Follow TV Tropes


Censorship by Spelling

Go To

Bigfoot: Do you think Glenn and Shasta were... F-U-C-K-I-N-G-ing?
Doc: Fucking-ing?

Whenever people (usually parents) want to discuss something they don't want anyone younger (or dumber) to know about, they tend to spell it out because they figure that kids can't spell (which is somewhat fair, as English is notorious for having numerous words that are spelled quite differently to how they're pronounced). Usually Played for Laughs, and is Truth in Television. In comedy, usually results in the person being spoken to not understanding what was spelled and/or the person who's supposed to be locked out understanding perfectly.

This can also be done with animals (e. g., mentioning a W-A-L-K within earshot of the dog you don't want to rile up).

Compare T-Word Euphemism, in which only one letter is used to represent an entire word. Not to be confused with Spell My Name with a Blank or Year X. May lead to Misspelling Out Loud. Contrast Spelling for Emphasis, which is spelling to make the word have more impact.


    open/close all folders 

  • An old McDonald's commercial had the parents spelling out ideas to each other of where to go next. Their daughter suddenly suggests McDonald's. As it dawns on the parents that she understood everything they'd just said, the daughter then adds, "Oops, I mean M-C-D-O-N-A-L-D-S."
    • This could have been a nod to the 1980s theme song "Good Time, Great Taste", which had the restaurant name being spelled out.

  • Josh Blue has a bit about how his parents used to do this around him well into his twenties. The punchline was that he still didn't know what they were talking about.
  • Jasper Carrott did a joke about how parents tend to use this long after it has ceased to be useful — "You've left your C-O-N-D-O-M on the P-A-T-I-O", "Mum! What's a patio?"
  • Attempted by the Jeff Dunham puppet Melvin the Superhero, who claims that he can't curse (and has a somewhat loose definition of "cursing") and tries to spell the word "whore" but thinks that it's spelled "h-o-r-e".
    Jeff: That's "w-h-o-r-e".
    Melvin: What's a "w-hore"? Is that like a Klingon?
  • Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a bit about this. "I always feel dumb. It doesn't help that my wife spells everything in front of the kids":
    Wife: Don't tell anyone about the I-C-E C-R-E-A-M!
    Jim Gaffigan: (Beat) ...who's in the emergency room? And why do I want a dilly bar?
  • John Mulaney also had a bit about this:
    Mom: "I think someone's ready for B-E-D!"
    Kid!John: "*angry grunt* I don't know that this 'B-E-D' shit is; I just know I'm gonna get screwed."

    C-o-m-i-c B-o-o-k-s 
  • In The Sandman (1989), Delirium attempts to slyly speak to Despair about their brother Dream in this way. Delirium being Delirium, she spells it D-R-E-A-M-M. Later, she calls Lucifer the D-E-V-E-I-L.
  • An issue of The Simpsons comics has Maude Flanders telling the police that "Neddy and I had an A-R-G-U-M-E-N-T" when he angrily abandons their campsite and never comes back. (It's eventually revealed that he's been abducted by space aliens.)
  • Mad Magazine: In one Dave Berg comic, a stuck-up woman is introduced to her friend's young daughter, and remarks that she's 'not very P-R-E-T-Y'. The girl cuts in that, on the other hand, she's 'very I-N-T-E-L-L-I-G-E-N-T'.

    C-o-m-i-c S-t-r-i-p-s 
  • In one strip of Baby Blues, Wanda and Darryl spell quite a few food names in front of their kids and then observe that it feels like they've entered a spelling bee.
  • From one Dennis the Menace (US) strip:
    Henry: It's time to take Ruff to the V-E-T for his booster shots.
    (Ruff hides under the house's crawl space and Dennis tries to pull him out by his tail.)
    Dennis: See? I told you ol' Ruff can spell.
  • In one strip of The Family Circus, one of the kids (probably Billy) wonders whose birthday is approaching since their parents are spelling their words again.
  • Garfield:
    • Jon tries to do this in a strip while on the phone with Liz, only for it to backfire:
      Jon: I know a place with a great B-U-F-F-E-T.
      Garfield: Make it a table for T-H-R-E-E.
    • Jon tries it again during the 2016 Christmas season, again while on the phone with Liz.
      Liz: What did you get Garfield for Christmas, Jon?
      Jon: I got him a C-A-T T-O-Y. [whispers] He's right here.
      Garfield: I wanted a J-E-T S-K-I, you D-O-R-K.
  • In one Pogo strip, Pogo tries to use it to talk to Albert without the puppy they're taking care of understanding. Unfortunately, Albert doesn't quite get it...
    Pogo: I'm gone make the lil' pup dog some P-U-D-D-I-N-G for his S-U-P-P-E-R.
    Albert: Uh-huh... Well... Hmm... Yes... Um... P-D-Q-R-S-V-P? Um... Well... Indeed...

