set free, and can return to its previous owner.
It gets even worse once it's not clear what the characters are even saying any more. Consider this: In KH2, a major subplot is Sora trying to find Riku. He knows he's alive about 3/4s of the way through the game, but then the evidence dries up. Near the end, he fights with a vision of Roxas, who tells him he "defeated" Riku. Once the fight's over, this sends Sora almost into a paranoid attack. But wait: that was just a vision, and Roxas hasn't existed for most of the game. That means he can't possibly be using "defeated" to mean "killed" since Riku is still alive after that and even the player knows it. That means, in the Kingdom Hearts world, "defeated" isn't censorship, but worse: the word actually does mean both "killed" AND "defeated", and no can ever figure out which you mean without an explanation.
Before one of his boss battles, Axel claims he'll "make it all stop". Larxene occasionally tells Sora to "Vanish!" during her boss battles. When Xemnas merges with Kingdom Hearts, he ask for the power to "erase" Sora and his friends.
After saying that Axel's betrayal ruined her and Marluxia's plans, Larxene tells Sora, "Now, I'm left with no choice but to eliminate you!" when she's pretty clearly intending to kill him.
One of Saix's lines during battle averts this trope, however, as he says "I want to see you die fighting.", though the line was supposedly removed in the actual release.
Vexen averts it after his first fight with Sora: "As I expected, you weren't one to die very easily!"
The English version of Birth by Sleep actually uses the word on a semi-frequent basis, even when the usage of "die" and threats of murder could have easily replaced with something less hostile without it even sounding the least bit odd. Then again, it is a prequel that takes place before the Heartless were unleashed. The concept of death was likely much simpler before you could return to your normal self by having someone wielding a magic key kill your monster self. There are some instances where euphemisms are used, such as Aqua commenting on how Master Eraqus had been "struck down" and Ven asking his friends to "put an end" to him, though given the circumstances, it could be that the characters themselves (rather than the censors) want to avoid using the actual words.
The first English localization of ActRaiser did this to the extreme. In a very obviously god simulation with world-changing whims and angels who report to you, the localization tried hard to completely erase all notions of this in the text. God became "Master", temples became "shrines", prophets/seers became "fortune tellers", and other thoroughly unconvincing euphemisms. The game itself, though, was one of the best god sims of its time, and remained this good in English, the transparent Executive Meddling notwithstanding.
In the NES version of Dragon Quest IV. Psaro/Saro's nickname Death Pizzaro/Psaro the Manslayer is rendered as Necrosaro.
Nobody dies in Kingdom of Loathing, they just get 'Beaten Up', a condition that lasts 3-4 gameplay turns. You can assume NPC's also suffer the same fate, since the end of combat is usually described as simply, "You win the fight!" But if the combat ends on a Disco Bandit's face stabbing combos, a "FATALITY!" is announced.
Played for laughs in Mario Super Sluggers, where a Magikoopa who Bowser charged with guarding a lighthouse confuses sayings each time you challenge it. (For example "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man angry and hungry for pies."). If you fail his challenge and talk to him he'll attempt to use the expressions "Never say die" and "live and let die" only replacing the word 'die' with 'bye.' When a Lakitu attempts to correct him, he interrupts the correction and the challenge begins.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii's instruction manual quite glaringly refers to "blunder" and "make a mistake" rather than death. It still says you "lose a life" though.
In theMotherseries, defeating enemies will render them to "become tame", "stop moving", "return to normal", "disappear", or "be defeated". Justification occurs though that some things such as moving records, lamps, and street signs would "stop moving" and return to normal, non-animated/living objects.
Furthermore, the official translation of EarthBound removes all references to death from the in-game dialogues (see here or here for examples.)
In Star Wars Battlefront II, the text bar that records important actions says "killed" or "died" for when an ordinary soldier is killed and "defeated" or "fled" for heroes. Though the all-heroes battle (Mos Eisley Assault) treats heroes like normal characters.
Metal Gear: Ghost Babel for GBC. This is a game about terrorists trying to start a nuclear war. It contains a scene where a minor character is killed out of the blue by exploding handcuffs. It contains another where the Big Bad graphically discusses a rape-murder and avoids those specific words. Also, a character on Snake's support team who turned out to be a traitor is described as "having a bullet put through his head" during the ending cutscene. And Snake's cigarettes were replaced with a cigarette-shaped smoke-emitting device known as the "Fogger".
The French version of Tales of Symphonia is a funny example of this when you understand English, because while the text is in French, the voice acting is still in English. So you hear "killed" and read "destroyed/eliminated/disposed of/badly hurt". They toned down some of the stuff Zelos says, too...
In Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG, you are asked to "defeat" a certain type of enemy, even if "defeating" means whacking them with a cutlass, shooting them, throwing grenades at them, or what have you.
And now it's gotten worse: Sonic Colors manual refers to "losing a try." The earliest Sonic games referred to Lives as Chances, though, so this may be a case of returning to its roots.
The Sonic Advance manual referred to lives as "tries" as well. For example: "Gain an extra try".
Averted in Sonic Jump; certain missions require Sonic to get killed by a Badnik or falling object.
All references to House of the Dead in Sega Superstars Tennis and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing are labelled "Curien Mansion" or acronymed as "HOTD". This is for three reasons: A) Sumo Digital aimed for the games to be as family-friendly as possiblenote Not that it's a bad thing, if the critics considering the latter game to be a very good Follow the Leader of Mario Kart is any indication, B) the House of the Dead series is banned in Germany, the application of this trope here serving as a form of sneaking past German censors, and C) They do not want to mention the name of an M-rated series in an E10+ game (however, they seem perfectly fine with mentioning T-rated franchises).
The SNES port of Art of Fighting replaced the "Super Death Blow" (actually a literal translation of "Chou Hissatsu Waza", the Japanese term for Super Moves) with a "Super Fire Blow".
The heavily bowdlerized SNES port of Mortal Kombat, aside for removing all the blood and gore from the arcade game, renamed the game's "Fatalities" into "Finishing Moves", with at least three of the characters' original Fatalities being replaced by so-called "new moves". However, variations of some of them did end up in newer games, like Sub-Zero's freeze-and-shatter.
