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Profanity Police

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The cat hasn't got his tongue, it seems.

So the author thinks a series where nobody ever swears would be boring. They think that normal people curse under certain circumstances, and it would make sense that their characters do. But they are not that dirty either, and they want to remind the audience to Do Not Do This Cool Thing. The solution? When somebody curses, someone else will tell him not to.

A frequent Hypocritical Humor variant is for one character to swear, and another to respond with "Watch your fucking language" or a similar line. May be enforced with the help of The Swear Jar.

This is not a Curse Cut Short, as the curse is fully said (sometimes, however, it is said in Symbol Swearing). Contrast Sir Swears-a-Lot.

This is usually a single guy's reaction in the heat of the moment. See Moral Guardians for those guys who make it their lifestyle to actively seek and silence profanity, Culture Police when things go to dictatorship levels, and Magical Profanity Filter when the no-swearing rule is magically enforced.

Also see Grammar Nazi and Grammar Correction Gag for the other kind of language police.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Ant-Man: In the 2020 miniseries, Ant-Man (Scott Lang) and Stinger (his daughter Cassie) are stopping a drug operation by AIM. Stinger attacks them with Symbol Swearing, and Scott objects "Whoa! Language!"
  • Civil War: Captain America makes a Super Window Jump out of the hellicarrier. He lands over a nearby soldier in a flying unit, who gets scared by this sudden event. "Keep flying, son, and watch that potty mouth!"
  • Ultimate Power, a crossover between the Supreme Power and Ultimate Marvel universes. The Squadron Supreme appears at the top of the Ultimate Fantastic Four building and start destroying everything, and speak in a confusing gibberish. Eventually, they manage to speak English again, with the problem being because of the interdimensional travel. Nighthawk blamed Arcanna for it, so she told him transport people across dimensions himself, followed by Symbol Swearing. Ultimate Spider-Man protested by saying "Hey, whoa, language! I liked it better when you all sounded like Flipper!"
  • The Dark Knight Returns has a hilarious and heartwarming moment where Batman cuts off a kid — whom he just rescued from gunpoint seconds ago — encouraging him to "kick [the Joker's] ass" with a "watch your language, son".
  • Runaways issue #1 has Alex Wilder playing an online game about the Hulk, Daredevil and other famous heroes. Playing as Captain America, Alex breaks character to voice his displeasure with the campaign, saying that it's "totally retarded."
    Other player: And just so you know, it's not cool to use "retarded" in a pejorative manner.
  • Hellions: Mutants have a perfect resurrection protocol in the age of Dawn of X: each time a mutant dies, those in Krakoa can grow him a body that is exactly the same, and upload his mind to it from the giant Cerebro database. Empath has been through this, and the Hellions discuss the whole concept. Is Empath alive again, or is he dead and replaced by a similar-looking, similar-thinking stranger?
    John Greycrow: Comes down to whose opinion is more important... a living person who can breathe and talk, or a corpse that can't say [Symbol Swearing] about [Symbol Swearing]?
    Nanny: Oh, the language is a shame...
  • Ludmilla Habitat in Brink automates this - every time somebody curses, they are automatically fined one dollar. This ends up helping solve a murder case - Bridge makes the quite reasonable (and correct) assumption that the victim cursed a lot as he was violently killed, and they are able to trace where and when the fines were issued.

    Fan Works 
  • In What a Strange Little Colt, Sandy Hills admonishes Gabriel when he says “shit, why not?” She has a bit of a grin, though.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
    • First, Tony Stark says "Shit!" after bouncing off a Deflector Shield during the fight. Captain America simply says "Language!" This leads to a Running Gag where the rest of the team tease Cap about it.
      Cap: Yeah. That's not going away.
    • Later on, when Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. show up to Sokovia in a helicarrier as Big Damn Heroes, Steve can only remark "Fury, you son of a bitch!" in amazed disbelief, to which Fury teases him with "You kiss your mother with that mouth, Cap?"
  • In The Blues Brothers, Sister Mary Stigmata, the nun who raised the two protagonists, smacks Jake with a ruler when he curses in front of her, then smacks him again when he curses in pain, then smacking Eldwood when he says "Christ Jake, take it easy-", and eventually escalates into her breaking the ruler on them and beating the two of them with a wooden stick as they continue to curse in pain.
  • Daredevil: Jack Murdock tells Matt to not curse in front of him, even though he said "shit" a few seconds later.
  • In Demolition Man there's the verbal morality monitors, machines that give out a small citation for breaking the no swearing law in San Angeles. When he's first thawed out, John Spartan, not knowing how to use the three shells, curses out a storm near one to get a quick supply of toilet paper.
  • The actual police in Hot Fuzz have a swear jar in their station, making them a literal version of this trope.
  • Ted: Donny's Berserk Button is other people swearing in front of his kid, as Ted finds out when the former screams at him for doing so.
  • Deadpool: Colossus does this to Deadpool during the former's climactic fight with Angel Dust. Deadpool is less than obliging.
    Deadpool: Finish fucking her the fuck up!
    Colossus: Language, please!
    Deadpool: Suck a cock!
  • In Monty Python's Life of Brian, when an argument broke out in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and a certain big-nosed man is getting annoyed at someone making insinuations about his nose...
    Mr. Bignose: One more time, mate, and I'll take you to fucking cleaners!
    Mrs. Bignose: Language! And don't pick your nose!
    Mr. Bignose: ... I wasn't gonna pick my nose, I'm gonna thump him!
  • In Pulp Fiction, after his Heel–Faith Turn, Jules tells Vincent to stop committing blasphemy (though he's still fine with obscenity).
    Jules: For here on in, you can consider my ass retired.
    Vincent: Jesus Christ.
    Jules: Don't blaspheme.
    Vincent: Goddamnit, Jules...
    Jules: I said don't do that!

  • The Dresden Files: Michael does this a lot.
    Harry: Holy shit. Hellhounds.
    Michael: Harry, you know I don't like it when you swear.
    Harry: Oh, sorry. Holy shit. Heckhounds.
  • In Going Postal, Moist reacts to a press release from Reacher Gilt with a sweary tirade (of apparently non-English swearwords like "the Y-word") he didn't realize was completely audible to everyone. Miss Maccalariat reacts to that with "I hope never to hear such language in this building again!" She relents when she finds out it is about Reacher Gilt, and tells Moist that "Murdering conniving bastard of a weasel" was acceptable.
  • Taken to its most literal extreme in Shimoneta where in a dystopian future, Japan passed laws banning anything obscene. This includes all forms of swearing, pornography and lewd gestures. Even the correct medical terms for certain... “obscene” anatomies are forbidden!
  • The Wheel of Time: Played for Laughs when Nynaeve travels with the Sir Swears-a-Lot Old Soldier Uno and tries to forbid him from cursing in her presence. Seeing how badly he's straining, she compromises on one profanity every other sentence, and he starts using exactly that.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the third season, the Mayor doesn't tolerate profanity and berates people who use it. In the season finale, however, he used the word "whore".

    Puppet Shows 
  • A G-rated example in the Wimzie's House episode "Please Don't Say That!": To teach Wimzie and her friends that calling people "stupid" hurts people's feelings, Yaya institutes a "charity cup", with one cent going into the cup every time somebody says "stupid". Every time Wimzie says "stupid", Yaya makes her pay one cent into the cup. This results in Wimzie being unable to afford a red box she wants to buy from a Garage Sale for fifty cents. The only time Yaya doesn't hear Wimzie say "stupid" is when Wimzie chooses to stay at home while her friends and Yaya go to the garage sale, though she does confess what she did to Yaya when her friends buy the red box for her. Only Wimzie's younger brother, Bo is exempt from the charity cup because he doesn't know any better due to being only one and a half, and he doesn't have any money.

  • Mayor Shin's catchphrase in The Music Man is "Watch your phraseology!" Notably, he says this in response to his daughter's catchphrase, "Ye Gods", and again to his wife's catchphrase, "Tempus Fugit".

    Video Games 
  • Typing in a swear word in Valhalla would result in the message "Mary is not amused..." and the character dashing onto the screen to punch the player.
  • Typing a swear word for a save file name in Spider-Man (2000) will result in Spider-Man punching the word, turning it into a random non-swear word
  • During the Epilogue for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Cassie Drake (daughter of Nathan and Elena) says "Shit" a couple of times, prompting Nathan and Elena to say, "Language." They seem to be okay with her saying "Crap" instead.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • SF Debris: In his review of "Darmok" from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Chuck jokingly reprimands Captain Picard for bad language. Picard is stranded on a planet with another alien captain and those two have a major Language Barrier between them. The phrase that sets him off is an sh word.
    Alien captain: Shaka, when the walls fell.
    Picard: Shaka indeed.
    Chuck: Language, Picard!

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: In "Allen Part 2", Allen is a literal example. He kills people who swore (with the exception of "damn") with lightning bolts.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Bart the Lover", Todd Flanders hears Homer scream, "Damn it!" and "To hell with this!" in the backyard, leading him to repeat the offensive words at the dinner table. Ned is shocked at his son's behavior and pointedly reprimands Homer upon finding out he was the source of the swears.
    • In "Cape Feare," Sideshow Bob is rebuked at his parole hearing after he refers to prison as a "dank, urine-soaked hellhole." He takes it well, though:
      Officer: Uh, we object to the term "urine-soaked hellhole" when you could have said "peepee-soaked heckhole."
      Bob: Cheerfully withdrawn.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Sailor Mouth", SpongeBob and Patrick learn a word that sounds like a dolphin chirping. Mr. Krabs tells them both not to say it or they'll be in big trouble, as it's apparently a swear word on a list of thirteen bad words (while there's generally thought to be Seven Dirty Words, Mr. Krabs says that technically there's thirteen, but only a sailor would know the words 8-13).


Video Example(s):



Bill is livid when he hears Cricket used a (kid-friendly) cuss word and passed it on to the choir, and is determined to stop him whether he wants to or not.

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