    F-a-n W-o-r-k-s 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: One of the aliens in "The Spaceship" not only uses a malapropism when he whispers to his colleague, he also spells out the word "genius" so as not to tip Rhino off regarding how dumb they are — and misspells the word while doing so.
    Cloyd: [whispering] Not in front of the G-E-N-Y-U-S. We’ll make a terrible first compression on our guest of honor!
  • Bring On:
    Ted: Well. Outsmarted by our little girl. How's it feel, Andy?
    Andromeda: Strange. But pleasant, I think.
    Ted: It won't be when she's a t-e-e-n-a-g-e-r, so we might as well enjoy it now.
  • In The Fawn in Cokeworth a six-year-old Harry's grandfather ends up in the hospital and Snape takes Harry to visit him.
    Joseph Evans: I'm hanging in there. They say it's my heart. I'm scheduled for S-U-R-G-E-R-Y tomorrow, and they'll want to keep me for at least another couple of days after that, for observation.
  • A Ghost's Revenge:
    Lily:' I don't think I'm a regular ghost. I think I'm Harry's protective magic. When Voldemort came to... k.i.i.l. my son, I put a protective spell on him that required me to... d.i.e. and it would save Harry. I think I'm a ghost that manifested from that spell. I remember everything up until the moment I... d.i.e.d.
  • I'm Coming Home:
    Lily: You try too hard Marley.
    Marlene: She has to eat more than B-A-N-A-N-A-S Lil.
  • In It All Started With a Visit to Gringotts Emily, a ghost who was about five when she died, compliments Harry on his looks.
    Helena Ravenclaw: I think someone has a C.R.U.S.H. on H.A.R.R.Y.
  • It's elementary, John, I have a son:
    Mycroft: Was he A-B-U-S-E-D?
    Harry: I might not be Sherlock, but I am intelligent! Please speak directly to me if it's something concerning me!
  • In The Simpsons fanfic Must Love Ned Flanders, Ned describes Smithers as "g-a-y".
  • In Raising Harry a two-year-old Harry throws a tantrum after Snape refuses to take him flying.
    Voldemort: Why don't we go to the garden? We won't go... F.L.Y.I.N.G. but we can play with a snitch.
  • Running Away:
    Harry: Alice, if you stop doing things that scare Mum and Grandpapa, I'll take you go-karting.
    Alice: Yay! I promise, I promise!
    Hermione: Go-karting is not a safe activity for a three year old.
    Harry: You want her j-u-m-p-i-n-g off the s-h-e-d next? At least this is in a controlled environment. If she's an adrenaline junkie then there's no stopping her.
  • In Serendipity Snape, who's been accidentally turned into a baby, screams when Harry pays attention to his godson Teddy.
    Sirius: Sounds like somebody's getting a bit J-E-A-L-O-U-S to me.
  • Summer:
    Sally: Remus, Sirius and I will do the dishes. I want you to give Mrs. O'Leary a B-A-T-H.
    Nico: Why would she need a bat?
  • In The Trouble With Harry Snape tries to have a Floo conversation with Dumbledore without silencing charms while a five-year-old Harry is nearby.
    Snape: Why does he know nothing of his ma— his heritage? Albus, he’s a wiz—w-i-z-a-r-d for Circe’s sake. Surely he’s exhibited some sort of accidental mag—m-a-g-i-c before today.

    F-i-l-m-s — A-n-i-m-a-t-i-o-n 
  • In 101 Dalmatians, Pongo suggests getting the puppies to bed so he and Perdita can go out on a W-A-L-K. While not explicitly stated whether the puppies know how to spell, a couple of them do beg to stay up and join their parents on the walk.
  • In Disney's Alice in Wonderland, while trying to avoid the C-word (not THAT one) which causes the Dormouse to go berserk.
    Alice: I was sitting on the riverbank with uh... you know who.
    The Mad Hatter: I do? (chuckles)
    Alice: I mean my C-A-T.
    The Mad Hatter: TEEAA!?
  • In The Boss Baby, at dinner with his parents and the Boss Baby, Tim tells his parents that he needs to talk with them alone about the "B-A-B-E-E." Later, the Boss Baby refers to Tim on the phone as the "K-I-D."
  • From the 1973 Animated Adaptation of Charlotte's Web:
    Fern: [about Wilbur] Papa let me keep him. He was the R-U-N-T.
  • Dumbo:
    • "Wow, just take a look at those E-A-R-S..." (which is then completely undone when one of the other elephants, not understanding, thinks it over and then blurts out: "Oh! EARS!")
    • And then, a little bit later...
      "It's all the fault of that little F-R-E-A-K." (Again, the same elephant blurts out the word just spelled.)
  • Finding Nemo: When the Tank Gang spots Nemo depressed because he's going to be adopted by the irresponsible fish killer Darla.
    Gurgle: Whatever you do, don't mention D-A-R...
    Nemo: It's okay, I know who you're talking about.
    [Bloat smacks Gurgle]
  • From The LEGO Movie:
    Emmet: "Oh, my G-O-S-H!"
  • Madagascar features a variant that combines this trope with Fun with Acronyms. When Marty the zebra and Alex the lion reunite, they do a Meadow Run towards each other, until Marty realizes Alex's joy at seeing him again has turned to anger towards him for getting them stranded. Marty blurts out "Oh, sugar honey iced tea!" and runs away.
  • Occurs in Recess: School's Out. The scene starts at breakfast, where T.J. is brokenhearted about being alone that summer without his friends, who were all at camp. His sister comes down, and this is when it occurs:
    Becky: Bye, Mom. Bye, Dad... bye, T-jerk.
    Mrs. Detweiler: Now, Becky, I want you to be nice to your brother; he's feeling S-A-D right now.
    T.J.: I can spell, Mom.
  • From Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree:
    Pooh: "Uh, Christopher Robin? I think the bees S-U-S-P-E-C-T something."