Some of the early Romance of the Three Kingdoms games on SNES(/PSX?). Whenever you captured an opposing officer in battle, you were offered the chance to "Hire/Recruit" them, release them, or "Capture" them. Judging by the fact that, once you "capture" them, they never show up in that particular playthrough again, it's fairly easy to decipher what happened.
The later games (PS2-era on) definitely avert this trope, replacing the word "Capture" with "Execute" - complete with death quotes (usually pleas for mercy) and the telltale sound of a sword being unsheathed. Although it's usually a good idea to hire them first if they're skilled - then to check to see if they've got a large family. Executing someone with the family name Sun will make your life very difficult later.
Countless instruction cards for early video games referred to vanquished player characters as "becoming tired" or similar; a big offender when you actually saw Pac-Man dissolve to nothing and *pop* as the ghost ate him.
Averted in, of all things, the Spyro series - even before the dark and gritty reboot (though averted there as well). Downplayed in Ripto's Rage - in one level you have to kill a Yeti, and while the character talking clearly says "Even though I am a vegetarian, I think you should kill that Yeti," in the subtitles, the game replaces "kill" with "torch".
The 1992 Sega Genesis fighting game Deadly Moves (originally called Power Athlete in Japan), was retitled Power Moves when it was ported to the Super NES. It became Hilarious in Hindsight when Nintendo later published a certain game called Killer Instinct.
Played with in the Touhou manga "Strange and Bright Nature Deity"; according to canon, fairies instantly resurrect when killed. So it has the three protagonist-fairies regarding a tree which has been split in half by lightning, worried about the fairies that lived there. "They must have been ...!" Cut to a dazed-looking fairy floating along in the breeze. "Yeah, that must be them over there. They'll probably be out of commission for a while."
Strangely inverted in Snoopy Flying Ace. As it is a Peanuts game, pilots whose planes are destroyed, no matter how violently, make it out alive and can be seen parachuting down safely. However, the game itself still refers to bringing other planes down and getting shot down yourself/crashing as "Kills" and "Deaths".
In Harry Potterand the Prisoner of Azkaban's GBA version, defeating an enemy results in the following quote: "(enemy) went away!", and the results screen says "The fleeing enemy dropped". Odd for a series that deals heavily with death.
The early PC games describe in-game dying as "fainting". So when Harry falls down a Bottomless Pit, that caused him to "faint". At the same time, it's averted when the storyline is discussed in cutscenes. Well, it would be rather hard to pretend Moaning Myrtle became a ghost as a result of "fainting", wouldn't it? However, the second game did censor the word "Muggle" for some bizarre reason, changing it to "non-magical" or "non-magical folk". When the characters have to refer to Muggle-borns, it becomes especially awkward: "Those who are not wizard born will be purged from Hogwarts."
Played straight in The World Ends with You, with the constant repetitions of "failure" in the Game leading to "erasure." Up until The Reveal, anyway. Erasure isn't a stand-in for death - you're already dead.
In DC Universe Online, when you die you are "knocked out". The game also usually refers to killing mobs for quests as "destroying" or "knocking out".
The first Freddi Fish game very strangely averts this trope, though all of Humongous Entertainment's other games try to avoid using this trope. In the Junior Arcades, the manuals would never call it "death" if you lost a try.
Strangely played straight in Demons Souls and Dark Souls. The message that pops up after you successfully kill the world's host during an invasion is always "Target is Destroyed" instead of say, "Target Killed". Even when Dark Souls' patch changes some of the other status message, only that particular one is unchanged. Although slightly justified in Dark Souls where nearly everyone you meet cannot Technically stay dead due to them being Undead.
R. Scott Campbell of Interplay tells this story of how a SNES game based on The Lord of the Rings was originally rejected. Nintendo would not let them include the line "Nine for mortal men doomed to die". They seriously considered changing it to "Nine mortal men doomed to cry".
Oddly averted in Mario Teaches Typing, where, in one level, the example texts in the typing exercises are devoted to such fascinating topics as the Great Fire of London (along with an exact figure of how many people died in it) or the assassination of JFK.
A Bonus Stage episode in which Joel learns, from the book Do-It-Yourself Standards & Practices, how to retool the show for a child audience, we hear this exchange (words in brackets being obviously dubbed):
Phil: Wh—... what just happened?
Joel: It's been a week, dude. You came back from the [hurt] after I [destroyed] you and sent you to [Hades]. That stuff was, uh, cut... for, uh... time.
One of the oddities of language in Erfworld is the use of "croaked" instead of "dead" or "killed" (and "uncroaked" instead of "undead"). However, this is clearly done by the characters and not the author, because Parson does refer to it as death and takes note of how completely inappropriate death seems in this otherwise cute and cuddly setting.
Mostly averted in Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Death is depicted throughout the series, and the Planeteers and other characters tell it like it is, especially when it comes to how pollution kill wildlife. The death of Boris, Linka's cousin, from a drug overdose is clearly depicted in the episode "Mind Pollution". However, while the villains attempt to kill the Planeteers and other characters, perhaps in the most brutal ways by kids cartoon standards, almost never say to "kill them", finding other words to use instead.
An episode has the Warners escaping from a boring man, exclaiming "Free at last, free at last, thank G-" at which point they are cut off by the man reappearing.
Another episode featured Slappy Squirrel guarding the apple in the Garden of Eden. She claims she was given the job by "Mr. Big".
In the first Rita and Runt cartoon, where the two are in the pound. Rita says "Ah what difference does it make, soon we'll be sleeping the 'big sleep'." Runt states that he could use a nap, to which Rita snaps "They're gonna gas us you buffoon. We'll be dead!"
Parodied (and also a great comment on Disney's "for kids" movies) in one of the funniest Slappy the Squirel shorts "Bumbie's Mom" where Slappy and Skippy see "Bumbie" and Skippy freaks out when Bumbie's mom is shot and killed. Throughout the entire episode Slappy tries to explain that no one dies in cartoons and that Bumbie's mom is alive. Skippy continuously replies "Bumbie's mom, she's...huuuuuuhuhuhoohoohoohoo!" Slappy finally takes Skippy to see the "actor" that played Bumbie's mom and he feels better...then on the plane ride back they show "Old Yellow" and Skippy starts crying when they shoot Old Yellow the dog. Slappy then just says "Ah, fade out already!"
One high-risk episode has the Warners visiting Hell and annoying the devil. When it does come up, Hell is called "Hades." Though the Devil does outright refer to himself as "Satan", and Wakko even tests out the "snowball's chance in Hell" metaphor.
"Meatballs or Consequences" is an odd one. It was supposed to be called "Death or Consequences", but Executive Meddling forced the change. Still, the words "death", "die" and "dead" are used throughout the episode (along with a euphemism: "living-impaired").
G.I. Joe is infamous for having characters always parachute out after enemy aircraft are shot down, even from helicopters. A writer on the series has noted that the closest they could come to death was mentioning "casualties."
Another infamous example is in G.I. Joe: The Movie, where Duke is mortally wounded by Serpentor. He was originally supposed to die (and taking the scene at face value, he does). But when the Executives found out about it, they decided to try it out in Transformers: The Movie. After the reaction to Optimus Prime's death, however, they backpedaled and made them insert dialogue about Duke only being in a coma, and a line about him recovering at the end. The theme song that appears in the movie actually says that the Joes "Never Say Die". Mind you, they don't have to, because nobody ever does.
Every synonym in the book was used in the second season finale episode "Aftershock", which felt especially awkward with the dark dialog and tone the episode set.
The Big Bad in the series was only ever referred to as Slade; in the comics he's Deathstroke the Terminator. (It doesn't sound too out of place in the show; "Slade", without the "Wilson" sounds like just another codename.) "Killer Moth" and "Brother Blood" were kept, but the production crew had to fight for them.
Likewise in season four finale "The End". Slade saying "I don't even expect you to live" is probably the closest the series ever came to an aversion of this trope. But he's not even able to directly address his own currently undead state, when his mask is knocked off to reveal a skeletal face. To be fair, he does mention that Terra's betrayal should have lead to his 'demise'.
Averted in "The Sum Of His Parts". Granted, Cyborg was talking about his batteries dying but he did say die and Starfire thought he meant actual dying. Also, his suit is life support, so wouldn't his batteries dying kill him?
The effect this had on the show really varied a lot. Most of the euphemisms worked coming from Slade, because it fit with his Creepy Monotone and general clinical cruelty. In the abovementioned Terra scenes in "Aftershock", however, the dialogue felt jarringly Narmful precisely because the episode was so intense- nobody would use a euphemism in that situation! Unless, of course, Slade could continue to control Terra's lifeless corpse through the suit, so they would have to do more than kill her, they'd have to properly "destroy" her entire body...
Trigon: (To Raven) I'm so proud. The only thing left to do is kill all your friends. Starfire: (Cheerfully) Kill us! Kill us! You can, like, totally do it!
Various examples in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, known for its particularly heavy censorship. Semper had to have Mary Jane and the Green Goblin fall through an interdimensional portal instead of to their deaths. It is stated that The Punisher's family, rather than being gunned down, was simply "caught in a crossfire between rival gangs," and the same applied to the wife of the Destroyer. Uncle Ben simply "tried to stop the burglar that broke into his house, but the burglar was armed." At one point, when the Goblin returns after seemingly perishing, Spider-Man says, "You?! But I thought you were—" and the Goblin cuts him off with, "I'm not... but you'll soon be!"
The Punisher when appearing on the show was said to use "lethal force", but the words "death" and "kill" never appeared. He's also eventually talked into using non-lethal weaponry pretty quickly by his sidekick.
Morbius the Living Vampire drank "plasma", not blood (he was also modified to use suckers in his hands rather than biting people). (But in the Swedish dub, it was "blood plasma", so he was sucking blood through suckers in his hands.)
The worst example, though, was Carnage, a particularly brutal serial killer who became popular in the comics as part of the Darker and Edgier late '80s/early '90s. It's stated that he was a vicious criminal before becoming super-powered, but the word "killer" is never used. After becoming super-powered, he is recruited by the alien-god-thing Dormammu to drain the life force from people to power him up, bringing him into this world. Draining people only leaves them near death, and naturally, when he's defeated, all this life energy is returned.
One episode averted it when Mac Gargan before becoming The Scorpion says kill. Another episode, featuring the apparent demise of Norman Osborn, manages to sneak in a few direct references to his "death", before it's revealed he survived and is really the mysterious Green Goblin
Interestingly, The Spectacular Spider-Man has actually had fewer death references than the 90s series, and no deaths (other than backstory ones) thus far. However, there's less Bowdlerising in other areas. The 90s series wasn't even a little bit shy about the Death by Origin Story, and also had the clone Mary Jane and Hydro-Man die (a Tear Jerker of a scene, actually) as well as the real Mysterio (by choosing to stay behind in the Collapsing Lair with his lover, who deliberately initiated the collapse because, to her, death was preferable to remaining disfigured. Double suicide in a kids' show. Later, Mysterio was referred to as "no longer with us" - avoidance of the word, but a reminder of a censor-unfriendly moment you'd think Fox Kids would want swept under the rug.) It contained far more deaths than some shows that were braver when it came to using the D-word.
Sometimes the aversion of the word death would take the dialogue into serious Narm territory. In the episode "Return of Hydro-Man Part 2" Mary Jane says, with all seriousness, "I just can't shake the feeling that when we find out what's wrong with me, it's going to lead to my destruction!" Serious intents or not, try saying that out loud and see what kind of reaction you get. This Mary Jane was later revealed to be a clone, and did indeed die shortly later..
Not only did TSSM avert this, but they sometimes used even more colorful language concerning death. For example...
Doc Ock (holding up a captured Spider-Man): Rhino, you won the coin toss. Will you crush his skull or simply impale his heart on your horn?
As well as...
Green Goblin: Any minute now the creme de la creme of New York City is going to paint the town red! (low, ominous voice) Well the ballroom anyway...
The Deadpool episode parodies this as Deadpool cannot say "the k-word" (though Spider-Man makes it very clear that he can at least) and prefers the term "unaliving" his enemies.
"Game Over" plays it 100 percent straight. Arcade's Murderworld is changed to "Madland".
The 1981 Spider-Man series, while only referring to Uncle Ben's death as a "fatal accident", also had a flashback to Spider-Man confronting the burglar who shot Ben and Spidey calling him a "murderer".
