Ralphie as Adult: (narrating) Over the years, I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. My personal preference was for Lux, but I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor - heady, but with just a touch of mellow smoothness. (long pause) Lifebuoy, on the other hand...
A common punishment, mostly for children after they have said a dirty word or been caught telling lies, is to get their mouth washed out with soap. This often indicates a very conservative family, or a child who has been neglected and not taught "proper" language.
Starting to become Values Dissonance
to some folks in Real Life
as of lately (although it used to be Truth in Television
), but mostly always Played for Laughs
in movies, television, etc.
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- A recent Super Bowl commercial showed a montage of kids with a bar of soap in their mouths for no apparent reason. Then we learn that the ad was for a new car with an automatic retracting roof. A kid says "holy sh--!" when he sees it in action, hence the soap in the mouth.
- Done in Lucky Luke by Ma Dalton to one of her foul-mouthed sons.
- In The Smurfs, Papa Smurf has a foul-mouthed Smurf brush his mouth with soap, but the resulting bubbles contain the same Symbol Swearing he was using before.
- Sleepover At Fluttershys: Applejack subjects Apple Bloom to this when the latter uses one too many curse words. Then Applejack slips up herself, giving Apple Bloom an opportunity for revenge.
- Happened in A Christmas Story to Ralphie after he pulled a Precision F-Strike. After sending him to bed, his mother sticks the soap in her own mouth, just to see what it tastes like.
- It also is mentioned in In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, the book on which the film is loosely based.
- When Roger Ebert reviewed the movie he commented and confirmed most of Ralph's soap flavors. He also commented that the "nuclear option" when he was growing up was Lava (a pumice soap, used mostly by mechanics and such), "Lava was for words we didn't know yet".
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the lead weasel is threatening Eddie to tell him where Roger is and to "cut the bullschtick". Eddie tells him to watch his mouth or he'll "wash your mouth out" and shoves a bar of soap into his mouth.
- Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Collateral Damage has FBI director Elias Cummings threaten this sort of punishment to Daniel Winters for throwing four-letter words around.
- In Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen, there's a white supremacist whose nice liberal parents once washed his mouth out for saying the N-word. Now he can be as racist as he pleases, but he can't bring himself to utter the N-word, much to the amusement of the other white supremacists.
- The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield tries asking Ward Stradlater if Stradlater gave Jane Gallagher the time. That, by the way, is old slang for having sex with someone. Stradlater responds "What a thing to say. Want me to wash your mouth out with soap?"
- In the Harry Potter series, casting the cleaning spell Scourgify on a human will result in their mouth being washed out with soap. James Potter used it this way on Snape in the "Snape's Worst Memory" flashback from Order of the Phoenix.
- The autobiography of Aileen Porter, Papa Was A Preacher, tells about how she got her mouth scrubbed out with soap for saying "I'll be John Brown" within her father's hearing.
- In The Luck Uglies, a children's fantasy novel by Paul Durham, the main character uses "pigshanks" as a curse word, but it's noted that her mother would wash her mouth out with soap if she ever heard her say it. The book has a glossary in the back of terms used within it. Regarding "pigshanks," it has only this to say: "A bad word. Use it, and your mother is likely to scrub your tongue with soap and a horse brush."
- Harriet the Spy: Harriet's mother threatens to do this when Harriet keeps using the word "damned."
- In The Throne of Fire, Carter Kane says that his sister Sadie called Apophis some names that if their grandmother heard them would cause her to wash Sadie's mouth out with soap for a year.
- Used in Dinosaurs when Baby learns rude words off the television. When Fran washes his mouth out, every time a bubble from his mouth pops it echoes the word.
- In the United States Of Tara, Alice, one of Tara's alters who is a 1950s housewife, invokes this trope after Kate gives her Ethical Slut rant. Alice follows through on the threat, driving Kate to get a job so she can move out (which becomes a major subplot for the next two seasons).
- During an episode of Valerie, one of the boys curses constantly until Valerie does this.
- Lois from Malcolm in the Middle goes the extra mile by putting dish soap on a toothbrush and reaming out her sons' mouths with it.
- Happened several times on You Cant Do That On Television. One sketch had a kid get his mouth washed out with French soap for swearing in French. Another had a kid get his mouth washed out by his smoking parents for saying "Quit."
- Referenced in the second verse of the Dos Gringos track Jeremiah Weed after the narrator at a tender age told his parents of his life ambition to "fly the fucking F-16".
- In "The Life & Death Of Mr. Badmouth" from Uh Huh Her, PJ Harvey tells her lover to "rinse his mouth out with soap".
- Jump Start for 12-16-11. Marcy Cobb tells her husband Joe that she had to wash out their son Joseph's mouth for lying. Joe reminds her that washing out someone's mouth with soap is for cursing, not lying.
- Aunt Dolly does this to Wal after she hears him swearing at the livestock in an early Footrot Flats strip.
- In one Dennis the Menace (US) strip, Dennis comes outside, with bubbles coming out of his mouth, and he tells his friend that he was "right about that word."
- Ivory actually tried to do this to Tori during their hardcore WWE Women's Title match on the September 6, 1999, Raw as they started the match in the bathroom and proceeded to fight through the shower.note .
- Paul Heyman came off on the receiving end of this when Rhyno lost a "Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap" match to John Cena, all the while in a Sharpshooter courtesy of Chris Benoit.
- The response to the player swearing in The Very Big Cave Adventure:
You are in the Swear Box.
It is a bare room with neither windows nor doors.
In one corner is a washstand and a cake of soap.
You know what to do.
- In Knights of Buena Vista, Dick gives his Player Character a flaw of thinking his pet can talk. His character thinks his pet said something horrible about a princess, and said he was going to do this to his pet.
- Played straight when a Bear orders it in City Of Dream. Which leads to Talking with Signs.
- Narbonic: Helen's mother punished her daughter for saying the "g-word" (No, she wasn't swearing in Russian or Polish, as a Card-Carrying Villain Helen senior finds the word "good" obscene and dirty).
- Goofy's son (no, the other one) in the Classic Disney Short Fathers are People.
- Another Classic Disney Short The Practical Pig: A lie detector uses this on the Big Bad Wolf.
- Animaniacs: In "Roll Over, Beethoven", Yakko, Wakko and Dot do this to Beethoven after he describes himself as a 'pianist'.
- Elmyra does this to Brain every time she thinks he is swearing (when he is actually just indulging in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness) in Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.
- King of the Hill: In "That's What She Said", Hank washes out the foul mouth of a new employee with soap. It should be noted that he's still making filthy jokes right up until Hank starts scrubbin'.
- In an episode of Tom and Jerry, Jerry does this to Tom after he lies about being sick to his owner (when in reality he just didn't want to go outside on a rainy day). Not that anyone can blame Tom, mind you.
- The owner had threatened Tom with that punishment.
- Magilla Gorilla was occasionally a victim of this punishment for "lying". (Cassandra Truths, actually).
- Cow and Chicken: The Halloween Episode featured the Red Guy (impersonating Space Ghost and hosting his Coast-to-Coast show) trying to use this on Chicken, albeit he initially thought it was "soup" punishment until Chicken corrected him.
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "Curses".
- In the Missing Episode of Dexter's Laboratory, "Rude Removal", Dexter accidentally creates evil versions of himself and Dee-Dee who spout swear-filled rants in front of their mom. When the regular versions trap them and feel like all's well, they spot Mom with a large bar of soap waiting to wash their mouths out.
- In the Ren and Stimpy episode "I Was a Teenage Stimpy", Ren shoves the whole bar in Stimpy's mouth when he mouths off at him.
- In an episode of Rugrats, when Angelica uses a swear word, her mother asked Didi if she should use this as a solution.
- The Other Wiki has an article about the topic. The practice has been around since at least the 1800s and a number of actual cases are noted in the article, with a note that it may not be advisable, due to potential health consequences.
- Roald Dahl recorded witnessing an instance of this at his boarding school in his autobiographical book Boy. However, the punishment wasn't for swearing, but for snoring. The nurse got fed up with a snoring kid, and started piling soap shavings in his open mouth, until he awoke in a panic choking on the soap bubbles. Yeah, Roald Dahl did not have a pleasant school experience.
- A common joke for parents that still use the practice (after having gone through Ralphie's version as kids) is that their offspring should be happy they use liquid soap instead of bar, since the latter could leave soap shavings between the teeth while the former is (relatively) easy to rinse out.