    F-i-l-m-s — L-i-v-e—A-c-t-i-o-n 
  • In 102 Dalmatians, Chloe did not want to offend the spotless dalmatian Oddball by mentioning spots, so she uses S-P-O-T-S in a scene when Oddball is with her.
  • In Big Fish, one boy proclaims "That's bull-S-H-I-T, that is" as only a kid from the Deep South can.
  • In The Big Heat, the hero to his wife: "According to the book, you should lead her [the daughter] to B-E-D..."
  • In Daddy Day Care, Charlie discreetly tells his wife that he lost his J-O-B at the dinner table.
  • Played with in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Greg and Rodrick changed the door to their bathroom to conceal the fact they had a party while their parents were gone and are trying to keep them from noticing.
    Rodrick: Does he know about the D-O-R-E?
    Greg: Huh?
  • In Easy A, Olive is trying to tell her parents why she got detention (use of a certain word in class) at the dinner table, in front of her much younger brother. Her parents tell her to spell the word with her peas.
  • Done in The Goonies by Data, who "cusses", "Holy S-H-I-T!" He didn't want to swear in the film for his parents' sakes.
  • Played for Drama in The Holiday. When Amanda finds out that Graham has two young daughters, she discreetly asks him if he's D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D, and Graham replies that he's a W-I-D-O-W-E-R.
  • From Jingle All the Way:
    Howard: I have to pick up the D-O-L-L. I left it at the office yesterday.
  • In Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter, a neighbor tells Herman, "You know what that welfare lady said. Gran ought to go to the old people's H-O-M-E." Herman's grandmother, who was listening from the other room, yells, "I'm not going to any bleeding old folks' H-O-M-E!"
  • Subject of a joke in O Brother, Where Art Thou? where a father tries to explain what happened to his missing wife in front of his son: "she done R-U-N-N-O-F-T". A couple of scenes later the son reveals he knew exactly what was (trying) to be said when he attempts to do the same.
  • Subverted in Role Models when Wheeler and Danny are arguing on the elevator in front of a mom and her young son:
    Wheeler: You are an S-H-I-T-T-Y friend.
    Mom: He can spell.
  • Played for Drama in Say Anything..., when Lloyd and his sister get into an argument in front of her son Jason (she wants him to be an uncle and not a playmate to Jason, he wishes she could be more fun like she used to be):
    Lloyd: I mean, I'm sorry that T-I-M left you. But I am not T-I-M!
  • In Scary Movie 3, one of the president's advisers tells him that he should go on TV and tell everyone that there's no such thing as UFOs. The president's reaction seems to indicate he thinks he's a victim of this trope. "Don't spell in front of me, dammit."
  • In one scene of The Shape of Water, Mrs. Strickland suggests getting the kids a P-U-P-P-Y. Her husband isn't listening.
  • In The Three Stooges short "Listen, Judge", when Larry finds the wire for the doorbell they try to fix, Moe congratulates him:
    Moe: Good work, Larry! You keep it up and I'm gonna give you some C-A-N-D-Y!
    Larry: Eh, I don't smoke!

  • Inverted in a certain blonde joke, with the punchline, "Honey, why don't we send the kids up to P-L-A-Y so we can go fuck!"

  • In Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit, the title character compares this with adults telling private jokes to each other, something she feels isn't fair because when kids tell jokes that they want to be private in school, the teacher makes them tell them out loud to the entire class, or gives them detention if they don't.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club:
    • The girls usually spell out W-A-L-K around dogs (either their own pets or their baby-sitting charges') in order to keep the animals from freaking out. At one point, Dawn is caring for a Great Dane who has figured out what W-A-L-K means.
    • Inverted in one book: Kristy takes her dog for W-A-L-Ks so that she can say “walk” in normal conversation.
    • Early in the series, Mrs. Newton is pregnant and knows her three-year-old wants a B-O-Y, while she wants a G-I-R-L.
    • In The Ghost At Dawn's House, Mrs. Newton tells Claudia that Jamie has had a long day and should go to bed S-O-O-N. Jamie cries out, "No fair spelling, Mommy!"
  • In the Dirty Bertie story "Fleas!", Bertie has to take his dog Whiffer to the vets so he can figure out how to get rid of the fleas.
    Bertie: Dad says I have to take Whiffer to the V-E-T-S!
    Dotty: [Bertie's grandmother] The what?
    Bertie: [whispering] The vets.
    Dotty: Oh, the VETS! Why are you whispering?
    Bertie: So Whiffer won't understand. He hates the vets.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Fifth Elephant, Gaspode the Wonder Dog does this to himself:
      Gaspode: I had a B-A-T-H once, you know, it's not as if I don't know what it's like.
    • The Fifth Elephant also reveals that werewolves have a problem with the words "bath" and "vet" (because something that's partly wolf and partly human is basically a dog). In Thud!, Sally refers to "the whole B.A.T.H. thing", which Angua takes as sarcasm.
  • In Double Vision: Code Name 711, a children's spy/mystery thriller book, the main characters are searching for a "Dangerous Double," a coat worn by George Washington that has the power to make one invincible against bullet and other attacks. One of them asks the main character, "Did you find the c-o-a-t?" and he points out "I'm sure if any bad guys are listening in, they know how to spell."
  • Inverted in Henry and Ribsy. Henry Huggins has no idea what Ramona means when she hears everyone talking about "PTA" (Parent-Teacher Association) and insists that she wants some. Beezus figures out that Ramona thinks that they're spelling out something tasty, like "c-o-o-k-i-e-s" or "c-a-n-d-y". This leads to them having to buy a snack for Ramona and telling her that it's PTA.
  • In The Hen of the Baskervilles from the Meg Langslow Mysteries, Meg and her family do this when discussing sensitive topics in earshot of Meg's twins. At one point, they spell out i-c-e c-r-e-a-m, only for one of the twins to immediately start babbling about ice cream, but Meg assures the others that the twins are always asking for "ice cream" and it doesn't mean that they're learning to spell.
  • In Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, Junie B's mother looks at her father and says "I think someone is s-l-e-e-p-y." Junie B. tells her that she's a grown-up lady and she knows how to spell. "And so I am not one bit slippery. So there."
  • In the Mog book, "Mog and the V.E.T.", Mr Thomas says "V_E_T" instead of "Vet", because Mog hates going to the vet but he reckons she can't spell.
  • In Return to Planet Tad, the title character, Tad, agrees to dress up as his high school's mascot, a shark, only to learn that he has to dance to complicated routines taught to him by the school cheerleaders. When he fails miserably during rehearsals, one of them comments "I can't believe he's this A-W-F-U-L," leading him to state "I can understand when you spell words out."
  • In Room, Ma's lawyer says that somebody has sent F-E-C-E-S. Young Jack says "why has someone sent us poo?" "He's a good speller," Ma tells him.
  • In Star Wreck IV: Live Long and Profit by Leah Rewolinski, La Forgery, discussing Dacron's relationship with Counsellor Troit, spells out "F-U-L-L-Y F-U-N-C-T-I-O-N-A-L" so Westerly won't understand. And he doesn't.
  • In Under the Dome, Carolyn Sturge does it with the word "dope" in front of two kids, Alice and Aidan, but it doesn't work, because Alice can spell.
    Carolyn: Before we go making any charges, Thurse, you want to remember that we had D-O-P-E.
    Alice: Dope! Our mom smokes marijuana some­times, because it helps when she's having her P-E-R-I-O-D.
  • In The Worst Thing About My Sister, Marty doesn't want to share her Embarrassing Nickname (Bluebottle), her mother assumes it's a swear word and has her spell it out.

    L-i-v-e—A-c-t-i-o-n T-V 
  • Played with on 3rd Rock from the Sun:
    Dick: Dr. Albright has already RSVP'd.
    Harry: You said you'd stop spelling in front of me.
  • The Addams Family:
    • Morticia says that her plant Cleopatra is not very "S-M-A-R-T".
    • Gomez suggests they call the "P-O-L-I-C-E" when they think Wednesday is missing.
    • When Uncle Fester claims to have turned Pugsley into a chimp (he hasn't but he thought he did), Morticia says "I think he's D-R-U-N-K".
    • Meanwhile when someone tries to do this around 6-year-old Wednesday, with "B-O-O-Z-E", she just announces that that spells "booze".
  • One episode of Benson, in which the title character is Mistaken for Dying, has Clayton try to use this method to keep this information from Katie. It doesn't work.
    Clayton: Ah, Miss Kraus. Have you heard from the... D-O-C-T-O-R?
    Katie: Clayton, that was S-T-U-P-I-D.
  • In an episode of Bewitched, Darrin sees Endora playing with his daughter Tabitha and using magic. He says "Stop using M-A-G-I-C in front of my daughter or she'll grow up to be a W-I-T-C-H".
  • Breaking Bad: Hector Salamanca, by virtue of his stroke, can only communicate "yes" or "no" by ringing a bell, and conveying his requests through an alphabet board. In "Face Off", he agrees to help Walt get rid of Gus Fring, by luring him into a trap. This means asking to be taken to the DEA to speak to Hank. Once Hank shows up, Hector begins answering, using this laborious communication to spell out things like "S-U-C-K-M-Y" before being cut off, then "F-U-C-"...
    Hank: We—we get it.
  • The Brittas Empire: In "We All Fall Down", Carole does this when she doesn't want her eldest child Ben to hear the word "out".
    Penny: Are you sure you wouldn't like that outside?
    Carole: Please, Mrs. Bidmead, don't mention O-U-T. Ben's happy. If he thinks he has to go O-U-T, he'll put his head down his sleeping bag for weeks.
  • Famously in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "When She Was Bad":
    Willow: I mean, why else would she be acting like such a B-I-T-C-H?
    Giles: Willow, I think we're all a little too old to be spelling things out.
    Xander: ...A bitca?
  • The "Annual Rural Music Awards Show" skit from The Carol Burnett Show features Donna Cargo (Vicki Lawrence) singing "S-P-L-I-T" (an obvious parody of Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E").
    We'll take his brand new
    C-A-D-I-double L-A-C
    and leave an N-O-T-E saying
    "Drop D-E-A-D!"
  • Lampshaded on Castle when Esposito, nervously looking at Alexis who happens to be in the squad room, spells out B-I-T-C-H (in reference to another person). Alexis and her father give each other a disgusted look.
    Castle: She can spell, Detective.
    Ryan: Probably better than you!
  • In an episode of the Mexican sitcom El Chavo del ocho, when Quiko is doing a "magic" trick:
    Quiko: Chilindrina hand me the caja note .
    Chilindrina: The What?
    Quiko: Caja! C-A-G-A, note  caja!
  • There's an example in one of The Comic Strip Presents episodes, possibly "The Beat Generation".
    Girl: I'm having my P-E-R-I-O-D.
    Boy: Pernod?
  • Annie tries this and fails in the Community episode "Ladders", when she says Abed is not comfortable with C-H-A-N-G-E; Abed understands it perfectly, while Chang thinks she's talking about him and gets offended.
  • Played for Drama in Criminal Minds episode "100". Hotch is on the phone with his wife Haley after learning that she and their son Jack are held hostage by George Foyet a.k.a. The Reaper.
    Hotch: He's just trying to make you angry.
    Foyet: Well she should be! She's gonna (covers Jack's ears and lowers his voice) D-I-E because of your inflated ego!
  • Subverted in a segment on The Daily Show segment, where Samantha Bee has her young son standing right next to her (it's Take Your Child to Work Day) while talking about torture methods:
    Sam: When a bound and naked prisoner has electrodes attached to...
    Jon: (interrupting) Okay, Sam, Sam, Sam...
    Sam: Oh, I'm sorry. To his T-E-S-T-I-C-L-E-S... testicles.
  • Dinosaurs: Played with in "Nature Calls" when Fran and Earl argue over who will change Baby's diaper:
    Fran: I don't want to argue in front of the B-A-B-Y.
    Earl: Well I'm not changing another D-A-I... no wait... D-I-A...
    (Baby used some blocks to write "They think I can't spell.")
  • This exchange from the classic Doctor Who serial "The Sun Makers":
    The Doctor: Leela, I think you and I should take a— a W-A-L-K.
    Leela: A W-A-L-K...?
    The Doctor: Wuh-Ah-Ll-K!
    K-9: Walk, mistress.
  • In Father Ted, Mrs. Doyle mentions having met a couple while on pilgrimage who said the trip did them the world of good, because "They were a bit obsessed with the old S-E-X!"
  • Sybil in the Fawlty Towers episode "Basil the Rat" says they might have to put Manuel's rat "to S-L-E-E-P," to which Manuel responds, "Spleep?"
  • Frasier:
    • Martin tries to keep Eddie from running every time the word "vet" is mentioned by invoking this trope. It doesn't work.
    • In another, a Genre Savvy Frasier discusses this with a skeptical Niles.
    Frasier: He already understands B-A-T-H. Lord knows how much English he's picked up.
  • From Friends:
    Joey: (after walking into Monica and Chandler's apartment and hearing them having sex instead of babysitting Emma) You can't have S-E-X when you're looking after a B-A-B-I-E!
  • Full House:
    • Jesse and Becky do this to try to get Nicky and Alex to sleep.
      Jesse: Now let's get the boys to S-L-E-E-P, so we can get the H-E-C-K O-U-T.
      Becky: But F-I-R-S-T W-E S-H-O-U-L-D —
      Jesse: Hold on, let me get a crayon.
    • Also:
      Becky: So, um, does anyone want to help me and Michelle put Nicky and Alex down for their N-A-P?
      Danny: Yeah. N-A-P time.
      Nicky and Alex: No nap. No no.
      Michelle: I think they got it figured O-U-T.
  • Happy Days: Howard tells Marion that now's not the time to get "F-R-I-S-K-Y", but then Joanie says, "They think we can't spell."
  • In the Hart to Hart episode "One Hart Too Many" Max, while reading a postcard from Jennifer, mentions a reminder that it's time to take the D-O-G to the V-E-T for his S-H-O-T, prompting Jonathan to ask whether Max really believes that Freeway would have understood that.
  • The Inbetweeners: Simon tries this when talking about getting weed for a gig they're going to:
    Simon: And most importantly, I need to be someone who does D-R-U-G-S
    Will: Shhh! My mum is home.
    Simon: So?
    Will: She can spell.
  • From Lost:
    Hurley: (glances at the ten-year-old Walt) But what about the B-O-D-Y-S?
    Michael: What are you trying to spell man, bodies?
    Walt: B-O-D-I-E-S.
  • From the M*A*S*H episode "Rainbow Bridge", after Hawkeye tells Frank Burns to surrender his handgun to the Chinese doctor they're doing a prisoner/patient exchange with:
    Frank: You gonna side with me or the R-E-D?
    Hawkeye: Frank, the R-E-D speaks English better than Y-O-U do.
    • Also happens in the season 10 episode "Wheelers and Dealers" - Colonel Potter is (reluctantly) taking a remedial driving class, Klinger is (even more reluctantly) helping him with the written test, and Potter warns Klinger his number will be up if there's another question with a number in it. So Klinger reads the next question, "Suppose you're in a car traveling T-E-N miles per hour..."
  • In "Being Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" on Medium, Bridgette starts wearing a red helmet all the time and Joe doesn't like it, but Allison thinks she'll grow out of it. When Allison arrives home on the morning of the school Picture Day, Ariel tells her that Joe is talking to Bridgette about her "H-E-L-M-E-T."
  • Played hilariously straight in Mongrels:
    Marion: Every time humans take an animal to the so-called V.E.T.S. they end the vets.
  • In My Name Is Earl when Earl sleeps with Joy, Joy and Earl have this conversation in front of Earl Jr.
    Earl: I have to tell him [Darnell].
    Joy: Like H-E-double-L you do.
    Earl: I can't live like this Joy, he needs to know we... H-A-D sex together.
    Joy: That is B-U-double-L honkey!
  • On an episode of Party of Five, Claudia does this in front of Owen when talking about the p-a-r-t-y they're having for his birthday.
  • Reba:
    • During the first season, while rallying Van to pass his exams so he can keep being a football player, Brock tries to spell "ass" while Jake is around. Unfortunately for him...
      Jake: [excitedly] I know what that spells!
    • Later on within the same episode, when Brock asks Van about his history exam:
      Brock: How did it go?
      Van: I got my A-double-S kicked.
    • At the end of a fifth-season episode, after Van has a bad day at house-brokering after Reba talks Brock out of selling his house:
      Van: Well, Mrs. H, I hope you're H-A-P-P-Y.
      Reba: No, I'm C-R-A-B-B-Y.
  • Played with in the Red Dwarf episode "Parallel Universe", where it turns out that the Cat's alternate-universe counterpart is a Dog:
    Cat: When's the last time you took a bath?
    Dog: Oh, please, don't say that word!
    Cat: What, "bath?"
    Dog: You said it again. Now listen up: if you're gonna say that word in front of me, please, spell it.
    Cat: When's the last time you took a B-A-T-H?
    Dog: ... what's that?
  • In Superstore we get this one from Glenn:
    Glenn: I've got instincts for days:, lady! I've got instincts out the W-A-Z-O-O!
  • That '70s Show: In "Oh, Baby We Got a Good Thing Goin'", Kitty loses her temper when she sees Red taking pictures with some swimsuit models at a car show.
    Kitty: Well, I hope you're happy, Red Forman, because we are leaving! (to Hyde and Jackie) You two, get your A-S-S-es back to the car! (to models) You two, get your B-double-O-Bs off my husband!
  • In the Yes, Dear episode, "One Fish, Two Fish, Dead Fish, Blue Fish", We get this exchange after Sammy's pet fish dies suddenly:
    Kim: Where's the fish?
    Greg: Shhh! Don't talk about the F-I-S-H!
    Kim: Oh no, is he D-E-A-D already?