The 1967 Spider-Man series actually averted this, despite this being, well, the late sixties, including, among other things, the word "hell" being spoken, plenty of references to death, and even someone being instructed to shoot to kill. Uncle Ben was indeed murdered, and Spidey, in his own words, laments that "in a sense, it's really I who killed him." In a way, this show was more progressive about this trope than its successors. Of course, this is the same show that also included quite a few sexist or racist characters by today's standards.
In the Silver Surfer animated series, Thanos is the primary antagonist. In the comics, Thanos has a crush on (the embodiment of) Death, a plot which carries over into the show. Death, however, is called "Lady Chaos" for television purposes.
Partial aversion: X-Men plays this trope as straight-as-can-be throughout (especially in the second episode) but got to play with quite tellingly in the first appearance of the Juggernaut. He is crushed under rubble and Jubilee cries out, with unmistakable delight, "You killed him!". Of course, Jugs is just fine, revealing that the word can be used if it doesn't actually refer to someone dying.
Beast even once said "Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and..." in a manner very reminiscent of the Spider-Man series). Also, the series certainly broke some rules with Nightcrawler's introductory episode, in which the character would repeatedly refer to God by name and give deep, meaningful testimonies in regards to His works (ironically, Fox execs said they HAD to... lest people think Nightcrawler was a devil). In the "Phalanx Covenant" two-parter (well into the more heavily-censored part of the series), Magneto was even allowed to say "Thank God!"
...and Beast once got to refer to hell - as in, the really hot place that's the reason the word is controversial - by name at another point!
Which is weird, considering that the Hellfire Club's name was changed to the "Inner Circle Club"... this grand tradition has also apparently been carried on in Wolverine and the X-Men. That said, Wolverine and the X-Men did avert the rule of never saying "die", "kill", or "killed".
Overall it wildly varies, villains often say "destroy them!", but Bishop regularly uses the words "die" or "killed" in the "Days of Future Past" two parter, and Magneto also uses the word "die" in the Season 1 finale. It seems there was a limit on how often they could say die or kill, but not a ban.
In the Bratz DVD "Genie Magic", Cloe (one of the 4 Bratz) is annoyed at two of the regular boys for scaring the girls during a slumber party and says, "I wish you would croak." Their new friend turns out to be a genie, and a Literal Genie at that, as she turns the boys into frogs. One of the other girls gets cut off while explaining what Cloe really meant.
Rugrats unabashedly used the word "dead" in the episode when Chuckie's pet potato bug died — of course, the babies' grasp of death is only that it's "when you sleep for a long time... like forever." — but eventually shied away from it. For example, in the Passover special, the 10th plague on Egypt is called "taking away the first born" (and in any event, Pharaoh Angelina gets scared and frees the slaves before it happens).
This is most painfully evident in the "Mother's Day Special", where the fate of Chuckie's mom is strongly hinted at, but never said outright. (Didi just about says it at one point, but Chaz cuts her off; later, when talking to Chuckie, he nervously mentions his mom being "in the hospital.") Her grave is seen in a later episode.
The Spin Off All Grown Up! apparently had no qualms about saying the d-word, albeit not in the sense of literally dying. For example, one ep has Angelica say "I wouldn't be caught dead at her stupid party"... and then react to finding out that Tommy caught her saying that on tape, "Tommy Pickles is a dead man." (The same episode also has an instance of the k-word, of course, not in the sense of actual killing: "I'll kill you off in this movie, and bring you back as the alien robot in the sequel.")
Played straight in "Doug's ChristmasStory". Porckchop bit Beebe's leg (he was trying to save her from falling through thin ice) and is blamed for attacking her. He is sent to the pound and isolated in the Very Very Bad Dogs section. The Bluffs press charges and if he's not proven innocent, will be put to sleep. When Doug tries to get people to sign a petition about how Porkchop is a good dog, one woman says that Christmas is not the time for this and he should wait until after the holidays; Doug tells her it will be too late by then. The closest the episode comes though is when Doug remembers past Christmases with Porckchop and then saying, "But this Christmas..." with an image of Doug looking at Porkchop's tombstone in the rain.
The Ren & Stimpy Show averted this as early as its pilot episode, "Big House Blues". When one of their inmates is carried off to be euthanized, Stimpy asks Ren what the "big sleep is". Ren responds with "HE'S DEAD!!! DEAD, YOU IDIOT!!! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT DEAD IS?" The show even averts Nobody Can Die, as Ren and Stimpy die at the end of many of their episodes (although Snap Back and Negative Continuity cancel it out each time). "Terminal Stimpy" is even about Stimpy being on his last life and learning how to accept death.
Rocko's Modern Life also averts this in the episode where Rocko and Heffer take care of Filburt's pet bird. When Heffer sits on it, it dies. Rocko's response is "He's dead. We've killed him. We've killed Filburt's bird." This was also averted in many other episodes, such as when Heffer went "To Heck and Back."
Played straight for the sake of humor in "Bubble Buddy" where the "has to GO" variation is used. Spongebob mistakes this for a euphemism for going the bathroom.
Invader Zim plays Nobody Can Die straight often, as seen with Keef in "Bestest Friend", Iggins in "Game Slave II", and the various people crushed on-screen in "Hamstergeddon". However, the show will avert this trope as often is it plays it straight. For example, in "Hobo 13":
Zim: * upon seeing Invader Skooge* Skooge?! But I thought The Tallest killed you!
Avatar: The Last Airbender has a weird relation with this trope: it mostly averts it, both in humorous and serious dialogue, but sometimes (especially in season 3) it would play it straight. Some defend that the times the word is not used is justified, since the characters who go for euphemisms wouldn't want to use the actual words, but there are occasions a little harder to justify ("The Southern Raiders" had a nigh complete avoidance of explicitly using the word, even though the episode's entire plot is about killing a person to get revenge for another person's murder).
As far as "The Southern Raiders" goes, that's probably why. They could use the words in episodes where death wasn't the main focus, or when it was a villain attempting the killing, but an entire episode about a teenage girl main character setting out to kill a man for revenge? That's not something a parent can cover the kid's ears for, or justify by pointing out that it's a bad guy committing the violence. Not to mention that they probably had to give up something in exchange for the infamous tent scene.
Lampshaded quite hilariously in "The Ember Island Players" where the characters watch an abridged series of their own show performed by actors on stage. It includes the lines "Did Jet just die" followed by "You know, it was really unclear." Jet being a character who did die earlier in the show in a manner ambiguous enough to make it seem like he might not have. To drive the point home harder when giving a recap of off screen play moments Sokka mentions how he thinks Combustion Man died.
The sequel series, The Legend of Korra, while generally not shying away from mature themes (and even explicitly showing two onscreen deaths in the 1st season finale!), still didn't use the actual word very often. Lin Beifong makes use of the ever-popular "toast" at least twice, while Amon's use of the phrase "untimely demise" when referring to Korra actually makes it hard to tell whether he's talking about killing or de-bending her. Furthermore, when the Equalist biplanes showed up in the two-part finale, virtually every single instance of one being shot down or crashing showed the pilots successfully bailing out and parachuting to safety in an almost GI Joe-like fashion, save for one or two exceptions.
It is notable that in the series, they use debending as a metaphor for death. This allows them to get away with probably the closest thing to the Holocaust ever shown on children's programming. Plus, if you're going to get away with the villains going out in a Murder Suicide, you're going need to make all the sacrifices you can get.
Averted in Avatar Wan's story. Death is mentioned frequently, a band of proto-firebenders are killed by evil spirits (offscreen, but it's still quite obvious), and Wan himself dies at the end.
Averted also 'The Sting', where Eska has no problem reporting that Korra is dead, and also in 'The Guide', where Unalaq similarly reports "The Avatar is dead" to Vaatu.
El Tigre expresses the most common usage of the trope in current American cartoons. While they use the word kill passively, "I was nearly killed," they skirt away whenever it calls for directly: "Are you sure this isn't a part of some sinister plot to destroy me?/She tried to get close to me, to destroy me." Basically you're not generally going to hear the statement, "I kill you" in an American cartoon today.
Making Fiends is all about a psychopathic little girl named Vendetta who creates demons and wants to kill another girl because she doesn't fear Vendetta and unwittingly thinks she's her best friend. Yet Vendetta almost always says "destroy" instead of kill. Being that she likes to be vague with her statements and has slightly broken English, she may be invoking this, though this trope was subverted in Nickelodeon's version of the fourth webisode when she exclaimed "You should be dead!".
Subverted in Breadwinners. In the original YouTube pilot, Buhdeuce says "Does this mean we're going to crash and burn and die a fiery death?", while in the remake of the short on Nick.com, he instead says "Does this mean we're going to crash and burn and end up roast meat?"
The World of David the Gnome did have a final episode where the gnome couple "pass over" in an enchanted meadow, but has only been shown one time on Nickelodeon.
The Little Prince had one episode jump through several hoops to avoid even considering the apparent death of a old man's pet bear, even though the man is clearly praying before the bear's grave in one scene. As this cartoon is from abroad the American edition has to hurriedly throw together awkward dialogue and editing in order to "resurrect" the little bear by the end.
While the cast of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light would do the whole "destroy" thing, they interestingly also commonly used the word "slay", which - given the neo-medieval basis of the story - is fairly appropriate.
The Powerpuff Girls played this trope straight even to cockroaches, which are not killed but "squished, smashed, stepped-on," etc. In the same episode, a cockroach-based villain is thrown from his cockroach mecha to splat on the pavement below...
Blossom: Oh noooo! It's definitely not okay to squish a person!
Fortunately, it was just a robot.
In "Ploys R Us", where the Professor sleepwalks and unknowingly steals toys from the toy store for the girls, the mayor and police ambush the professor towards the end, shooting at him with toy guns till he collapses. The girls assume he's dead, but all they can get out is "Now he's... gone!". That is, until the girls find out that the Professor was shot with "fake bullet suction thingies".
Parodied in an episode of Family Guy where Meg says that her class is performing Death of a Salesman, but because they aren't allowed to say "death", the ending just has everyone dancing around with sparklers.
When the inhumanoids themselves were making threats, they often used language that was downright poetic, such as when Metlar said "You shall dwell in eternal darkness!"
A sad, sad example would be the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Off Balance," where agents of Talia al-Ghul's Society of Shadows quite clearly each use a gaseous Cyanide Pill—their dead eyes staring into nothingness—and in the very next scene Batman tells Gordon that they'd used the gas "to erase their own minds." Suuure they did.
This was possibly a bit of a Take That to the censors at Warner Bros. In the DVD commentaries, both Bruce Timm and Paul Dini state that since they were not allowed to kill off any humans, they frequently tried to come up with things that were inherently more disturbing than outright death. In this case, the bad guys essentially lobotomized themselves.
They took advantage of the times they were allowed to do so indirectly, though; in "Mad Love", for instance, a newspaper headline reads: "Joker still at large; body count rises."
An example of Tropes Are Tools is the death of the Flying Graysons. They were not allowed to show their fall or death in any way, but that shot of the severed rope swinging back into view is all the more gruesome.
Reportedly, the production staff was able to get around this restriction in the case of the Scarface dummy, which did not qualify as alive; the animators were able to vent their "darker impulses" upon the dummy by destroying it in increasingly grisly ways (i.e., machine-gunning it, chewing it up in a grinder, etc.) in every episode in which it appeared.
Assassins carrying pills for "erasing their minds" is later brought back up during Batman Beyond, actually. At least they're consistent.
Averted in the first episode that Mr. Freeze appears in. "Sooner or later all who stand in my way must feel the icy touch of death!" In the same episode, Batman even says "My God" when he figures out what happened to Freeze's wife.
Then taken to the full aversion by the time of Justice League Unlimited, when Amanda Waller tells Batman, "The only way to stop Ace for certain is to kill her." And Ace was in her early teens no less.
One of the episodes focuses on a mysterious martial arts technique which translates to "big sleep" or, more specifically, "eternal sleep".
This was frequently the case in the latter part of Batman Beyond. After freely being able to reference death and get more explicit with violence in the Kids WB! episodes of Batman, the pendulum turned the other way and the creators weren't even allow to so much as imply a revenge-seeking assassin was killing her former associates off-screen (instead she was poisoning them into comas, as referenced above). After the fact the creative team lamented their unintentional overuse of "ice" and "waste" in place of "kill" (changes best displayed in the original and edited versions of the animated feature Return of the Joker.
In the episode "Rats!", Dana asks Ratboy what happened to the other kids he kidnapped. Before siccing his rats on her, he responds, "They don't make fun of me anymore".
This was actually averted in some cases, such as Robin's intro episode.
Bruce: The criminal responsible for my parents' death was never brought to justice, Alfred. That's a burden I won't let Dick carry.
The Legend of Zelda animated series had an interesting one. Something like "One more blast and you'll be de-energized, Ganon!" Though there was one time where Ganon actually was defeated, with the same result as with his minions — he just gets transported into the Evil Jar, and will presumably free himself in the near future to wreak more havoc. On that note, another episode begins with Ganon attacking Hyrule Castle and trying to zap Link into the Evil Jar, though a convoluted series of events makes only his body go there, with his spirit left behind. As Zelda mourns the apparent loss of the hero, Link's spirit remarks "Gee, you'd think I was destroyed or something!" So apparently a fall in combat has different consequences for good and evil.
In The Fairly OddParents movie, Cosmo and Wanda's newborn son has been kidnapped by H.P. and Anti-Cosmo. Wanda tells them, "If you so much as lay a hand on our baby, I'll destroy both of you!" It did sound a bit forced, but was worth it to hear her threatening to single-handedly murder them.
However, just like Danny Phantom, Timmy has talked about worrying about dying or getting killed before.
In one episode there was a Shout-Out to Goldfinger with a famous quote slightly altered.
Timmy (as Bond): Do you expect me to let you get away with this?
Vicky (as Goldfinger): No, Mister Twerp; I expect you to CRY!
On the Garfield and Friends musical episode, "The Man Who Hated Cats", Garfield overhears the titular man singing about a cat he owned when he was young who ran away. He sings, "Foo-Foo had fled/I wished I was..." and starts sobbing.
A U.S. Acres segment parodying the poem "Casey At the Bat" includes a quip about the fans chanting " 'Kill the Umpire!' long and low/But you cannot kill a person/On a TV cartoon show."
Winx Club: An S2 episode shies away from explicitly saying that the Trix had killed one of the Specialists Prince Sky, settling for having one of the Winx check for a pulse and say he doesn't have one. The 4Kids dub takes things further, by having the Trix explicitly say a couple times that they've put the Specialist in a 100-year deep sleep (Not That There's Anything Wrong with That, because of what happens next), while strangely still keeping in the pulse bit.
S4: Ep 24 kills off Nabu, Chekhov's Gift notwithstanding... or does it? When Morgana takes Nabu's body away, she promises to take care of him "until he wakes up". This has lead some of the fans to believe that Nabu is still alive, but in a coma, although the way the other characters act in the last two episodes seem to make it clear that Nabu really is dead.
The ghost monsters in Pac-Man always talk about how they're going to chomp the eponymous character (this is justified by having them actually bite him whenever they have the opportunity to do so).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) has a slight variation. "Die" is sometimes said, otherwise replaced with "perish" or "pass away". However, this is rather "Never say kill" as they only use "destroy" or "slay."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), for a while, didn't use any words referencing death, but "Panic In The Sewers" features Splinter, who is terrified that his sons will meet with the Shredder again after he handed their shells to them, says that the Shredder will not rest until "all of [the Turtles] are dead", and they use the words referring to death somewhat more often (Kraang Prime clearly and bluntly states their intention to kill the Turtles, as does Mutagen Man.).
10-year-old WordGirl is never "almost killed," since it's an educational kids show. Still, "Is this the end for WordGirl" is repeated a few times. A villain proclaims "Good-Bye, Word Girl!" as his robot is commanded to "Crush" her. She's almost "Done For," "Finished Off," "and Defeated." And since this is a show about vocabulary, I'm guessing they'll find other ways to carefully explain how she was almost killed.
In Transformers Generation 1, death words are used frequently, but death happens infrequently (outside the movie, which is nearly a Kill 'em All so new toys can replace the old. The season following the movie didn't kill off any known characters, though one disastrous battle saw the destruction of several ships known to be manned.) Later series use them less, preferring 'scrapped,' 'taken offline,' etc but are more likely to have a death stick. Rattrap's Catch Phrase is a sardonic "we're all gonna die," but when someone's actually believed to be dead, "scrapped" or "destroyed" is much more likely to be used when referring to their condition. However, when it comes to the presence of death, the Beast era takes Anyone Can Die to a higher level than even 24 or Torchwood.
In "Five Faces of Darkness Part 3", Wheelie shoots down a mook. The mook begs Galvatron to save him, but Galvatron calls him a loser for not being able to Face Death with Dignity. Galvatron doesn't bat an eye as the mook explodes on impact.
"Offline" is also preferred in Beast Machines, which, like Animated, was headed by Marty Isenberg.
Then it's averted when it comes to a human in the premiere of the third season of Animated, when Prime tells Ratchet to get Sari out of her Superpower Meltdown with his EMP and Ratchet flat out says "...that could kill her!"
Transformers Prime averts this right from the start (and does so gloriously, killing off Cliffjumper in the first five minutes. Then Megatron brings an army explicitly back from the dead... yeah, it's not going to ever play this straight, thank God. Death words and robot-ier equivalents both see use.
Averted, shockingly enough in the pre-school series Transformers: Go-Bots - In "Racer-Bot Road Rally", one racer ends up falling of a cliff. He is saved though, prompting the commentator to say this:
Go News Network reporter: Amazing! Aero-Bot saved that rally driver from certain death.
In an episode of ThunderCats, Lion-O and WilyKit stumble across what is clearly a dead body. WilyKit's reaction... "He's not alive!"
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog plays this trope literally; at one point, when Sonic and Tails are rushing toward a wall, Tails says "It's a dead end!" Sonic replies, "Hey, Sonic the Hedgehog never says dead!" In general, the show tended to avert this, but that was just a really weird incidence.
Played straight in some of the otherSonic cartoons. Characters who are "roboticized" are functionally dead to (and mourned by) the heroes, although occasionally they get better.
Justified in ReBoot. Though in the third season and beyond they often would use the words 'kill' and 'death'. For the first two seasons, the reasonable substitute 'deleted' was frequently used in its place.
The first two seasons used "erased" in place of death (still an appropriate term). The later seasons used "deleted" most of the time but would occasionally use "kill" and "death" when "deleted" wouldn't sound right.
Lampshaded in Metalocalypse where upon finding out that Pickles is dying, the band insists on using the term "Hamburger Time" when referring to death. Hilarity Ensues.
The entire Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Gee-whiz" makes fun of this trope. A billboard for a gun show appears to show the face of Gee-whiz in the woodgrain of the gun stock. Frylock plays an informative video from "Standards and Practices" outlining what is and isn't allowed on the show so that Meatwad will understand why Frylock has to say "Gee-whiz." (Although in the end, it's not Gee-whiz, but Ted Nugent.)
Mostly played straight in Inspector Gadget, except for a few instances such as "A killer piano", "I am offering you a life or death contract", or "When the clock strikes five, guess who won't be alive?".
Also averted in The Looney Tunes Show. Perhaps the most notable example is the episode "Muh-Muh-Muh-Murder," in which Daffy thinks Porky Pig is a serial killer and he's his next victim. There was also a scene in "Beauty School," in which Daffy thinks Tina killed her boss and admits he's considered murder to settle his disputes and offers help hiding the body.
Deliberately averted with Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Characters openly acknowledge corpses ("New Frontier," "Gift of Life"), fear for their lives ("One Million Emotions"), and make death threats.
In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, when Rabbit disappears in one of Gopher's many dynamite explosions, the others look all over to see where (if anywhere) he landed and come up empty. Tigger's line: "We're just gonna have to face it. Bunny-Boy's gone." (Turned out he had grabbed onto a tree branch and was still hanging from it.)
Anytime death would be a possibility in ˇMucha Lucha!, the threat is instead to the removal of their mask. Fights where their masks are on the line being a big deal for luchadores is truth in television, but it gets ridiculous when the Mayincatec Slamazonians plan on sacrificing Buena Girl's mask to the gods.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes both plays it straight and averts it. MODOC is (like in an example above) changed from Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing to Mental Organism Designed Only for Conquest, and the phrase, "Destroy them all!" gets exclaimed often. But there are also several onscreen deaths (some quite brutal) and the words "kill" and "dead" are mentioned.
Averted in Star Trek: The Animated Series, which was not afraid to mention or show death. This became a rather large source of controversy in the episode "Yesteryear", which featured the death of Spock's childhood pet and the sadness that comes with it in a surprisingly realistic manner.
What was even more shocking was that the pet was euthanized.
In Go, Diego, Go! it's never quite said why certain animals are deathly afraid of their predators, most likely due to the show being targeted at toddlers and young children.
It's most played straight except for one Wonder Twins story, "Drag Racing", when one boy responds to two guys who want to drag race on a city street that it's against the law and they could be killed doing it. It is also worth mentioning that Jim Craddock invokes the "land of the dead" in the story, "The Ghost."
There's also a later episode (from 1985, when the show had changed its name to The Super Powers Team), flat-out titled "The Death of Superman", and, while they mostly used euphemisms like "lost" or "demise" or (most absurdly) "no longer with us", they managed to slip death-related words in a few times ("Ironic that he should die of Kryptonite while trying to find its antidote!" "From what you've told me of Superman's death, it could be very important.")
Parodied in a Johnny Bravo episode; Johnny, as a superhero, saves a falling passenger plane... solely to eat the peanuts that fall out of it, then he tosses the plane beyond the mountains where it explodes in a fireball. Then the passengers' offscreen voices assure the viewer: "We're fine!"
Parodied in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold adapting one of the "Bat-Manga!" comics. The short ends with villain Lord Death Man's helicopter crashing and the villain dying right there, but Robin makes mention of seeing a parachute. When the short ends, Bat-Mite mentions how silly American dubbers are.
Parodied in the South Park episode "The Biggest Douche in the Universe." It opens with Eric Cartman being rushed to the hospital as his "condition" (Kenny's soul occupying his body) is apparently lethal. The doctor says that he's "running out of time" and, rather than mentioning any other specifics, simply runs with the concept, mentioning such things as a possible "time transplant". Subverted when Kyle and Stan go tell Chef about it and Stan says, "Cartman is in the hospital. They think he might die."
Zig Zagged on Hey Arnold!. In some episodes such as "Eugene's Pet", they will go out of their way not to say "die" words, whereas in other episodes like "24 Hours to Live", they have no problem saying it loudly and often. They seem to be mostly okay with the word "kill", however, even in very serious situations like Big Bob saying "I almost killed my own daughter!" in "Arnold's Halloween".
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, being rated TV-Y, tries to avoid mentioning death directly (although words like "dead" or "kill" are used metaphorically) and instead uses various euphemisms:
When Spike and Rarity are falling to their deaths, the former says, "I need to tell you something, just in case we don't make it."
Celestia's description of phoenix's rebirth cycle is "renew[ing] itself by shedding all its feathers and bursting into flames," not even mentioning that it requires the bird to die.
Rarity, threatening teenage dragons that wanted to harm Spike: "I'll rip you to pieces."
Rainbow Dash, having her wing trapped under a boulder on the bottom of a gorge, worries aloud about being stuck there "forever."
Rarity's character in a holiday pageant refers to freezing to death as a "horrible fate." (Although this may be justified, as it's implied that it's more of an And I Must Scream scenario.)
"Sleepless in Ponyville" straight-up parodies this. After hearing a Ghost Story about the Headless Horse, whose victims "were never heard from again," Scootaloo dreams she's being pursued by the Headless Horse and laments, "I'll never be heard from again! I want to be heard from!"
In "Wonderbolts Academy," Rainbow Dash says her friends could have been "smashed to pieces" and "demolished" by a tornado caused by Lightning Dust.
In-universe example: Clay's mother Angela Puppington on Moral Orel hates words like "die" or "death" and prefers the term "passing" because she miscarried 10 times before Clay was born.
Goof Troop almost always averts this. In fact, the words "dead", "die", and "kill" are actually used a lot (especially by PJ, not that he doesn't have his own arsenal of creative euphemisms too), but in the episode "Bringin' on the Rain," Pete attempts to avoid using the word "dying" when describing his bogus condition to Goofy. However, this is Played for Laughs because Goofy is being Literal-Minded.
In the Motorcity episode "Vega" After capturing Mike, Kane tells him that his "termination" is imminent.
In Generator Rex, this usually isn't a problem. As a Cartoon Network original that isn't afraid to come up to TV-PG, "kill" and "dead" and guns that shoot bullets are A-OK. However, in "Dead Zone," there's a classic parachute moment. The bad guys (on this occasion, that's Providence Mooks under the command of a Knight Templar) are mostly on air vehicles, and apparently every single staff member on these airships wear parachutes at all times, because whenever one is destroyed, parachuted personnel can be seen dropping from it. This mostly serves to keep Rex from killing fellow good guys with a boss who sometimes goes too far.
Averted in Mighty Max, big time. The villains are not at all afraid to say they're going to kill the heroes (one of which is a preteen boy no less). Some of them, most notably the Big Bad Skullmaster, even give graphic descriptions of what they plan on doing to the main characters.
Contrary to the film series it's based off of, Kung Fu Panda Legends Of Awesomeness makes frequent use of this trope, most commonly using "destroy" to replace "kill". A particularly painful example is the episode "Master and the Panda" where the show goes to ridiculous extremes to avoid saying that Po "killed" Tai Lung, instead using the (admittedly funny) euphemism "skadooshed".
Averted in Phineas and Ferb. In the episode Gaming the System, after Phineas and Ferb are killed by a giant Buford inside a video game, but quickly revive, Candace tells tells them she thought they were dead.
Averted in Gravity Falls. Episode 5 even briefly shows the deaths of the two ghosts haunting a convenience store.
Subverted on Gargoyles, most notably in the three-part season two finale—when The Hunters almost kill Angela, her father Goliath (our main character!) outright says that he will track them down "and kill them." Word of God says the staff had to really fight the network to get that in.
The Roleplay Rules of the LEGO Messageboards only permit a member to "defeat" another member, not kill or maim them.
This quote is popular among some computer programmers:
"C programmers never die. They are just cast into void."
This is based on the quote, "Old soldiers don't die, they just fade away."
Some gamers invert this by referring to everything that takes something out of the game as death. Even in pen-and-paper roleplaying games, it's not uncommon to hear "unconscious" referred to as "dead". This also applies to conversations regarding video games and collectible card games where defeated characters are not killed and could be revived later, such as in Pokémon (where they are consistently called "fainted" or "knocked out" and can indeed return to consciousness with ease).
Paul Erdos, a very famous and highly eccentric mathematician, had a very unique vocabulary, where people who stopped doing math had "died", and people who actually died had "left".
All cadets except seniors in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets are not allowed to say the words "die" or "death." If they do and are caught doing so, they are typically forced to do push-up. However, most people are too lazy to punish anyone but a freshman.
Real Life EMT/Paramedic training averts this hard. You're not supposed to use euphemisms like "passed away" or "no longer with us" when delivering the bad news to family members, as it raises stress by equivocating and hedging around the reality of a loved one's death.note This got lampshaded in an episode of Scrubs, the first time Keith had to tell a patient he was going to die. He reported back to J.D. and Turk that he'd told the patient there was nothing more they could do for him, but they'd try to make him comfortable. J.D.: Yeah. I'm gonna need you to go back in there and use some form of the word "die": "dead", "dying", "deadsies", "deadwood". Your choice. Keith: What was the middle one? J.D.: Deadsies. (Keith goes to talk to the patient again) Turk: Deadwood? J.D.: Did you know cowboys used to curse?
When a Roman consul announced an execution, he said Vixerunt ("They have lived") or some grammatical variation on that to avoid directly mentioning death. In Latin, the perfect tense indicates that an action is now complete, so to say "Marcus Tullius Iucundus has lived" would be the equivalent of saying "Marcus Tullius Iucundus has finished his life."
Not only are they not allowed to look at corpses, but traditional Navajos will not say dead or died. If someone died of natural causes, they "took up their living elsewhere." If they died otherwise, they "stopped moving." And it doesn't actually matter whether they're talking Navajo, English, or Spanish; this can apparently cause confusion if, say, Navajo motorists call 911 after witnessing accidents.
The German language tends to avoid any active usage of "töten" (to kill), especially in present and future tense. Instead, the less ... determined word "umbringen"(lit. to bring down) is used (both of them are equivalents of English "to kill"). Therefore, if someone does actually use "töten" instead of "umbringen", he's damned serious - and you should better run.
Then of course, there is a somewhat milder, less formal slang term for "umbringen", "um die Ecke bringen" ("bring someone around the corner").
An Urban Legend regarding Disney Theme Parks is that they will only allow visitors to be declared dead only off park property. The most likely scenario tends to involve a play on words. Usually a person isn't considered dead until they're officially pronounced dead. So, the most likely scenario means that a person won't encounter a doctor, medical examiner, etc., until they're off park grounds, so they won't be legally dead until then.
A similar urban legend exists for Las Vegas casinos. They're declared dead wherever they died (and the larger Strip casinos have 10-15 deaths on property per year). It's just generally not discussed with guests and rarely receives major coverage in the news so it doesn't impact tourism.
In the most polite scenarios the Japanese word to use is "takaisuru", literally 'other-worlding'.
On the Moth Radio Hour, an airline stewardess told an anecdote about her airline's policy on people dying during flight. Stewardesses are expected to treat them as if they're simply not feeling well because the flight will continue to its destination anyway. When the plane lands, paramedics continue the charade of removing the corpse as if it's in need of medical assistance.
Appears to have served as a coping mechanism for most soldiers especially during 20th and 21st century wars. Diaries and poems by these soldiers will refer to their comrades as having been "zapped" or "popped" but never "killed." This ties into other coping mechanisms such as during WWI when the hands and arms of soldiers buried in trenches would continually slip out of their shallow graves during rain storms. Soldiers would often shake the dead hands or give them high fives when passing by them. All these methods served to help the soldiers mentally ignore the fact that their best friends all just died.