Follow TV Tropes


Less Embarrassing Term

Go To

Alan: It's not a purse. It's a satchel.
Chow: Is a purse, and you steal it from wrong guy!

A joke, especially in Sit Coms, wherein a character consistently refers to something embarrassing by what they hope is a more dignified name.

A more specific form of Insistent Terminology. See also Unusual Euphemism when very unpleasant things are concerned. Real Men Wear Pink is the standard subversion. A character may use this to try to cover up an Unmanly Secret.

Action Figure Justification is related, for when toys are insistently referred to as action figures rather than dolls (despite the actual difference between the two being rather superficial and along gender lines). For instances where an evildoer insists on a more 'civil' description of his rank villainy, see "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word. Can overlap with Technical Euphemism if they use technical words.


    open/close all folders 

  • An ad for ESPN's College Gameday (aired during the 2011 football season) opens with Erin Andrews signing off the 9:00 ESPNU hour and the regular ESPN team taking the set. Chris Fowler finds what seems to be a white purse and yells, "Hey Erin, you left your purse!", prompting Desmond Howard to snatch it away and say something to the effect of, "That's not a purse, it's a satchel. These are big in Europe right now, but you wouldn't know about that." Cue incredulous looks from Fowler (who also says, "No, I would not"), Kirk Herbstreit, and Lee Corso. Watch it here.
  • An M&M's commercial featured this when the name of "Plain" M&Ms were changed to "Milk Chocolate". It had several individuals give more politically correct terms for their job titles, such as "I am not a clown. I am a child entertainer" and "I am not a cheerleader. I am an athletic supporter... What?"
  • Played perfectly straight in a conversation between two bison in a Manitoba Telecommunications Services commercial for camera phone support:
    Bison 1: Is that a purse?
    Bison 2: No! It's a murse! It's for men! It's European!
    Bison 1: Uh-huh...
    Bison 2: Look, my girlfriend got it for me and I have to use it a while. Let's just keep this to ourselves, okay?
    Bison 1: Okay...
    *camera phone clicks*
    Bison 2: What was that?
  • Miller Lite's "Man Up" campaign gives men purses, lower-back tattoos, and skirts, but only the purse ad features this trope.
    Female Bartender: When you start caring, put down that purse and I'll get you a Miller Lite.
    Male Bar Patron: It's a carry-all.
    Female Bartender: [assertive] No, it's not.
  • A Progressive Insurance commercial has saleslady Flo telling a couple that Progressive can compare its rate with those of other top companies, thereby sparing them from spending all day shopping around to compare.
    Flo: [to husband] And no more holding her purse!
    Wife: [irritated] It's a European shoulder bag.
    Husband: [sheepish] It Was a Gift. [rolls eyes to indicate wife]

    Anime and Manga 
  • Gundam:
    • In a sort of meta-example from Mobile Suit Gundam, fans always insist on referring to Char Aznable's Ace Custom color scheme as "red" when, to many people, it looks suspiciously pink, especially in the original TV series. Never commented on in-show, but an occasional source of minor Flame Wars in the fandom.
    • Sunrise, the company responsible for the Gundam franchise, may have been having some fun with this in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. When one of the show's aces (in this case a female) receives their own "Ace Custom" mech, it's very blatantly pink, and it is called the "Tieren Taozi". "Taozi" is, for the uninformed, Chinese for "peach". Later on, all of the lead Gundams become capable of going into Trans-Am mode where they become sparkly, pink and, of course, three times faster.
    • Lampshaded in the author's notes of the official parody manga Kidō Senshi Gundam-san. The author mentions how, when he was a kid, he painted many of his other model kits (fighter jets, cars, castles) in "Char Custom" colours (read: pink), leading his mother to an entirely erroneous conclusion.
  • Then there's Akito Tenkawa's Aestivalis in Martian Successor Nadesico, which is very blatantly pink, in both the show and merchandise. It is never commented on, but is especially obvious when all the female pilots (who always outnumber the male) have decidedly more masculine colors.
  • Much of the plot of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness revolves around the author's first time visiting a brothel, though in its early web-publication, she referred to sex in very clinical words. Comments on this were so widespread that she not only changed this, but acknowledged the terminology switch in the print version.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Spoiler's costume is not purple, it's eggplant. "Purple would've looked stupid"
    • This example on shows how Robin doesn't even want to think about Batman wearing pink. (Be careful going to Superdickery: the site has a lot of viruses.)
  • Deadpool:
    Bystander: Nice scooter, freak!
    Deadpool: It's a motorbike! It's 100% manly!
  • The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist:
    • Adrian considers himself a cartoonist, but when he's invited to a literature festival, the obviously embarrassed moderator uses the term "graphic author" to talk about him.
    • The term "graphic novel" is frequently brought up as a mature alternative to "comics" or "cartoons", which people still think are for kids.
  • Luke Cage: Luke has been known to defend the tiara he wore back in the 70s by saying it's a headband.
  • The Smurfs: King Smurf's costume is not yellow but gold. Though to be fair, the suit does sparkle when he first shows it off, so it may simply be factual.
  • X-Men: Jean Grey once asked Jubilee if she still has nightmares. Jubilee responds that nightmares are for babies; she has "traumatic evening episodes".