  • Tammy Wynette's Spelling Song "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" is about a woman talking about her divorce in front of her 4-year-old son.
  • Billy Connolly's parody version of "D.I.V.O.R.C.E" is about his dog.
    His Q.U.A.R.A.N.T.I.N.E starts today,
    Because he bit the V.E.T. and then he ran away.
    He caused me and my wife to have a big fight, and then, both of them bit me.
    And that's why I am gonna get a D.I.V.O.R.C.E.
  • Similarly to the Tammy Wynette example, "What Will You Do with M-E?" by Western Flyer:
    ''Hey D-A-D-D-Y, I saw M-A-M-A cry
    Say you're not going away
    Is it because of me? Have I been B-A-D?
    Please, daddy, please, won't you stay?
    'Cause if you leave, what will you do with M-E?
  • Rascal Flatts does this in "Backwards":
    We sat there and shot the bull about how it would be
    If we could turn it all around and change this C-R-A-P
  • Britney Spears tried to recorded the Double Entendre-laden song "If U Seek Amy", which contains the line "All of the boys and all of the girls are beggin' to If U Seek Amy." People quickly figured out that it sounds like "F-U-C-K Me" when sounded out. It became a big deal (on FOX News), and most radio stations in both America and the UK do have the song edited to either remove the "eek" in "seek" (making it "If you see Amy," which, in the context of the song, makes no sense whatsoever) or get rid of the "If You" and the "eek" part in "seek" to make the song about seeing a girl named Amy).
  • Swing-rock group Squirrel Nut Zipper's hit "Hell" features this in the last verse, although it's more for the rhyme and scansion than anything else:
    Now the 'D' and the 'A' and the 'M' and the 'N'
    And the 'A' and the 'T' and the 'I-O-N'!
    Lose your face, lose your name,
    Then get ready for eternal flame!
  • Sunday School Song: "I am a C...I am a C-H...I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N"
  • On the CD included with Trout Fishing in America's picture book Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important, one of the songs is called "C-A-T in the H-E-N House." Lyrics include stuff like "There's a D-O-G in the D-O-Ghouse, wants a W-A-L-K. Dogs go C-R-A-Z-Y if that word you ever say!"
  • The children's song "X and Y sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G,..."

    P-r-i-n-t M-e-d-i-a 
  • A MAD "Lighter Side Of" strip had the parents talking about their son's bad report card in front of him; the mother was reluctant but the father said "just spell it." So they had a conversation, which ended with:
    Mother: I-M W-O-R-R-I-E-D T-H-A-T H-E M-A-Y B-E S-T-U-N-T-E-D I-N-T-E-L-L-E-C-T-U-A-L-Y.
    Son: That's I-N-T-E-L-L-E-C-T-U-A-L-L-Y!
    • Another "Lighter Side Of" used a similar one:
      Woman: [about a nearby girl] She's not very P-R-E-T-Y, is she?
      Girl: But I'm very S-M-A-R-T, and by the way, "pretty" is spelled with two Ts.
  • The New Yorker has a cartoon dating back from 1934 where there's a fancy dinner party with a man introducing a bimbo to the bartender:
    Man: This is the wife, George. Not too many c-o-c-k-t-a-i-l-s.

    P-r-o W-r-e-s-t-l-i-n-g 
  • An article about The Shield's highlights on WWE's official website went the extra mile by using the NATO Military Alphabet to spell out "HOLY CRAP":
    Hotel. Oscar. Lima. Yankee. Charlie. Romeo. Alfa. Papa.

    P-u-p-p-e-t S-h-o-w-s 
  • From The Muppet Movie:
    Dr. Teeth: It's the man with the badge, the po-lice, the cops, the fuzz, the P-I-...
    Miss Piggy: Don't you dare!
    Dr. Teeth: I wouldn't think of it.
  • From The Muppets (2011):
    Jack Black: I'm Animal's court-appointed sponsor. We don't use the D-R-U-M word. It's his trigger word.

  • All the Way Home: The conservative Mary worries about how to explain to 6-year-old son Rufus that she is pregnant. She tells her husband, "Jay, I don't want him asking any q-u-e-s-t-i-o-n-s." Jay laughs and says that won't work as Rufus can spell better than they can.
  • Starlight Express features "U-N-C-O-U-P-L-E-D", a nod to Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E"; the spelling in this case is because the concept of being "uncoupled" is so painful to Dinah she can't even say the word. Of course, the end of the song also spells out B-A-S-T-A-R-D.
  • In the musical Tenderloin, Jessica explains to Laura what a "disorderly house" is:
    Jessica: A w-h-o-r-e house.
    Laura: Jessica, how do you know such words?
    Jessica: Don't you suppose I read the Bible?

    V-i-d-e-o G-a-m-e-s 
  • During the introduction to 1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum choosing to take the subway at a certain point results in discovering that Sadie left all her tokens at home. If you decide to jump the turnstile, she makes a whispered aside to her friend.
    Sadie: Anna, let's get the New York discount. You know...when you F-L-E-E without P-A-Y-I-N-G?
  • Barbarous: Tavern of Emyr:
    Emyr: How's it going with the b-o-m-b?
  • Defied in Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One: "How's everything going with N-E-F-A-" "I can spell, you morons."

    W-e-b A-n-i-m-a-t-i-o-n 
  • In the Helluva Boss episode "Western Energy", Blitz tries to get Loona inoculated and refers to the procedure as an "S-H-O-T" when discussing the appointment while Loona's in earshot. This backfires when he makes it to the hospital and it turns out the receptionist can't spell.

  • Parodied in Girl Genius, where the character attempting it is the only person present who can't spell "husband".
    Marie: Oh! Remove your arm!
    Dimo: Vot? Ho yaz, gots to be subtle in front uf de haitch-oh-zee-bee... bee... um... er... hyu know, him!"
  • In this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic, a father tries to use this to hide the fact that he's buying Halloween candy from his daughter. When that fails, he tries encryption.

    W-e-b V-i-d-e-o-s 
  • In The Annoying Orange episode, "The Microwave Effect":
    Pear: Don't mention the K-N-I-F-E.
    Orange: The Kanifee? What's a Kanifee?
    Apple: That's knife, you idiot. He's not supposed to mention the... wait a second, I'm gonna get knifed!?
  • David Near: Laughing Jack starts his "Easter Story Time" by explaining that his videos were delayed because "YouTube can be a C-U-N-T for people like us."
  • Jonathan Pie episode "Teaching Is Hard": Pie tries this to avoid swearing in front of a small child. The child then spends the rest of the episode working out what he spelled.
  • slowbeef:
    Diabetus: See, what you need is the T-R-E-A-T beam.
    slowbeef: The tit beam?
  • Theater Class: Alex Rimmer suggests that the dean suspend Mason for bringing a dog to school by spelling it, which Mason immediately figured out.

    W-e-s-t-e-r-n A-n-i-m-a-t-i-o-n 
  • A beautiful example in 6teen:
    Jude: There's sex in H-E-R-E. I spelled the wrong word.
  • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode "Subterranean Sonic", Sonic disguises himself as an accountant to trick Scratch and Grounder, which leads to this exchange:
    Sonic: I see you haven't filed or declared, you haven't deducted your Y-O-Us, your A-R-Es, or your S-O-Stroke-S-T-U-P-I-Ds.
    Grounder: Oh, is that bad?
  • Arthur:
    • First off:
      Francine: Muffy lost her mother's expensive P-E-N.
      D.W.: Her what? If you spell stuff, I can't understand what you're talking about.
      Arthur: That's exactly why we spell stuff.
    • At the beginning of "The Secret About Secrets", the Read parents are keeping a secret from D.W. that has something to do with twins. We don't know the secret, all we hear is this.
      Mrs Read: T-W-I-N-S.
      Mr Read: Really? Whoa! That's quite a secret!
  • A non-child version occurs in the Beethoven: The Animated Series.
    "We need to give Beethoven a B-A-T-H."
    [Beethoven hears this and runs out of the house]
    "Okay, who's been teaching the dog to spell?"
  • In the Bob's Burgers episode "Sacred Cow", when Bob keeps a cow in the house:
    Linda: Bob, I am not comfortable with this situation.
    Bob: Lin, what was I supposed to do? I had that crazy dream, it was raining...
    Linda: Well, I had a crazy dream that there wouldn't be a cow's A-S-S in my face when I'm eating my breakfast.
    Louise: [whispering to Tina] I know what that spells.
    Tina: Ass.
    Louise: Ass. Mom, heh... ASS.
    Linda: Stop it.
  • From DuckTales (1987), while in front of Scrooge's business partner while Fenton Crackshell is pretending to be Scrooge:
    Mrs. Featherby: There was an emergency phone call. The workers at the skateboard factory are on S-T-R-I-K-E.
    Fenton: Strik? Streak? What? I'm a lousy speller!
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Wanda tries to take Cosmo to the D-O-C-T-O-R.
    Cosmo: What? Doctor? I thought she was spelling plumber! It's worse than I thought!
  • In the Family Guy episode "Farmer Guy":
    Lois: Meth? As in D-R-U-G-S? Aren't those I-L-L-E-G-A-L?
    Stewie: What's going on? What are you guys talking about?
    Lois: Uh oh, someone's getting cranky. [picks up Stewie] I think he needs an N-A-P.
    Stewie: What's happening? Where are you taking me? Man, I got to crack this code.
  • The Flintstones:
    • Employed by Fred whenever he has to take Dino to the V-E-T-E-R-I-N-A-R-I-A-N. Unfortunately, Dino knows how to spell.
    • In "Dino Disappears", when Wilma has trouble feeding an inconsolable Pebbles after Dino runs away.
      Wilma: Oh, Fred, we've just got to get Dino back. Pebbles hasn't stopped C-R-Y-I-N-G.
      Betty: She's very U-P-S-E-T.
      Barney: I can see what her trouble is. She's not E-T-I-N.
  • In Histeria! the younger cast sang a song about the history of the British royals to the tune of "Greensleeves/What Child Is This":
    In Fifteen-Hundred and Forty-Seven
    Henry the Eighth went up to Heaven,
    Or maybe because of his dirty tricks,
    He went to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.
  • In The Jetsons, when Jane is out shopping for a robot maid, the salesman introduces her to one of their older models, Rosie. He notes how Rosie is a dedicated worker even if she’s a bit “H-O-M-E-L-Y”. Unfortunately for him, Rosie is clearly smart enough to know how to spell, and promptly lays into him.
  • In the Little Dogs on the Prairie short "Cheating", Hollister does this with Darcy's name twice in a row when telling Gilroy that he suspects that she was the one who actually cheated on the spelling tests that Sport and Scout were accused of cheating on.
  • The Loud House: In "Baby Steps", Lincoln teaches Clyde how to be a big brother by using the Three C's: Confidence, Caring, and Cookies (the last one is only as a last resort). When baby Lily accidentally hurts herself while playing with her hardware toys, Lincoln kisses her sore thumb to make it better, and Clyde remarks that he doesn't need the cookies out loud, but Lily knows what a cookie is, so Lincoln advises that it's sometimes safer to spell. Immediately afterwards, twins Lola and Lana are fighting over a princess and knight playtime scenario, so Lincoln compromises by dressing as a troll that is attacking their tower. Clyde remarks that this time, Lincoln doesn't need to use the "C-O-O-K-I-E-S"... but unfortunately, Lola and Lana know how to spell.
    Lola and Lana: "THE TROLL'S GOT COOKIES!" [pounce on their brother]
  • Metalocalypse has one made funnier by the fact that Toki's English is atrocious:
    Toki: Maybe he needs to go to the... B-A-S-T-H-R-O-M-N-S-E.
  • Rugrats:
    • From "Chuckie Vs. The Potty'':
      Didi: We'll take care of Chuckie and we'll make sure he uses his P-O-T-T-Y.
      Chas: His what? Oh. Oh, yeah. Well... okay.
    • From "The Baby Vanishes", when Drew and Didi try to ignore Angelica to discipline her for her bad behavior:
      Drew: There's something very W-E-I-R-D going on here.
      Didi: Uh-uh, Drew. Everything's F-I-N-E.
  • From the Robot Chicken sketch, "Fruity Fables":
    Arthur: Barry! Just where the H-E-C-Letter-that-comes-after-J have you been?
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode, "Don't Fear the Roofer":
      Marge: I'm going to take the dog to the V-E-T.
      Santa's Little Helper: ?
      Marge: Then I'm going to take Bart to get C-I-R-C-U-M-C-I-S-E-D.
      Bart: Huh?
      Marge: Uh... I'll tell you what it means when it's over.
    • Also this call back to Krusty's illiteracy in "Grade School Confidential".
      Maude Flanders: We're talking about S-E-X in front of the C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N.
      Krusty: Sex Cauldron?! I thought they closed that place down!
    • From "Tis the Fifteenth Season":
      Ned Flanders: Where the H-E-C-K is everybody?
    • From "Milhouse of Sand and Fog", after Bart confesses to Marge that he was the one who planted the bra that broke up her and Homer:
      Bart: Does this mean you and dad might get a D-A-V-U-R-S?
      Marge: Young man, you go work on your spelling, or I'll delete all your custom ringtones from your cell phone!
  • Cartman at one point on South Park tries to do this while badmouthing Kyle (who is Jewish) within the latter's earshot. Because Cartman is an idiot, he spells it out as "J-O-O".
  • From the Timon & Pumbaa episode, "Once Upon A Timon":
    Zazu: [about Simba] He still only eats B-U-G-Ses.

    R-e-a-l L-i-f-e 
  • This can backfire after a while. A pet may not be able to spell, but say T-U-N-A enough and your cat will learn the "word" teeyouenay. Then an eager "helper" will start showing up every time someone mentions putting on some tea while in the kitchen.
  • Military Alphabet go with an Echo X-Ray Tango Romeo Alfa Sierra Tango Echo Papa by adding a word associating to that letter in order to disclose information.


Fruity Fables

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / CensorshipBySpelling

Media sources: