"Stoutland isn't hurt, and it doesn't have any serious illness. It's just that Stout—" [door slams shut before she can finish her sentence]
Certain concepts considered "too sensitive" are only ever referred to by euphemisms.
The most common example is euphemisms for death in children's shows, even in cases where a character is killed and they are rendered dead, the script will never use those two words. Almost always, the writers don't even get very creative with poetic descriptions, and will apply basic synonyms of "destroyed" to living things that we usually associate with inanimate objects, or have the characters unable to finish their sentences. ("Is he...?") Hell is also constantly neutered; when the plot absolutely needs something similar, they often resort to calling them "Nether-something" (of course, except for the Netherlands, aka Holland) or even "Another Dimension."
Another frequent method is to hastily add dialogue that suggests the people we've just indirectly seen killed didn't really die, e.g. showing a city being destroyed, and having a character note: "Good thing everyone in that city evacuated at the last minute!"
For one reason or another, children's shows also shy away from using "God." Whenever religion comes into play, it is generally replaced with something along the lines of "the big guy." This one also has its roots in ancient tradition: in Judaism, it is considered blasphemous to use any of God's various actual names except in specific prayers, so His titles ("God" is considered a title; also "the Lord", "the Name", etc) are used instead. Jews don't say or write their God's real name, and this even extends to combinations of letters which spell out parts of it. Words such as Damn and Hell will likely be replaced by "Dang it!" while Hell is replaced by underworld or Hades and so on.
It should be noted that one likely reason for this trope is because the writers and producers seem to think that their target demographic is too immature to grasp the concept of somebody dying, or alternatively will be horribly traumatised - rationales that in fact cancel each other out. Some people reason that the belief that since children may not be able to understand death they should be subjected to a villain who plans to destroy them, insults and desensitizes everybody. Another point is that if death is too sensitive for children of a certain age, they probably ought not to be watching a show or movie in which people, you know, die. If you as a writer are aiming specifically at children that age, maybe write stories in which no one dies or is in danger of dying. This trope could be seen as the writers trying to have it both ways.
One major exception is the verboseness of a Big Bad usually makes the trope work for him.
Occasionally, shows that usually follow this rule may break it, usually to highlight the seriousness of the situation shown or discussed. Sometimes, this is used to prevent imitatable acts, in this case, a character, or a character's parent, will remark on the dangerousness of a situation a character has (just barely) extricated themselves from, often saying something like, "(I'll) Never do that again! (I) You could have been killed!"
Also note that just because a character didn't mention any variation of "dead," "die" or "death," that doesn't automatically make it an example of this trope. Saying something like "It's time to smash you into pieces!" isn't this trope. Saying "It's time to defeat you!" is, because "defeat" is directly used in replacement of "kill." "Smash you into pieces" is used for specific wording emphasis. This is not a trope for every single examples where a villain uses wording to do with something other than death when confronting the hero, or vice-versa.
It should be noted also, that this isn't for examples in which a show has a character being "taken away" instead of killed. If the character really was taken away, then it's not an example of this trope. If the character was obviously killed but instead they refer to their death with "they were taken away", of if a certain version of something changes a character's death scene so they never died, then it is an example. This isn't for complaining about scenes where a character was "killed off the show" in a way other than death, which is simply Put on a Bus.
Please note as well, that this also isn't for complaining about examples where a disaster of some kind resulted in no deaths. If said disaster is something where it's insane to think that no one got injured at all, then it's an example. If it's a disaster in which no one getting killed isn't an unreasonable occurrence, then it is not.
This is sometimes Played for Laughs when what seems to be a euphemism is in fact a Literal Metaphor — "Grandma's gone to a better place; I hope she enjoys her Caribbean cruise" — causing people to mistakenly believe the person died; in those cases they're No Longer with Us.
Usually a form of Executive Meddling. Compare with: Gosh Dang It to Heck!, Unusual Euphemism, Frothy Mugs of Water, The Disease That Shall Not Be Named, Conveniently Empty Building and No Endor Holocaust. Coming closer and closer to becoming a Discredited Trope. When used as an actual in-world element, it's Double Speak or a Deadly Euphemism. Contrast Try Not to Die. Often, but not always, foisted on the Badbutt, who will instead use words like "toast" or "beat." If they're allowed to say "kill" and "die" but aren't allowed to actually kill characters, then it's Nobody Can Die. If you're looking for a character who never says die — who never quits and won't back down even in the face of death — then it's Determinator. If it involves outright Lies to Children about what really happened to Tropey, that's Dog Got Sent to a Farm.
Be sure to bear in mind that the above does not apply to the Western culture as a whole as not all of us really live in America or any other Anglo-Saxon country for that matter. In most of Europe, for instance, creators usually don't shy away from using words like "die" or "kill" (or those with religious connotations) as long as their shows are aimed at least at school-age kids.
But please note as well that just because 'defeated' or 'eliminated' is used in replace of "killed", or "they were...taken from us..." is used instead of "they were...killed", it doesn't make it an example of this trope either. Sometimes alternatives are used because they sound flashier, have a better impact, or because the enemies really do just get "defeated" and fade away. After all, the creators often don't want their characters coming off as cold-blooded killers. This is for examples in which it is obviously censored due to the fact that they don't want to mention death. Any other form of replacing death with anything else does NOT count as this trope.
- Chess could be the Ur-Example of this section: despite it being a strategy game with allusions to battle, your pieces (excluding, played properly, the king) are said to be "captured" but never "killed". (Although since your pieces are only removed from the board to be played again next game, it could be a case of Nobody Can Die, depending upon perspective.)
- The Tarot de Marseille calls the number XIII (Death) "The nameless arcana".
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! Card Game, any card with the word "Death" in its name has it changed to the deliberate transliteration of "Des." So we have Des Koala and Des Frog instead of Death Koala and Death Frog. Additionally, cards with the word "Demon" in their name got it changed to "Archfiend," so "Red Demon Dragon" is "Red Dragon Archfiend" now. Unfortunately, some "Demon" cards had been released with various other renames before those names actually became gameplay-relevant, so an Obvious Rule Patch had to be put in play designating all those cards as "Archfiends" even though their names weren't changed. (Later, a type of rules text called an archetype condition was added to the game, allowing the cards to specifically name themselves as Archfiends, rather than players having to look up the list online to prove the cards were Archfiends.) The word "Hell" in some card names was changed to "Chthonian", or "Stygian".
- Magic: The Gathering:
- Reversed: since the Magic 2012 expansion, creatures are said to "die", not merely "be put into the graveyard from the battlefield". (The "graveyard" is the main general-purpose discard pile zone, the "battlefield" is the zone of cards in play.)
- Other grim terminology is older (an amount of damage that would kill a creature is "lethal"; effects that attempt to move permanents, including noncreature ones, from the battlefield to the graveyard "destroy" them) or discontinued (effects that tried to destroy a permanent without a chance of saving it with regeneration were said to "bury" it).
- However, players with no life left just "lose the game", and really gone cards are merely "exiled" (formerly "removed from the game").
- Two very similar abilities that make creature return from the graveyard are called "Persist" and "Undying".
- In general, well-defined and intuitive technical terms are more important than avoiding scary words; individual cards are far more creepy in any case.
- In Avengers: The Initiative, this is specifically mentioned. Cloud 9 is shocked when she blows up an enemy plane, saying that "I mean in cartoons when that happens you see the guy bail out with a parachute..." Also happened in regard to the word rape during the West Coast Avengers storyline, where Mockingbird was drugged and raped by the Phantom Rider. It was usually referred to as him having forced her to love him (which was something the drugs also did). Averted in Hawkeye & Mockingbird, though, as she flat out tells the Phantom Rider that he raped her.
- Mostly averted in Monica's Gang, especially in Bug-a-Boo stories, especially when Lady Mac Death appears. When "die" is not said, it is often for stylistically reasons, or when a more funny way to say it fits better the story. Sometimes even "kill" is said, when someone thinks a character caused the death of somebody after a catastrophic big bump or Monica hits somebody with a plush rabbit throw.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW):
- The death threat on Twilight's friends and the CMC is heavily implied, but they never use the word "kill".
- Played straight with Applebloom with a Bowdlerised version of the "I'm Too Young to Die" stock phrase.
Apple Bloom: Ah can't "go" before I get mah cutie mark.
- In the W.I.T.C.H. comic book, the rather violent and quite graphic death of Big Bad Nerissa is described as her being "destroyed".
- In Marvel Adventures Super Heroes, Deadpool was never referred to by his code name. Instead he would be referred to as "Wade" or "Wade Wilson, better known as D—" before being interrupted by another character.
- Enforced in Spider-Verse when Morlun kills Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. He notes that the world is Lighter and Softer and they have absolutely no way of saying what he just did. They literally cannot say "die".
- Superboy (1994): The series itself has no problem saying "killed" or "die" but Superboy usually says "hearsed" instead, especially early on. He slowly grows out of this aversion but still tends to use hearsed when the situation isn't serious.
- Ace Combat: Equestria Chronicles zigzags this, in regards to Mooks. They're usually said to be "defeated" by the heroes, but it's often very clear said Mooks were killed: punches and kicks are often aimed at a foe's neck or head, and there's a general implication that if they aren't killed in mid-air, they fall to their dooms off-screen, due to their injuries leaving them unable to fly. Named antagonists, however, are often explicitly said to be killed.
- Played with in Big Hero 6. "Dead" and "die" are used once, but the rest of the time everyone uses "gone" to describe Tadashi's death, showing how uncomfortable everyone is about the subject. Hiro tells Baymax to destroy Callaghan after he callously denounced Tadashi's death as Tadashi's fault, a nice Call-Back to his earlier bot fight to ruthlessly destroy his opponent. In the aftermath, the rest of the team repeatedly said that they "never signed on" or "wasn't part of the plan" to kill Callaghan.
- This is used as a policy for the Latin American Spanish dubs produced by Disney Character Voices International. Disney censors "death" and its related words, "saint", "naked", "God", "holy", "sin", "heaven", "pray", "tragedy", "Christmas", "demon", "devil", "exorcism", "anointed water", "stupid", "idiot", "moron" and "fat". Examples include:
- In Frozen, Hans' line "Princess Anna is... dead. (...) She was killed by Queen Elsa" is changed to "The princess Anna has... left us. (...) [She] was attacked by the queen Elsa", however just a few lines later he notes that she "died in [my] arms". His dramatic line "Your sister is dead, because of you!" was changed to "She no longer exists, because of you!"
- In the Kung Fu Panda series, whenever someone mentions Tai Lung after Po uses the "Wuxi Finger Hold" on him, which seemingly causes him to blow up in a golden burst of chi, all we hear is that Po "defeated" him. During the holiday special, however, Tai Lung shows up in a dream and Po states, "I thought you were d—" before he gets clobbered, unable to finish his sentence; then again, the one having this dream didn't even witness Tai Lung's fate. Other than that, they aren't shy talking about death, especially in Kung Fu Panda 2, which outright states whenever characters are Killed Off for Real. Of course, there's not much of an excuse to use this trope when you have genocide as a major plot point.
- In Chicken Run, although the human characters are planning a mass slaughter of the chickens, they never, ever say they are going to kill them. The chickens, however, use not only "kill" but also "die," "death," and even "suicide." Lampshaded by Rocky after he tries and fails to keep such words out of conversation to avoid panic. Apparently Americans care more about this trope than British do.
- Parodied and lampshaded in Bartok the Magnificent: The wicked sorceress Ludmilla orders her Obliviously Evil Minion, Vol, to kill Prince Ivan, but phrases it "Get him out of the way", so he does just that, locking him at the top of the tallest tower in the palace. When she finds him, the exchange goes like this:
Ludmilla: The Prince?! I told you to get him out of the way!Vol: He's in the highest room in the tallest tower! How much more out of the way could he be?Ludmilla: DEAD!
- The Rankin-Bass adaptation of The Hobbit gives a puzzling version of this trope in the song "Fifteen Birds" sung by the goblins as they have Bilbo and his party trapped in burning trees. They list method upon method of graphically killing and eating the dwarves, but when it comes time to say "die..." See for yourself.
- The release of Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (the VHS version) had several small pieces cut out, one of which was part of the scene where Nemo gets the incantation to activate the Royal Scepter's Wave Motion Gun function. Specifically, the part where it's brought up that since Nemo is just a kid, firing the Scepter will kill him.
- In Return to Never Land, Tinker Bell apparently does this when telling Peter Pan that Jane's lack of belief in fairies is killing her, judging by when Peter informs the Lost Boys that "Tink's light's gonna go out" unless Jane starts believing in fairies again.*
- Inverted in The LEGO Movie with "Come with me if you want to not-die!".
SWAT Leader: SWAT team, stun guns at the ready!
- Played straight in The LEGO Batman Movie but lampshaded relentlessly as a running gag. A pilot thrown out of an airplane opens a heretofore-invisible parachute the moment he leaves the plane, the Joker's doomsday device threatens to blow Gotham into... an infinite bottomless pit that it's apparently built over, and the police snipers, well:
SWAT Team: Non-lethal! YEAH! [high-five]
- Weirdly, however, they manage to sneak the name "Suicide Squad" in. Though, it may have gone unnoticed because it was in a long list of teams Batman was listing off as he was asking who he was working with.
- Laika apparently has some kind of vendetta against this trope, out of any major Western animation company in the business, they're quite possibly the least shy about dropping in references to death and murder, both for comedy and as a plot point. About the only major time the word "kill" is avoided in a Laika movie is in Coraline, where the substituted euphemism ("ate up our lives") is quite possibly worse than using "killed".
- The Book of Life. Funnily enough, for a film about the Day of the Dead. Manolo doesn't die and the arena bulls aren't (in most lines) killed; they 'pass away' and are 'finished' respectively. The oddest example: Joaquin's father "passed away" fighting against Chakal.
- Muppet Treasure Island plays with the trope: Billy Bones' death after getting the Black Spot (a) is totally overblown for comedic effect, and (b) gets a reaction of "He's dead!? But this is supposed to be a kids' movie!" along with, "Guys... we are standing in a room with a dead guy!" There's also a "character" (a skeleton wearing a pirate hat) named Dead Tom, introduced in succession after Old Tom and Really Old Tom. Taken further when a pirate weeps over the recently shot Dead Tom until another pirate patiently explains he was already dead. That's why he's called Dead Tom. The bereaved pirate unceremoniously drops the skeleton and moves on.
- Spoofed in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, where the villainous Acme Chairman orders one of his henchmen to "Destroy the duck! And when I say destroy the duck, I mean KILL HIM! Messily and painfully!"
- The narrator of George of the Jungle takes the time to explain to the audience that no one in the film is allowed to die, they just get really big boo-boos.
- Bodily functions taboo lampshade: In Pleasantville, Jennifer is astonished to find the girls' room at Pleasantville High has no toilets. Apparently it exists only as a ceramic-tiled girls' chat-retreat with running water, as the Fire Department exists only to get cats out of trees. As for death... what's that?!
- In a variation on this trope, the film The Pope Must Die (about a newly elected Pope being plotted against) was forced by Catholic outrage to change its name to The Pope Must Diet (about a fat... newly elected Pope... being plotted against). The "t" was added to the cover art as if cut from a magazine. No dieting happens in the movie.
- In Drop Dead Gorgeous, one of the brainless bimbos talks about her previous dog, a German Shepherd who went to 'live on a farm' after attacking her. Naturally, she doesn't get that it's a euphemism.
- In the Victorian farce The Wrong Box, young idlers Morris and John (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore) need to procure a death certificate to cover up an untimely demise; they get a lot of mileage out of the word 'thing':
Morris: Now you remember that chambermaid you got into, umm...
Morris: Thing. Who was the doctor who did the, umm...
John: Thing? Pratt, Doctor Pratt.
Morris: Was he a venal doctor?
John: I didn't think to ask.
Morris: Well, did he do the—
John: Thing? Yes.
John: But what's he got to do with it?
Morris: He's part of the plan! Now, you and I are the only two people in the world who know that Uncle Joseph is...
Morris: Dead. [and so forth and thing...]
- In Bugsy Malone, pie takes the place of guns and bullets. Characters who get pied are said to be "finished," and never show up again.
- In The Warriors, "waste" or "wasted" are always used instead of "kill" or "dead." This was probably done to make the violence seem casual to the characters, rather than soften it for the audience.
- Censors forced Anatomy of a Murder to replace the word "penetration" with "violation". "Penetration" is the word actually used in Michigan state law's definition of rape.
- An unusual in-universe example in X-Men: The Last Stand. When Wolverine is questioning Jean about what happened to Cyclops, she refuses to actually say he has died. How much of this is guilt or foreshadowing is up to interpretation.
- "Goonies never say die!"
- In Into the Woods, instead of saying Jack's Mother died, the Baker says "she didn't make it." Though they also zig-zag it.
- In Paddington, when Aunt Lucy gets Paddington hidden a lifeboat on a ship to London, she said that she was going to stay at Home for Retired Bears. To first time viewers of this franchise, it seems like a comfortable lie she is telling Paddington when actually she more likely is going off some place to die. Only later, is it shown that she is entirely serious.
- In The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, the kids are told the Lady will come "soon" for the two little ones. Lucia is stricken and says softly "You're going to take them — you mean they're going to..." (And they did.)
- In I, Frankenstein, demons are not killed, they're "descended". Gargoyles are not killed, they're "ascended". Justified, since we're actually shown flames coming out of defeated demons which then head down somewhere, while defeated gargoyles turn into a bright light and lift up in a bright column towards the heavens.
- Lines in Mac and Me were redubbed prior to release, though the Japanese cut uses the original uncensored film. The lines "He's dead?" and "He's dead, Mom, he's dead" became "He's gone?" and "They can't help him. They can't".
- The Hanzel und Gretyl track SS Deathstar Supergalaktik has this in its lyrics, probably as a reference to the lightheartedness of Star Wars.
- The Gothic Archies song "Freakshow" has the lines "real people ask you why/with a face like you've got, won't you just lie down and..." with the obvious missing word being "die".
- The original "Baby Shark" campfire song ends with the shark eating a swimmer, who goes to heaven in some variations. Most recent renditions, including the most popular one by Pinkfong, has the sharks pursuing a school of fish who swim away and find safety.
- In Christian theology, "death" refers to being spiritually dead — that is, condemned to Hell. Thus, other terms may be used for death of the body.
- In his biblical epistles, Saint Paul would never refer to dead Christians as having died. He would say that they have "gone to sleep". Since Paul did not want to imply damnation by any means, he used a euphemism.
- Jesus also uses the term "fallen asleep" (in John 11:10) to refer to the soon-to-be-raised Lazarus. He actually has to explain what he means to his disciples, as they don't get it.
- In at least one translation of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) people don't die, they "pass from life into life". The reason is the same as Paul's.
- Older Than Dirt: The Ancient Egyptians believed that to record something in writing made it more real. Scribes usually did not speak of death, only of euphemisms such as passing west (towards the setting sun and The Underworld) or joining the sun god's barque in the sky. Set was never said to have killed or murdered his brother Osiris; instead he knocked him down.
- The Qur'an explicitly forbids to call martyrs dead because "they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision".
- In the Cool Kids Table game All I Want for Christmas. Since the game is themed as a family-friendly Christmas film, Alan says the characters can't say "kill" or "die".
- Rush Limbaugh often refers to the recently deceased as having "assumed room temperature".
- In the Mage Knight miniatures game, a critter is explicitly dead when its dial is turned and three skulls appear in its stat slot. In Hero Clix, by the same company, there are no skulls — instead, three big red 'KO's appear, and the rules specifically refer to such as state as being 'defeated'.
- Kissing up to 1980s action cartoons, Cartoon Action Hour follows this trope with a capital N—unless of course, you playing The Movie.
- Lycee TCG has an interesting take on this trope. Characters that left the field due to losing battle or hit by certain effects is said to be 'discarded', as though they are merely cards in your hands or decks. There is no clear border between 'a character' and 'a character card', unlike Magic or similar competitive card games. Which helps the players in not imagining what logically happens: it doesn't matter if your Ibuki Fuuko is knocked out by Shiina Mayuri, Serpent of Akasha, or Demonbane, she's only "discarded" into your "dustbox'"
- In an odd outlierGames Workshop is notorious for using the term "dice" instead of "die" in its Warhammer 40,000, Age of Sigmar, and all other games. However, they are fine with saying "die" in the context of death.
- The word slipped through a couple of times, but the early years of BIONICLE mostly used "destroy" and "defeat". This changed later years, however. Its replacement, Hero Factory, being much Lighter and Softer, seems to play the trope straight again, though even it seems to be veering away from this slowly. The German release of the third BIONICLE Direct-To-DVD movie cut the bit when Roodaka expresses her need for the corpses of the Toa, even though it's the whole point of the rest of the scene, and the first movie's German said die.
- Deathstroke was planned to appear in Kenner's unmade fourth wave of The Super Powers Collection figures, with his name changed to Terminator. This is not quite as drastic as many of the other examples of this page, since he was originally called Deathstroke the Terminator in the comics anyway, before a certain movie series necessitated phasing out that portion of the name.
- ToyBiz's line of X-Men action figures changed the Orphan-Maker's name to "The Protector," likely because of this trope. Likewise, Holocaust's name was changed to Dark Nemesis, which also carried over to the later Hero Clix and Marvel Legends lines.
- Speaking of which, the first X-Men movie has a scene where Sabretooth sneaks up on a security guard and kills him from behind. ToyBiz did an action figure of Sabretooth that included the unfortunate victim, who was referred to as "knocked-out security guard" on the packaging.
- Along those same lines, the packaging for Hasbro's Mark I toy from the first Iron Man movie claimed that Tony Stark used the armor to chase off the terrorists who'd kidnapped him. In the actual film, Tony straight up kills many of his captors, and then blows up their base for good measure.
- The action figures for Hellboy II: The Golden Army shortened the film's title to HB II on the packaging, while Hellboy himself was referred to only as "Red."
- The same thing happened with Hasbro's action figure line for the Ghost Rider movie, which changed the name of the protagonist's motorcycle from the "Hell Cycle" to the "Flame Cycle."
- A Bonus Stage episode in which Joel learns, from the book Do-It-Yourself Standards & Practices, how to retool the show for a child audience, we hear this exchange (words in brackets being obviously dubbed):
Phil: Wh—... what just happened?
Joel: It's been a week, dude. You came back from the [hurt] after I [destroyed] you and sent you to [Hades]. That stuff was, uh, cut... for, uh... time.
- In RWBY Chibi, Nora refuses Ruby to say this word when Team RWBY finds out Pyrrha Nikos, who was killed off at the end of the third volume of the main series, is alive and well.
- Erfworld: One of the oddities of language is the use of "croaked" instead of "dead" or "killed" (and "uncroaked" instead of "undead"). However, this is clearly done by the characters and not the author, because Parson does refer to it as death and takes note of how completely inappropriate death seems in this otherwise cute and cuddly setting. Erfworlders instinctively understand the meaning of such words (as they do most other Earth words), but they are revolted by them and never use them themselves.
- The Roleplay Rules of the LEGO Messageboards only permit a member to "defeat" another member, not kill or maim them.