    Fan Works 
  • In Birthday Breakfast, Lana Loud, upon being called fat, claims that girls like her who aren't stereotypically feminine don't get fat, they get "pudgy".
  • In Neon Metathesis Evangelion, Touji calls what he wears over his plugsuit (when he's outside the entry-plug) a coat - it isn't a bathrobe, as Asuka calls it.
  • In Scooby Kratt, which is a crossover between Scooby-Doo and Wild Kratt, Velma insists her disease is not a cold, but rather a "viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract which affects primarily the nose".
    Fred: "In other words, a cold."
  • In This Bites!, during the Enies Lobby arc, "Red-Haired" Shanks goes on a 'rampage' in the New World to help distract the Marines from the Straw Hats' assault on the Judicial Island. A later omake chapter revealed that what the WG and the Marines call a 'rampage', the Red-Hair Pirates call a party. To be fair, they did destroy a city as part of said party.
  • In Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, a Harry Potter fanfic by Mister Cynical, Slytherin House tends to use the term "investment" or "benefactor", rather than "friendship".
    Minerva: I forgot that you two used to be friends.
    Severus: He was my benefactor, not my friend... he declared me to be a devious, conniving and cunning little asshole. According to him, that made me worth an investment.
    Pomona: Ah, Slytherin friendships. They're just like normal friendships, only they get so pouty when you call it a friendship.
    Severus: [sneers in a manner that truly, only the most unkind person would point out looked quite similar to a pout]

    Films — Animation 
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint is about to ask Sam on a date, but he gets too nervous and asks her on an "activity" instead.
  • There's this exchange from Despicable Me:
    Agnes: Why are you wearing your pajamas?
    Vector: (sputters) These aren't pajamas! It's a warm-up suit.
    Edith: What are you warming up for?
    Vector: Stuff.
    Margo: What sort of stuff?
    Vector: Super-cool stuff you wouldn't understand.
    Agnes: Like sleeping?
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Kronk has a Good Angel, Bad Angel routine, and the Bad Angel, ever the troll, makes Good Angel walk right into this trope.
    Bad Angel: Right, that's a harp... and that's a dress.
    Good Angel: ROBE!
  • In Paranorman, a bully accuses Norman's Best Friend of having "boobs" and he claims not to have boobs but that they're muscles, however, when the bully punches him in the chest, he shouts, "Ow, my boobs!".
  • Wreck-It Ralph: King Candy insists that the candy-pink throne room of his castle is "salmon". This counts as foreshadowing, since it turns out the entire castle isn't exactly his.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Clerks II One character insists that something is not bestiality porn, it's "inter-species erotica".
  • Deadpool 2: Weasel gets oddly angry about Cable's "utility bag."
    Cable: Relax, I'm retrieving something from my utility bag.
    Weasel: It's a goddamn fanny pack and you know it, you sick son of a bitch! The difference is night and day!
  • In The Hangover, Alan refers to his man purse as a satchel ("Indiana Jones has one!"). Later, it turns out that both Alan and Mr. Chow own the same satchel, except Chow insists that his is NOT a satchel, but is indeed a purse.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: "It's not a dress! It's a kilt, sicko!"
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Star-Lord insists to Rocket that his bag isn't a purse, it's a knapsack.
  • This scene from The Last Emperor. It's a mild subversion in that Mr. Johnston isn't so much annoyed as he is trying to teach a lesson in the value of words.
  • In the Goldie Hawn comedy film Protocol, the nightclub owner tells her character that she's not wearing a chicken costume, but an emu costume.

  • Danny, the Champion of the World: Danny's father doesn't steal pheasants, he poaches them.
    Danny: You mean stealing them?
    Danny's father: We don't look at it that way. Poaching is an art. A great poacher is a great artist.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • Greg Heffley, the main character of the series, insists that what he's writing is not a diary, it's a journal.
    • In the first book, Greg says that he doesn't want to take Home Ec. 2, even if he was good at Home Ec. 1, because he had to keep telling everyone his purse was an "embroidered bookbag." A student's response? "Okay, pursie."
  • The "dolls versus action figures" variant appears in the children's adventure novel The Dragons of Ordinary Farm. The sister of a boy named Steve comments that he only won a game because she stepped on one of his dolls and almost broke her leg. "'It's not a doll,' Steve replied with dignity. 'It's a collectible action figure of Helldiver from Deep End.'"
  • In Figgs & Phantoms, the main feature of the Alternate Dimension is a pink palm tree, which its lone resident insists is coral, not pink.
  • Played with in The Last Noo Noo: When people point out that Marlon is four years old and still sucking on a pacifier, he insists on calling it a "noo-noo"... which, probably unknown to him, sounds more babyish.
  • In Michael Chabon's Manhood For Amateurs he devotes an entire chapter to the defence of his man-purse titled 'I feel good about my Murse.'
  • In Midnight, Violet says, "They aren't dolls, they're models!" about her sewn dummy fairies. She's technically correct, since she uses them for decoration rather than to play with, but her reason for saying so is still to avoid embarrassment.
  • In The Railway Children: When Peter takes coal from the middle of the coal heap at the station, he calls it "mining" rather than stealing.

    Live Action TV 
  • In All in the Family, Mike defends his habit of carrying what Archie calls a purse by insisting it's actually a "shoulder-bag for men".
  • Inverted in Community, when Dean Pelton's assistant prefers not to use the term "secretary" because it's degrading to women; instead, she "helps the Dean do office-y things."
  • On Cutthroat Kitchen, sometimes, if the chefs are sabotaged to the point where they couldn't quite make the dish described, they may try using a fancy term to describe it, such as a "deconstructed omelet."
  • In Everybody Loves Raymond, Robert insists for several episodes that a bull gored him in the "upper thigh".
    Ray: (in response) Yeah, okay, knock it off, upper-thigh-hole.
  • Friends
    • Ross refers to his shirt as being "sort of a faded salmon color", when it's actually pink.
    • Joey, based on fashion advice from Rachel started carrying a "unisex bag". Everyone else called it a purse.
      • Also subverted as Joey loved his "man's bag" despite what others think, he only got rid of it because it started to affect his work (and switches to a backpack instead).
    • Monica, in flashbacks, always refers to sex/virginity as her "flower." Derived from "deflowered", such a widespread euphemism for "non-virgin" woman, that the term even appeared in formal Anatomy books (even late 1990's editions).
  • Gilmore Girls pseudo-subverts the trope:
    Luke: Kirk! What's with the—
    Kirk: It's not a purse!
    Luke: I wasn't gonna say "purse".
    Kirk: Oh... sorry.
    Luke: What's with the gay-bag?
    Kirk: It's a dog carrier!
  • In one of the Kamen Rider Decade gag shorts created for The Movie, Tsukasa's rival Daiki mocks his suit for being pink; Decade angrily responds that it's magenta. He's right, because the show has photography as a major theme and results in a CMYK colour scheme: his Rival's Rider form is coloured cyan, Decade is magenta, and Kuuga Rising Ultimate form is black and yellow. But magenta is a shade of pink, so bad luck for Tsukasa.
  • The "doll vs. action figure" thing (see Real Life below) was inverted on an episode of Law & Order: SVU. They caught a suspect by exploiting his love of doll collecting. Finn tried to build rapport with the guy by admitting that as a child he had played with dolls, too, such as G.I. Joe. The guy corrected him that those were not dolls, they were action figures.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Dewey carries a handbag that he insists is a bookbag. When a group of kids make fun of him for it, he hits them with it. This is quite effective as he had filled it with bricks.
  • From a sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    Biggles (Graham Chapman): No, no. no, you loopy brothel inmate!
    Miss Bladder: I've had enough of this. I'm not a courtesan!
    Biggles: Courtesan? Oh, oh, aren't we grand? Harlot's not good enough for us, eh? Paramour, concubine, fille de joie, that's what we're not. Well, you listen to me, my fine fellow, you are a bit of tail, that's what you are.
    Miss Bladder: I am not, you demented fictional character.
    Biggles: Algy says you are. He says you're no better than you should be.
    Miss Bladder: And how would Algy know?
    Biggles: And just what did you mean by that? Are you calling my old fictional comrade-in-arms a fairy?
    Miss Bladder: Fairy? Poof's not good enough for Algy. He's got to be a bleedin' fairy. Mincing old RAF queen.
    • And what about Brave Sir Robin? He's not running away. He's not!
    • A vox populi interviewee:
    Well, I've lived in the city for thirty years and I've never once regretted being a nasty, greedy, cold-hearted, avaricious money grubber... (catches himself) Conservative!!
  • In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Ned carries a pillow—an ordinary bedroom pillow, with plain white pillowcase—around in "Guide to: Friends Moving". He refers to it as a "cushion protector", and it saves him from several head injuries and a Pie in the Face . And his 'leftie-shirt', which was a blouse.note  It had been left in the Men's section, presumably by a girl who wanted to come back and buy it later, and Ned picked it up without realizing what it was. Even when informed it was a woman's garment, he insisted that it was just a "cool leftie shirt."
  • In Radio Free Roscoe Lily threatens to tell everyone that Robbie played with a doll until he was six, which he insists was a female action figure. Apparently the "female action figure" came with a dream house.
  • In a Scrubs episode, Cox meets a doctor who likes to collect dolls. Did I say dolls? It's a collectible!
  • In Seinfeld, Jerry buys a "European men's carry-all" from the J. Peterman catalogue — but essentially, it's a purse.
    • "It's not a purse! It's European!"
    • This could also be a Shout-Out to a dialect difference. In Britain (which is English-speaking Europe), a purse isn't a "carry-all", it's considerably smaller. To a European, a bag like that is... a bag, or a handbag. Though the joke could be tweaked by referring to a recent fashion for "manbags".
    • In another episode, Kramer and Frank Costanza try to sell bras for men with man-boobs. It falls through because they keep arguing over what less embarrassing name to call it: "Bro" or "Manssiere".
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Rodney insists that he did not faint, but "passed out from manly hunger."
    • In another episode, Rodney tries to convince Sheppard to escape by calling it "effecting a strategic retreat". Likely homaging Dr. Smith from Lost in Space who said the same thing.
    • In another, Rodney gets shot with an arrow in his butt. When he asks Carson for the details, Carson tries to be tactful and says that the arrow is in his "gluteus maximus", which doesn't fool Rodney for a second.
  • During the series finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Miles and his daughter Molly disagree on the definition of the scale model of the Alamo that Miles and Julian had built. Molly insists it was a toy, while Miles favors the term "model". Additionally, in an earlier episode, Worf observes Julian and Miles working on this model and laments Ezri Dax's affection for Julian.
    Worf: He plays with toys.
    Ezri: It's a model.
    Worf: With little figures.
  • In That '70s Show, Eric has a collection of G. I. Joe and Star Wars toys. He calls them "action figures"; everybody else calls them "dolls."
  • The White Lotus's Lucia is a prostitute. When Bert (who knows that his son had already booked her for a couple of nights and is trolling said son) asks what she does for a living, she diplomatically says she works in hospitality.
  • In the Wings episode "Just Call Me Angel", Joe carries around what looks very much like (and what the other characters keep referring to as) a makeup case. However, he keeps insisting it's a man's travel bag.
  • Discussed in The Wire after Mayor Royce finds out about Bunny Colvin's experiment with designated zones where drugs are decriminalized. Royce sees that it has produced a legitimate drop in crime in the surrounding areas, and wants to keep the program going, asking if there is a better term they can use like "harm reduction". Also seen in action with the Baltimore school system, where students reading two grade levels below their placement are marked as "proficient".
  • In the Worzel Gummidge episode "The Scarecrow Wedding", Aunt Sally is lodged in an old washing machine, but insists on calling it a "domestic cleaning appliance".
  • In an episode of The X-Files, Scully has a vibrator which she calls her "personal massager".


    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Bloom County, Opus takes a job as a garbageman and demands to be called a "waste management artisan." Milo refuses to do this, until Opus successfully argues that if Ronald Reagan's arms shipments to Iran can be called "goodwill gifts", he can be a "waste management artisan."
  • In The Boondocks a strip has Granddad defending his "Man-Bag" as being manly in a strip introducing the Unusual Euphemism "Brokeback", for something of dubious masculinity.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Commentators refer to groin shots (particularly unintentional ones) as "hits to the lower abdomen". Possibly justified, as actual groin shots are supposed to end the match immediately.note 
  • In WWE, it's not Professional Wrestling either, it's Sports Entertainment. They're not fans, they're the WWE Universe. They're not wrestlers, they're Superstars, unless you're a woman, then you're a Diva.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In "Rockin' Rocko" from Bear in the Big Blue House, Ojo, Treelo, Pip & Pop, and Tutter declare their intention to play "The Further Adventures of Snowbear, Rockboy, Clammy and Mr. Cheese". Rocky asks what those are, if they're dolls or something. Ojo replies that Snowbear is a stuffed animal, Pip says that the rest of them prefer the term "action figures."


    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney: It's averted with Miles Edgeworth, who fully admits that the show Steel Samurai (which he is secretly a fanboy of) is a kid's show—but then goes on to give a long caveat that the show is accessible to people of all ages and is very mature.
  • In Baldur's Gate 2 the Player is lucky enough to meet up with Drizz't (again), Wulfgar and their heroic friends. When you encounter them, they are searching the undergrowth for a misplaced magical hammer that is absolutely NOT 'pink' — it's 'light red'!
  • In Escape from Monkey Island, Guybrush requisitions a ship, only to be given a bright pink vessel called The Dainty Lady. If he complains to the Harbormistress, she will suggest other terms for the color, such as "magenta." In a bit of a subversion, one of her suggestions, "Flaming Popsicle," is even more embarrassing.
    • Interestingly, the ship's figurehead, when animated, is decidedly unladylike and is in no way dainty.
  • In Fallout 3, former childhood bully Butch becomes the hairdresser for Vault 101 (which is the job he got on his G.O.A.T. exam), though he insists that he's not a hairdresser, but a barber.
  • Averted in Melody. When she starts her tutoring sessions under the protagonist, Melody calls him a “stand-in,” meaning that he wasn’t talented enough to be a more regular performer. He ignores it rather than trying to correct her.
  • Mercenaries:
    Fiona: Mattias, please sit down.
    Chris: He can't. He was Shot in the Ass.
    Mattias: Upper. Thigh.
  • From Neverwinter Nights 2
    Zinn: I'm Zinn, the pretty lady to my right is Niyra, the elf is Shahra, and the gnome in the dress is Oyo.
    Oyo: It's a robe, you bastard.
  • If you play Phantasy Star Online, try telling a western FOmar that they're wearing a dress. Then sit back and watch the flames rise.
  • In edutainment title Recess in Greece, the protagonist (a monkey named Morgan) ends up in a kid-friendly (complete with the necessary bowdlerization and ADHD-tempting hilarious animations when you click on everything) version of The Iliad, with Morgan in the role of Odysseus. The moment after he goes through his daydream time-warp, he lands outside the Parthenon, where a Greek statue talks to him. Morgan soon asks, "Why am I wearing a dress?". The statue immediately chastises him: "It's not a dress! It's a chiton! You'd know that if you were paying attention in class!"
  • In Resident Evil 6, the Trophy for collecting three figures is titled "They're ACTION Figures!"
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: The Flavor Text for a Bandit's Coinpurse is "Shut up, it's a wallet!"
  • In this WoW quest, the robed blood elf who's been mistaken for a Damsel in Distress by the questgiver gets so flustered that even he refers to his stranded luggage as a "purse." (It's actually a crate.)

    Web Animation 
  • In Red vs. Blue, once Donut is stuck in a suit of pink armor, he insists it's "light-ish red".
    • "Guess what? They already have a color for lightish-red. You know what it's called? Pink!"
  • In the Strong Bad Email "do over", Strong Bad gets asked what he would do differently if given the chance for a do-over. He insists he's never made a mistake in his life... but he has made a few "stnanks" that might be worth fixing.

  • Dan from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures wears a robe, not a dress!
  • Averted in Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire, where when someone questions Donovan's pink shirt he just tropenames that "Real Men Wear Pink."
  • In El Goonish Shive, Nanase can make fairy doll versions of herself in whatever form she happens to be in at the time. In a side story, Susan discovers how posable they are, notably while holding one in Tedd's form and then wonders about outfits for them. Tedd notes her wanting to dress up the doll. Susan's reply: 'It's an action figure.'
  • Erfworld: The "they're not dolls, they're action figures" routine is referenced in the form of Ace Hardware (yes, that's his name). Ace is a Dollamancer, which is a spellcasting discipline usually used to make cloth golems and custom clothes. Ace can't stand that, though, and prefers to use his talents to make "accessories", such as a jet pack, and a laser pistol.
    • Erfworlders also near-universally use the term "croak" or "croaked" where Stupidworlders say "kill" or "dead". They still know what "kill" means, but if someone uses it they find the term highly vulgar.
  • In Girl Genius, when the various Sparks of the Queen's Society are being interviewed about the boilerghast, one of them is showing off her collection of Eldritch Abomination figures and insisting "And they're not dolls! They're research manikins."
  • In The Glass Scientists, Doctor Jekyll doesn't like the term "Mad" Science, he much prefers "Rogue" Science. "Takes the edge off," in his opinion.
  • Hark! A Vagrant:
    "Hey we're on the trail of a purse thief! Is that your purse?"
    "Yes it's a man's purse."
    "Is this your lipstick in it?"
    "Yes it's man's lipstick."
    "Is this your fancy lady's hat?"
    "Yes it's a man's fancy lady's hat."
    "Another dead end boys!"
  • Zig-zagged in this strip of Penny Arcade. Gabe takes offence to his belt-mounted carrying bag being called a fanny pack and insists that, because of how he's wearing it, it's more of a "holster"... but then readily calls the other, identical belt-bag he's wearing a fanny pack.
  • One alien from The Petri Dish is technically Gwog's pet but insists it's a symbiotic relationship.
  • Real Life Comics: When questioned about his new "murse" by his girlfriend, Greg answered it was a "side-sack".

    Web Original 
  • In Jim Sterling's second crack at Kobra Studios' Second Warfare, made as an extremely sarcastic response to the studio essentially calling him incompetent following his initial coverage, Jim decides to subvert this.
    Some people might suggest, like in other videos where I've had tiffs with developers, that I'm being "petty" here. I would like to refute that; I would say I'm being infantile and petulant.
  • From Ze Frank's True Facts video "Snake and Lizard Tongues", regarding scientist Dr. Kurt Schwenk:
    Narrator: "He's been studying tongues for decades! No, Jerry, it's not a fetish. If a scientist does it, it's an 'area of interest'."

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Describing Zuko.
      Sokka: Oh, he's just some angry freak with a ponytail who's tracked us all over the world.
      Katara: What's wrong with ponytails, ponytail?
      Sokka: This is a warrior's wolftail!
      Katara: Well, it certainly tells the other warriors that you're fun and perky!
    • Later on, Aang and Zuko learn an ancient technique that amplifies their fire powers. Zuko insists it's not a SYNCHRONIZED DANCE! It just happens to be called "The Dancing Dragons"...
  • The Boondocks: Gangstalicious starts a new line of "Gangsta" clothing and accessories, which includes a man bag, a tank vest, a for thugs, and a dress with the back cut out, advertised as a "long tee". The joke being that the most hyper-masculine aspects of hip-hop culture are themselves extremely effeminate and homoerotic, and that kids who buy into it will essentially wear a skirt and purse if they're told it it's "gangsta." Gangstalicious, of course, turns out to be "On the Down Low", as it were, and the entire episode is spent deconstructing his Armored Closet Gay persona.
  • In Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot, Grumpy Bear has a "care-y-all."
  • Agent 57 shows Danger Mouse what he really looks like in "The Spy Who Stayed In With A Cold", and DM is repulsed:
    DM: (shaken) Very...very nice, but could you perhaps be something a little prettier—heavier! Heavier!
  • Doug keeps a journal. Not a diary. Which is funny, because one early episode began with him writing "Dear Diary."
  • An Edgar & Ellen cartoon had Ellen calling Edgar out on keeping his important plans in "that man-purse." Edgar insisted that it wasn't a man-purse, it was a satchel.
  • Bobo the sentient primate in Generator Rex is always peeved whenever anyone refers to his "simian undergarment" as a diaper.
  • On Gravity Falls, Robbie wasn't wearing make-up on his band's poster, he was wearing "eye paint for men."
  • Harley Quinn (2019): In her own words, Poison Ivy is not a supervillain, she prefers the term "eco-terrorist''.
  • Hey Arnold!: Arnold inverts this: he's wearing a long shirt, even though some say he's wearing a kilt.
  • In the animated series Mighty Max, bird-like scholarly mystic Virgil is constantly correcting people that he is a "fowl", not a "chicken".
  • Kim Possible:
    • In one episode, Professor Dementor responds to Ron's comment about the "dress" he's wearing by shouting "It's a HOUSECOAT!"
    • Wade: "Don't call it sci-fi, it demeans the genre!"
  • King of the Hill:
    • When Bobby gives Hank "circular saw cozy", Hank suggests renaming it to a "circular saw buddy".
    • In another episode Hank gets a box so Bobby can hide his Treasure Troll "action figures" from people coming to tour the house, Dale points out "Aren't they called troll "dolls"?", and Hank sighs and says "yes".
  • In The Looney Tunes Show, one episode has Daffy carry what he calls a handbag, and everyone else calls a purse. Presumably he doesn't know "handbag" is just the British term for what Americans call a purse.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: The villain Himcules doesn't take kindly to those who say he wears a skirt.
    "IT'S A TOGA!"
  • Rarity of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is generally adverse to calling something "old"; she prefers to say it's "vintage".
    • Shining Armor also calls his tears "liquid pride".
  • The "doll vs. action figure" variant shows up on both PB&J Otter and Arthur
    • Flick Duck does this at the end of "Flick's Big Fakeout" on Otter after he is caught drawing a heart with a picture of himself inside it on Pinch's cast. "It's not a heart. It's a circle. See? It doesn't close in here." "It's a heart!"
  • The Patrick Star Show: In "Bubble Bass Reviews", when Mama Bass calls her son's outfit (which resembles The Nostalgia Critic) a "costume", he insists that it's a uniform and he's making art.
  • In Peppa Pig, one of the grandfathers owns a fake ride-on train with wheels (essentially like a miniature railway but with wheels) called "Gertrude". When people call Gertrude a toy, he insists it's a "miniature locomotive" and pronounces "miniature" as "minny-a-ture".
  • The Venture Brothers: Dean: "My big gift is a jumpsuit???". Dr.Venture: "Speedsuit Dean, Speedsuit. I don't ever want to hear you say jumpsuit again." In season six it's seen that Dr. Venture is not alone. His tailor Enzo will literally spit in someone's face for saying "jumpsuit".

    Real Life 
  • Nintendo is sometimes chastised for initially making purple the primary color of the Gamecube console. Some defend this decision by arguing that the Gamecube isn't purple, but indigo. Assuming most kids were in science class this is accurate.
    • Likewise the "clear pink" version of the original GBA was red to some.
    • Nintendo themselves went through a period of referring to all colors by non-standard names. The aforementioned pink GBA was "fuchsia" and the orange GC was "spice" for no clear reason.
    • Try Polar White, Onyx, Cobalt, or Metallic Rose DS Lite colors on for size.
  • Hot Topic used to peddle a denim skirt to male emo teens as a "one-legged pant." It was listed at the web site until 2012.
  • Onesies, which are an adult version of the one piece suit commonly worn by babies. They are often known as sleeved blankets.
  • There are new skates now called "side-by-sides" that have, get this, two wheels in front and two wheels in back! Anyone born before 1992 may remember that these hip, new alternatives to inlines were called "roller skates" for much of the 20th century. This kind of thing is more properly called a retronym.
  • The English national football team famously dropped their traditional Red away shirt in favour of what they called Indigo-Blue (but appeared somewhat grey) in the mid-90s.
  • Accidentally invoked by William Stroudley, Chief Engineer of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR). During the late 19th century Stroudley famously had the LBSCR's locomotives painted in a shade of his own devising called "Improved Engine Green". It turned out ochre as a result of his previously undiagnosed red-green colour blindness, but the effect was attractive enough that they kept it for the next 35 years.
  • An inversion of this trope is products that are commonly used for criminal purposes, but are presented as ideal for a purpose that practically nobody actually uses it for:
    • You know those skull-crushing brass knuckles you sometimes find in American mail order catalogs? Well, stop calling them that, because they're actually paperweights.
    • And those big, solid billy clubs for sale at many truck stops, perfect for bashing in someone's noggin? They're actually tire thumpers. Yep.
    • The fake urine that people use for the extremely illegal practice of cheating on drug tests is always referred to on the packaging as a product for simulated "watersports," although people who actually have that fetish likely don't see much point in simulating it when bottled water and asparagus are fairly cheap. Some brands then proceed to shoot themselves in the foot by boasting in print ads about how their psuedo-piss is completely undetectable, which might be why several states have already banned the stuff.
    • This also goes for "whipped cream chargers." Not to say that these N2O canisters aren't used for culinary purposes or that stoners never enjoy some whipped cream, but the chargers are constantly advertised in stoner rags, and most folks probably don't feel like making the stuff from scratch when they're busy chasing a Nitrous Oxide high.
    • Those glass pipes you see in head shops are "water pipes" never bongs.
    • Plastic/ceramic knives could be used as "letter openers"... or weapons that evade metal detectors.
  • It's not a doll. It's an ACTION FIGURE!! The matter needed to be decided so in 2003 the court of international trade defined action figures as "nonhuman creatures." Which says nothing of their construction materials or intended demographic which usually defines which term is used. As a result, several companies came up with alternative names (Bandai went with "Action Hero" for Power Rangers), but Mattel and Marvel argued the X-Men were mutants, and therefore non-human.
    • And the related "They're not toys, they're MINIATURES!!" Inverted by many wargamers whose contribution to 'realism in rules' debates is "It's grown men playing with toy soldiers."
  • There are some anime fans who will get very annoyed if you refer to what they are watching as "cartoons"... then again, consider the stigma of the word "cartoon". "Anime" in this context is a shortening of animeeshon, the Japanese pronunciation of "animation." And the French animé more literally just means "animated." On the other hand, calling non-stylized Japanese animation "anime" will net the same funny looks, so something like Nutcracker Fantasy isn't going to get that epithet in casual circles.
    • Incidentally, everything animated is anime in Japan. Tom and Jerry is anime in Japan. It's just the word for anything animated. Yes, anime is literally cartoons.
    • The very same stigma makes western comic fans call manga "Graphic Novels". In the comic industry itself "Graphic Novel" is a term of art that strongly implies that the book is considerably thicker (and with a much heavier cover) than a comic book. They're also generally printed on a considerably better grade of paper (whiter and heavier) than pre-1980s comic books usually were, and perfect-bound rather than being simply folded and stapled. There's also the alternate definition referring to when the comic is published more or less like a novel (that is, the entire story released in one go rather than serialized and collected in trade), but that's a different story.
    • On the same note: "It's not a Comic Book, it's Manga!" Japan inverts this with American comics: "They're not manga, they're Amecomi!"
  • The ever-growing debate over "cartoon" in both the animated and illustrated sense:
    • On one hand, referring to Political Cartoons and humorous The New Yorker inserts as such is generally accepted in the modern day, and "cartoonist" is still used for those who make comics. On the other hand, anything else getting the name will get cries of "Animation Age Ghetto", and cartoonists working on sufficiently serious comics will be referred to by their role instead ("artist", "penciller/inker", etc.).
    • Similarly, using "cartoon" for animation is thought of as immature. "Cartoons" are for kids; "animation" is for everyone else, even though its use as a synonym for animation started that way ("animated cartoon" used to be the proper term— it was a way of saying basically "moving illustration"). It might still be called "animation" even if the work is for kids, as often applied when the show or film is deemed to be "too mature" to be for their demographic.
  • If you call that copy of Watchmen a Comic Book, you throw yourself into the Animation Age Ghetto. If you call it a Graphic Novel, you are seen as needlessly pretentious. There's really no way to win. And it gets really complicated if you point out that Watchmen was published as a limited series of comic books with no intention on the creators' part to have it packaged in the familiar collection. Occasionally inverted when serious comics are treated as the only kind: Those ones in the newspapers and on the web are "the funnies", "strips" maybe, but never "comics".
  • It's nae a skirt, mate, it's a kilt.
  • People who live in moose-heavy areas of North America are probably all familiar with news reports of tourists (usually male) being injured in the "upper thigh" by the gigantic ungulates. Since most moose injuries occur after the victim turns and runs away from the animal he was annoying most people understand what the euphemism really refers to.
  • There are no wars anymore. War is illegal unless it's in self-defense or authorized by the United Nations. We do have some 'armed conflicts' though.
    • From a U.S. standpoint, war isn't illegal. However, only Congress has the power to officially declare war, but doing so grants the president the ability to do...well...a lot of things no one really wants him to be able to do. Thus, Congress avoids declaring war at all costs, and so it isn't "technically" a war. Despite this, certain conflicts have drawn the ire of Congress, who felt that they should have been consulted, or that the president overreached. All propaganda aside, a war is a very specific kind of armed conflict, defined by international law. Many modern conflicts are really not wars but rather uprisings. Think difference between murder and a manslaughter that is opaque to Joe Average but pretty important in court.
    • Former Minister of Defence of Germany Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg stated that there is no war in Afghanistan. It is "a situation similar to war". Which in Germany actually was the inversion of the trope. Here German politics insist on politically correct vocabulary and calling it an 'armed conflict' and suchlike. The use of the army in foreign conflicts is unpopular and a very sore theme, with people having been going 'Screw it, that's war, and WTF are we doing there anyway?' for a long time. So Guttenberg actually was less euphemistic by daring to call the situation "war-like" and being "perceived as war" by those involved, resulting in one side rejoicing at his frankness and the other side still criticizing him for using the term 'war' even if only in a simile.
  • The Blackpool FC kit is tangerine, not the luminous orange that it appears. Similarly, from their inception in 1966 to 2012, the secondary color for the Miami Dolphins was coral, not orange. They've since dropped that pretense.
  • Look up the official colors of any American sports team and it's safe to say that "yellow" will always be called "gold" instead. Because honestly, who wants to be known as the team that wears yellow?
    • The colors of the University of Michigan are maize and blue, thank you very much.
    • The New Orleans Saints, however, really do wear a champagne-gold color (officially called "old gold") and not yellow, but their NCAA counterparts the LSU Tigers play it straight.
    • The flag of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a black-gold-black tricolor. The National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers note  have worn the colors since their inception;note  Major League Baseball's Pirates joined them in 1948, and the National Hockey League's Penguins joined them in 1980,note  much to the consternation of the Boston Bruins, who also wear black and gold. The Penguins defended their change by citing the NHL Pirates (1925-30), who wore the colors for their first three seasons, at a time when the Bruins wore brown.
    • And then the Penguins switched from yellow "gold" to a metallic "Vegas gold" in 2002.note 
    • Also, none of this "it's not yellow, it's gold!" business kept Pittsburgher Wiz Khalifa from calling one of his most famous songs/tribute to his hometown "Black and Yellow."
    • On a similar note, the flag of Germany is black-red-gold (Schwarz-Rot-Gold in German), and not black-red-yellow (Schwarz-Rot-Gelb), despite the lower band being very clearly a dark shade of yellow. This is not only because of the heraldic color scheme but also for political reasons; after the beginning of the Weimar Republic, conservatives, monarchists, and far-right groups (including neo-Nazis) used Schwarz-Rot-Gelb, as well as Schwarz-Rot-Senf (black-red-mustard) and Schwarz-Rot-Scheiße (black-red-shit) to insult it (the flag is associated with liberal/democratic visions of Germany, as opposed to the black-white-red of Imperial Germany and Nazi Germany). It got to the point where calling the flag "black-red-yellow" became a federal offense in Germany on account of its associations with Nazis and their Propaganda Machine. As a result, to quote a prominent vexillologist, "The German colors are black-red-yellow, but they are called black-red-gold."
    • In these cases, they may be borrowing the terms from heraldic language, where there indeed exist no colors white or yellow. There are metals, silver and gold, but no white or yellow. The reason for this is down to heraldic rules note  which generally (but not universally) forbid a combination of two colors being placed side by side or on top of one another. To get around this, white and yellow are considered metals. note  That said, this trope probably still explains why white is referred to as "silver" with far less frequency than yellow is referred to as "gold".
  • "Manufactured housing" is the preferred term for mobile homes, due to the stigma surrounding this kind of housing. In theory the difference is 'manufactured housing' is designed to be set on a permanent foundation, where mobile homes are parked in a lot and can be moved at any time. In practice, most mobile homes get moved once and their wheels removed. Similarly, Irish politicians insist on referring to housing units assembled cheaply and quickly from pre-made parts, like something from IKEA that you could live in, as "modular housing". Definitely not "prefabs", even though the things absolutely are pre-fabricated, because prefabs have a bad reputation.
  • In 2016, the administration of Barack Obama was chastised for paying a ransom of $400 million for the release of Iranian prisoners. At first they denied it ever happened, then they admitted it, but insisted that wasn't a ransom, it was "leverage" as part of a broader deal.
  • Lindenstrasse's creator, Hans W. Geißendörfer, describes the show as a "family series", rather than a Soap Opera. Never mind it's ongoing drama partially inspired by Coronation Street, with almost every episode ending in a cliffhanger. He actually once stated that the series had become a bit too soapy in recent years, however he defines the term.
  • In 1784, a tax on hats was implemented in Britain. Hat-makers promptly started using referring to their products using other terminology to avoid the tax; the law was eventually amended to define what counted as a hat.
  • Electronics recycling has recently been rebranded as urban mining.
    • In a similar vein, highly polluted soils have been referred to as "technogenic sources of ore".
  • It's not a store brand, it's a "private label". Grocery chains have been pushing for a more upmarket image for their own brands.
  • A more serious example: some people decide that the politically correct term is the more embarrassing one, and the older, more offensive one is the less embarrassing version. Hence "corrections" like "You're not handicapped, you're crippled," which some people prefer because "crippled" simply implies physical damage while "handicapped" implies disability. Different people have different things that they want to emphasize when they use one label and eschew another, so really the only safe thing to do is refer to someone how they prefer that you do.
  • In the Catholic Church, there are two particular Sundays note  where the prescribed liturgical dress is of a pinkish color. Priests have been known to go to great (and humorous) lengths in their homilies on those days to impress upon the faithful that the color they're wearing is rose and not pink. It still doesn't help that pink is called "rose" in other European languages.
  • Terry Pratchett disliked the term 'Magic Realism' because it was this trope to him: "a polite way of saying you write fantasy and is more acceptable to certain people". He went on record saying all of his books are considered fantasy and nothing else, regardless of the other genres he dabbles in. Pratchett was really annoyed at the fact that fantasy is "unregarded as a literary form" because it "is the oldest form of fiction."
  • TAGTeach is essentially the animal training technique clicker training rebranded and slightly modified for use in humans.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The European Carry All


Hang Out

Greg insists that twelve-year-olds say, "hang out", not "play".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / LessEmbarrassingTerm

Media sources: