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Precision F-Strike

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Watch your language, Superman! What would Martha say?

"Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."

A Precision F-Strike is when a character suddenly swears in an uncharacteristically strong manner, or when a swear is unexpectedly used in a work with mild language. It's usually intended to show that shit just got real serious.

Another variant is when a movie limits its swearing-in order to keep from getting an R rating, and so is forced to place it very strategically. If a movie uses the F word more than two or three times or in a sexual or aggressive way, it can easily get an R rating. If it's used up to two or three times, each in a non-sexual context, it usually stays PG-13 so long as it lacks any other content that would warrant an R rating. (Similarly, on television, a single F word guarantees at least a TV-14 L rating, and multiple uses are very likely to bump the rating up to TV-MA L.) As such, the writers will only have the characters curse when it actually means something.

Also, when Unusual Euphemism is normally in play in a work, having "real" oaths appear can have the same effect.

Due to the nature of language, this trope is prone to Values Dissonance about what words are appropriate. "Bloody", "cunt", "ass" and "twat", just to name a few words, have very different connotations on the two sides of the Atlantic — and that's just the differences within a single language. Although like many other English words, the word "fucking" exists with only a minor variation in German ("ficken"), it's only used as a verb and almost never as a curse word. The word "Scheiße" ("shit") and its variations are almost always used in exactly the same way as the word "fuck" in English. In many European countries, swearing is rarely considered an issue when it comes to film ratings — for example, Silver Linings Playbook, which has about seven dozen F words, was rated "tous publics" (equivalent to the MPAA's "G") in France, and children as young as six could watch it in the Netherlands.

The same can't be said about video games, however. In Europe, a single F-word can easily result in a PEGI 16 rating. In fact, the only words allowed in the PEGI 12 and lower categories are just mild swears like "hell" and "damn" (sometimes, however, the word "shit" can appear in 12-rated games). Similarly, in the United States, the F word is only known to have appeared in games with an M rating.

In some languages, however, expletives do not actually exist or are so uncommonly used and/or offensive that they are not allowed in the media. Seemingly equivalent words may be used similarly, but without the impact of an actual expletive (for example, although the Japanese word kuso is translated as "shit", its profanity level is more along the lines of "crud" and is often used in children's shows by child characters without raising alarm). These languages may have levels of politeness which serve the same purpose (again, Japanese), and translations often take advantage of the dub/sub language's expletives to give the same feeling. For subtitles, this crosses over into Spice Up the Subtitles, unless the expletive used by the translator actually is said in the original dialogue, as is known to happen.

Note that when using this trope in the context of the quote, DON'T attach it to every single time said quote contains "fuck", "shit", etc. This trope IS applicable if it's for a case of unusually strong swearing or of the party that uttered the quote isn't exactly known to be dirty-mouthed.

This trope is an intersection of Sophisticated as Hell and Conservation of Ninjutsu; related to O.O.C. Is Serious Business. May overlap with Atomic F-Bomb for extra emphasis. Compare Minor Insult Meltdown and This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!.

Contrast with the Cluster F-Bomb and Gosh Dang It to Heck!, although it can overlap with the latter if the work in question usually doesn't even contain mild profanity.

Due to the nature of the trope, the following examples will contain swearing. Please don't be a fucking Bluenose Bowdleriser.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • Doonesbury:
    • The author pushed to allow B.D. to swear ("SON OF A BITCH!") when he wakes up after losing a leg in Iraq. This is significant because newspaper comics have extremely strict clamps on their subject matter. A few papers dropped the strip. Most simply edited the line. A few kept it as-is, with the paper's editor stating it was justified.
    • Melissa saying "That's sergeant bitch to you", which seems to just be for the sake of the punchline.
  • Milder example, but a New Yorker cartoon with the caption "I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it" spawned a meme in 1930s America. (E.B. White, of all people, wrote the caption.)
  • The 15th July 2010 strip of Pearls Before Swine features Pig's sole directnote  use of Symbol Swearing as a Take That! against British Petroleum.note  He even said that he's "never said a bad word in the strip before".
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • The comic came close to it in a 1986 strip:
      [Calvin hands Hobbes a book]
      Calvin: What does this word mean?
      Hobbes: Which one?
      Calvin [pointing] That long one.
      [Hobbes sees the word — and his eyes bug out, he claps his paw over his mouth, he jumps into the air, and his fur goes all bristly. Finally, he relaxes]
      Hobbes: [lying] I don't know.
      Calvin: You do too!
    • The only time there is actually a curse spoken in the strip is also 1986, whereupon seeing that "Be" only got him two points in Scrabble, Calvin states "2 POINTS? IS THAT @#$% ALL?"note  which was just done to have Hobbes say "My, this game does teach new words!".
  • Garfield uses Symbol Swearing to cover curse words, but one strip has Garfield remarking that the Mondays in one year "sucked". Jim Davis mentions that he got a lot of fan mail for it.
  • Dilbert: Fused with Unusual Euphemism once by the main character, having been asked to look after the (apparently unique) Black Box server:
    Dilbert: Frack.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Transformers: The Movie:
    • This gets pulled off by Spike Witwicky. After an attempt to destroy Unicron with a moon bomb fails, Spike makes explicit his surprise by exclaiming, "It isn't even dented! Oh SHIT, what are we gonna do now?!". The fact that this was based off a cartoon for all ages makes it all the more surprising. Some versions have the line removed. This became so prevalent that on one Transformers DVD, this particular moment is titled "Swear"!
    • Later on in the film, Ultra Magnus tries to open the Matrix to defeat Galvatron and his Decepticon army. He fails, letting off a growl of "Open! Damn it, OPEN!" Unlike the above, this one was retained on all video prints.
  • In Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, after being betrayed by Amanda Waller, Lex Luthor simply turns to face her and says, "Bitch." It is rated PG-13, but the fact that the line is spoken by Clancy Brown after years of him playing Mr. Krabs on Spongebob makes it more surprising, awesome, and funny.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: Alfred uses this to show us why he is the most awesome butler alive.
    Batman: You think you know everything about me, don't you?
    Alfred: I diapered your bottom. I bloody well ought to... sir.
  • Sleeping Beauty: "Now you shall deal with me, o' prince, and all the powers of HELL!" For bonus points, it heralds one of the most famous One-Winged Angel scenes in all of cinema: Maleficent transforming into a dragon. This was made in The '50s, and it would be literally decades before a second invocation of "Hell" would appear in a Disney animated feature.
  • Another classic Disney example, from Pinocchio: "Ha ha ha! Go on, laugh! Make a jackass out of yourself! I'm through!"
  • Justin in The Secret of NIMH lets out a "Damn!" when Mrs. Brisby is captured by a human child.
  • The Mind's Eye: Four videos, and only one "ass". Specifically, the singer in The Gate's "Nuvogue" can be heard mumbling about kicking Washington's ass in the second verse.
  • The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run actually has SpongeBob saying the mild curse word "crappy" twice in a row, without any dolphin chirps. Squidward also says "freakin'" in one scene.
  • After spending most of Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay not swearing, Professor Zoom's last line is, "Fuck my life."
  • Near the end of Isle of Dogs Chief insults Spots by calling him a "son of a bitch", then jokingly calls Nutmeg a "bitch". He also says that cats have more balls than dogs. In addition, there are 2 uses of "damn it".
  • Evelyn in Incredibles 2 gives us the first profane use of hell in a Pixar filmnote : "Promote the hell out of it!", as well as the first damn, from Pixar, in any context: "I'll be damned." There are also 2 uses of "Crap".
  • One of Kingpin's first lines in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is, "It's a helluva freakin' light show". Miles Morales utters, "Oh, crap," while talking to Gwen Stacy earlier in the film.
  • Marge Simpson is one of the least profane characters in The Simpsons—and yet, one of her lines in the climax of The Simpsons Movie is "SOMEBODY THROW THE GODDAMN BOMB!" They even acknowledge this in commentaries, noting how the line seems to have more impact because Marge is the one saying it.
  • A promo for Family Guy has Sid the Sloth quote the theme song, complete with him saying "sex on TV".
  • After two instances of interrupted swearing in Batman: The Long Halloween Part Two, Carmine Falcone demands Two Face to "Just pull the fucking trigger!" when he’s about to execute the former.
  • A Bug's Life: There's a scene between Flik and Atta where, as she's struggling to articulate how her subjects look at her, he says, in a tone that implies he understands how she feels, "Waiting for you to screw up."
  • In the film version of When the Wind Blows, Jim (who until that point hasn't said anything stronger than "blimey") calls Hilda a "stupid bitch" when she casually announces that she's going outside to get the washing in moments after a warning of an impending nuclear strike against Britain is broadcast over the radio. This shows how Jim is panicking because they have only three minutes to get into their improvised shelter and Hilda doesn't seem to be taking the warning seriously; he eventually has to physically drag her into the shelter. note 

    Let's Plays 
  • Markiplier's "2020 - A Comprehensive Review," in the light of the year's problems, consists of only a single word, which is of course...
    Mark: Fuck.
  • Chuggaaconroy usually keeps his commentary family-friendly outside of The Runaway Guys, which makes the few times he's swore on his solo channel since his early LPs stand out.
    • In episode 56 of Chugga's Ōkamiden playthrough, Kurow says there's "Lots of treasure in here," to which Chugga replies:
      Chugga: Pardon my English, but no shit, Kurow!
    • During the harp minigame in episode 30 of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
      Chugga: Freestyle, bitch!
    • In a more serious example, he drops two in rapid succession in Episode 131 of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, when going over story of Haze:
      Chugga: I hope you'll excuse me when I say... that. Is. Fucked up. (...) It's rare that I've ever heard anything more fucked up than that.
      • In that same playthrough in Episode 187 when talking about his Dad and how he relates to Lora he says this:
        Chugga: And scene spoke to me in such a level and made me feel such a connection with Lora because she fucking gets it.
    • From the Splatoon 2 LP, Emile enthusiastically reads Pearl's old song "#$@%* Dudes Be #$@%* Sleepin" as "SHIT Dudes Be FUCKIN' Sleeping!" No Sound-Effect Bleep here.
    • In Episode 28 of the Paper Mario redux, when a Shy Guy steals Tayce T.'s frying pan:
      Chugga: YOU! You heartless bastard! You messed with the hero of the story!
    • In Episode 43 of the same LP, when using the Snowman Doll on Lava Piranha:
    • Chugga lets loose multiple uncensored f-bombs when tearing apart Paper Mario: Sticker Star in his multi-part video essay "Chugga Sticks It to Sticker Star".

  • Find Us Alive's Dr. Lancaster swears fairly often, but seems to reserve "fuck" for particularly climactic moments; notably, he closes his interview with the D-Class who tried to strangle him with a blunt "Fuck you."
  • In Gospels of the Flood, the narrator is usually extremely polite, which makes the two swear words of the whole story especially powerful.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: "Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!"
  • "All these people talk about being students of the game. I AM the fucking game!! No one eats, sleeps or breathes this business more than me!!!"
  • The Rock was cutting a promo about defending the World Title at WrestleMania. Chris Jericho was the champion at the time, he and Rock were scheduled to fight for it at the Royal Rumble, and Jericho, sick of Rock's repeated refusing to acknowledge him as a threat...
    "This is not a joke! I am not a joke! I am serious! And you will not look past me, YOU STUPID SON OF A BITCH!"
  • While WWE is in the middle of its PG era, hearing Mae Young call the universally loathed LayCool "these sluts" cheered up everybody's day.
  • CM Punk tells John Laurinaitis that if he screws him out of the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble against Dolph Ziggler, Punk'll have to go to jail for animal cruelty because "I'm gonna beat you like a bitch." The crowd explodes.
    • Speaking of CM Punk, he also does this to Chris Jericho when Jericho exposes Punk's sister's history with drug addictions.
    "Jericho... YOU'RE BULLSHIT!!! You're bullshit... and that's exactly what I'm going to beat out of you."
  • John Cena telling "evil Arabs" Muhammad Hassan and manager Daivari, "These people don't hate you because you're Arab-Americans. They hate you because you're [muted] Asshole Americans!"
  • Bret Hart's speech on the March 17, 1997 episode of Raw featured him venting his frustrations to Vince McMahon over getting screwed over by everyone in the company after losing a cage match.
    Bret Hart: FRUSTRATED ISN'T THE GODDAMN WORD FOR IT! THIS IS BULLSHIT! You screwed me, everybody screwed me, and nobody does a goddamn thing about it! Nobody in the building cares, nobody in the dressing room cares! So much goddamn injustice around here, I have had it up to here! Everybody knows it, I know it, everybody knows that I should be the World Wrestling Federation champion! Everybody just keeps turning a blind eye! You [Vince] keep turning a blind eye to it! I've got that Gorilla Monsoon, he turns a blind eye to it! Everybody in that goddamn dressing room knows that I am the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be! If you don't like it, tough shit!
  • From Black Dynamite's New Japan theme: "Double leg takedown, two points, ride you! Nothing you can do because I'm a motherfucking Kaiju."
  • In Lucha Underground's second season, Sexy Star had a long, brutal match with Mariposa which could only be ended by one of them saying "No Mas". Near the end, the referee puts the microphone up to Sexy Star, who instead of saying 'No Mas', loudly screams "Fuck You! Fuck You Mariposa!!" This was surprising because the word hadn't been used on the show before, and Sexy Star hadn't spoken much English before then.
  • Sting, even before becoming a Born-again Christian in 1998, rarely cursed on TV. One notable instance was during a promo with Kevin Nash where I said "I'm tired of you bitching about that stupid powerbomb!"note 

    Web Videos 
  • Linkara almost never uses the hard swears, which- combined with the warning he gave moments prior- made the clip he used to simulate his reaction towards Raven saying "my father loves me" during Heroes in Crisis all the more severe.
  • The narration for TED-Ed videos are very well-spoken and articulate, but in the video about phantom traffic jams, after setting the scene about a traffic jam with no discernible cause, the narrator finishes his intro by saying "So why the @#$%! is there so much traffic?"

Alternative Title(s): Precision Swear Strike


Office Space

After Peter realises he and his friends have essentially stolen millions from Initech... yeah.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

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Main / ClusterFBomb

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