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Swear Word Plot

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Patrick: Oh, hey! I think I know what that means. That's one of those sentence enhancers.
SpongeBob: Sentence enhancers?
Patrick: You use them when you want to talk fancy. You just sprinkle it over anything you say, and Wham-O! You've got yourself a spicy sentence sandwich!
SpongeBob: Oh, I get it! Let me try. (clears his throat) Hello, Patrick. Lovely (dolphin noise) day we're having, isn't it?
SpongeBob SquarePants, "Sailor Mouth"

Everybody hears curse words at some point, but clearly there are some times when it's less acceptable to curse than others. To help illustrate this point to children, television shows will often dedicate an entire episode to a character (if not the main character, usually a young sibling or friend- most often a toddler or baby) learning a bad word, using it throughout the episode (possibly without realizing what it means) until an older person delivers An Aesop about what the word means and why it's inappropriate. This is a little difficult on a kid's show since you can't say the dirty word, so expect a lot of censor bleeping (or some well-timed Sound Effect Bleeps), a tamer expletive such as "stupid", or maybe a made up word like an alien word or slur in place of any specific curse word.

Rarely, shows made for adults will also have an episode about swearing. This allows them to use an actual swear word, as well as possibly deconstruct or parody the perceived inappropriateness of swearing. It also may revolve around a child learning a bad word, but from the perspective of the older folks of the family, figuring out how they learned the word (often confronting the person who said it around them). It could also focus on characters trying to swear less, which may involve a Swear Jar.

Often a Very Special Episode.


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     Comic Strips  

  • One story arc of FoxTrot has Paige Fox watch TV while babysitting, only for the infant to learn a bad word from it and start repeating it. Paige tries to keep her from saying it to her mother, who is actually quite understanding that it was an innocent mistake. However, she wasn't fond of what Paige was watching (a parody of The Jerry Springer Show) while she was babysitting...
    Peter: So "fairly well" describes her average reaction.
    Paige: [holding up a coin] Want a penny?

     Fan Works  


  • The Berenstain Bears and the Big Blooper has a story about Sister learning a curse word, represented by Symbol Swearing. The TV version had the word be "furball".
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: One part of The Last Straw has Susan forbidding Greg and Rodrick from using swear words because of Manny picking them up from them, even banning words like "jerk" and "stupid". The two decide to use code words to mask their swears, although Greg mentions he occasionally forgets to switch to actual swear words when in public, accidentally using coded swears when a kid spits their gum in his hair.
  • The picture book Elbert's Bad Word, has a young boy hear a bad word (personified as a ugly-looking flying bug) and get in trouble for using it. Luckily, someone bakes Elbert a cake, which somehow gives him a thorough command of euphemisms, which Elbert uses when a croquet player named Sir Hillary drops his mallet on his foot (which, bizarrely enough, was what caused the original utterance of the profanity to begin with).
  • In an Emil of Lonneberga story, Emil's father, being Lutheran, is so anti-profanity that he puts his son in timeout just for using the word "heck" because it's "almost a swear word". Unfortunately, this leads to him looking actual swear words up in the dictionary and teaching him to his sister Ida as words to never say.
  • In Little Bird's Bad Word, a young bird hears his father say a bird profanity, "Blark!", and learns not to use it after copying it to everybody.
  • Roys Bedoys: In “Don’t Say Bad Words, Roys Bedoys!”, Roys learns some swear words from the horror movie he watched in the last story. He ends up saying them on the playground and then Loys overhears one and says it while playing video games because he’s frustrated and so the boys have to learn that it’s not okay to swear.
  • In The Very Inappropriate Word, a boy named Michael, who "collects" words, learns an unknown swear word and teaches it to his classmates. His teacher distracts him from it by teaching him other words.

     Live Action TV  
  • black•ish: Jack gets in trouble at school after he raps Kanye West's "Gold Digger" in a talent show with N-word intact, leading to a debate within the family about whether Jack should get in trouble for using it.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: In the episode "A Word a Day", the plot focuses on Ritchie learning a swear word from his new friend Tommy and his parents agonizing over the incident and disagreeing about how to handle it. Laura wants to ignore it in the hope that he won't learn to say it for attention, and Rob wants to confront him and tell him how inappropriate it is. Tommy's father, a minister, agrees with the latter approach, but points out that they really can't keep everything negative away from their kids.
  • The subplot of Good Luck Charlie's "Teddy On Ice" revolves around Charlie saying a bad word and her parents trying to figure out where she learned it. Near the end of the episode, Amy swears out of road rage, revealing herself as the one who taught Charlie the word.
  • The How I Met Your Mother episode "How Lily Stole Christmas" centers around Lily finding an old voicemail where Ted calls her a very bad word. Future!Ted doesn't want to say the word to his kids, so he substitutes it with "grinch", though since the show uses other insults like "bitch" without as much uproar, it's heavily implied (and confirmed by Word of God) to be "cunt". This causes Lily to steal Ted's Christmas decorations, and eventually he goes to spend Christmas with his very catholic cousin Stacy. When Lily comes over to make up with Ted, she says "grinch" within earshot of Stacy's kids...causing them to all excitedly chant "Grinch! Grinch! Grinch!" and prompting Ted to get the heck out of there.
  • Malcolm in the Middle: In the episode "Rollerskates", Malcolm becomes frustrated with his dad's lessons and says the F word to him. Hal punishes him by typing up several pages of swear words and forcing Malcolm to say them to him, until Malcolm realizes he hurt his dad's feelings and apologizesnote .
  • An episode of Modern Family has a young Lily cursing and the family trying to stop her. Complicated a bit with most of the adults finding a young child cursing funny.
  • Seinfeld: One plot revolves around Jerry's sex talk becoming too lewd.
  • Ted Lasso: Sir Swears-a-Lot Roy is the primary paternal figure for his niece Phoebe. In "Man City" he gets called in to her school because his foul mouth has rubbed off on her, and Phoebe is sent home with him. At the end of the episode Phoebe resolves to stop swearing.

     Puppet Shows  

  • In the Dinosaurs episode "Baby Talk", Baby hears a dinosaur say "smoo" (an in-universe swear word) on TV, and subsequently says the word nonstop. Earl leads a campaign to get the word banned, which ends up backfiring in two ways; first, the TV channel realizes the controversy will drive their ratings up, so they launch "The Smoo Show" (later followed by "The Flark Show" and "Kiss My Gleck"). Then, an FCC-like governing body enforces increasingly draconian regulations until the Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal dinosaurs are required to wear pants. Meanwhile, Grandma Ethyl gets Baby to stop saying smoo by refusing to read to him until he agrees to stop saying that word.
  • Wimzie's House: In "Please Don't Say That!", when Wimzie and her friends keep calling each other "stupid", Yaya tells them that it isn't very nice, as it hurts other people's feelings. In response to this, she starts instituting a "charity cup", with one cent going into it every time someone says "stupid". When Wimzie forgets to watch her language, it compromises her plan to buy a red box she wants to keep her accordion in from a Garage Sale for fifty cents. 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.


  • An episode of Adventures in Odyssey called "War of the Words" plays with this. Two boys, Charles and Henry, overhear Eugene Meltsner using the word "maladroit" to refer to Connie Kendall. Neither Charles nor Henry knows what "maladroit" means, but they figure it must be an expletive, and the kids begin to use it (or several mispronounced versions of it, including "millajoit") as an insult, which gets Henry in trouble.

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  

  • In the Angela Anaconda episode "The Curse of Baby Lulu", Angela's baby sister Lulu starts swearing and Angela gets blamed for it.
  • One episode of Angelo Rules has Angelo inadvertently teaching Peter a swear word when he trips over his brother's toys. Throughout the episode, he's trying to prevent Peter from saying the word in front of anyone. He tries to scare his brother by saying that if his mother hears the word, she'll turn into a space monster, but instead he thinks it's awesome. His final solution is to teach Peter a new word he never heard about via a "swear" contest. It works for a while since he ends up liking the word "gastropod" more than the swear he heard from Angelo... but after their father trips over the toys, Peter learns another swear word which he ends up liking more.
  • Arthur had the episode "Bleep" where D.W. learns a bad word (censored throughout the episode) and teaches it to her classmates. For most of the episode, D.W. thinks that the word is just something that makes people drop things whenever they hear it (since when she first heard it, it caused a woman to drop what she was holding in shock). Her mother teaches her that saying the word basically means, "I want to hurt your feelings."
  • In Baby Looney Tunes, the episode "Who Said That?" has Daffy Duck learn a swear word (censored by a rubber duck) from the garbageman, and Granny tells him not to say it. When he says, "OK, I won't say, "[censored]"", she tells him to just stop talking.
  • The Big City Greens episode "Bleeped" shows Cricket learning the word "blort" from his grandmother, and pretty soon, he has his entire choir group at the community center, except for Tilly, saying it on the night of a concert in which they are scheduled to perform. The swears are censored by G-rated words. Cricket, at first, wants to say this supposed cuss word during the finale of the concert, but for Bill's sake, he decides not to, deciding it's not worth saying it at all.
  • Bluey: Deconstructed in "Dunny", where Chilli at first bans her daughters from saying the word "dunny" (Australian slang for a toilet or outhouse) despite acknowledging that it's not really a rude word, just because she feels it's not a "nice" word. However, after a bit of back and forth, she decides to let them say it after all.
  • Downplayed in the Caillou episode "Caillou's Crossword", where Caillou and Leo learn the word "stupid" from a skateboarder. They both use it on their friend Clementine, and Caillou later teaches it to his baby sister Rosie, leading to his mom to teach him not to say the word. For Caillou's very young target audience, "stupid" is seen as a rude word, to the point this was a Banned Episode for how often it was said. note 
  • Captain Flamingo: Parodied in the episode "Ready to Swear", where Tabitha's baby brother Tucker keeps saying swear words and wants Milo and Lisbeth to get him to stop, although the "swears" aren't real swear words, being childish names like "booger bum" and gibberish words like "kludrumper", but are seen as appalling even by adults. There is also one long word Tucker says but it is completely bleeped out, so it's unknown what the word is, but apparently it's so bad that all the other characters are horrified when they hear it.
  • In the Duncanville episode "Duncan's New Word", Duncan says "Fuck you" to Jack after Annie forces him to make Duncan go home early from hanging out with his friends past curfew. The rest of the episode is spent dealing with the aftermath of the situation, with Duncan being lauded for his actions, while Jack is emotionally broken after hearing his son call him the f-word. Eventually it's revealed that Jack was in a similar situation as Duncan when he was his age, and that unlike Duncan, he chickened out from calling his dad such words. The last act is spent with Duncan trying to convince and train Jack to go to him and tell him "F you". Despite chickening out yet again after realizing that his dad has changed and is much nicer than he used to be, it's revealed that he only becomes nice after taking certain medicine. After it wears off and he becomes his mean self again, Jack says it to him for real, only to be thrown out the window as he and Duncan celebrate their victory.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Stewie's First Word", Stewie gets angry while at church after finding out that they won't be serving Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies during the coffee service, and he lets out a huge F-bomb, shocking everyone in the church. Lois tries to find out where Stewie learned such language and crosses out TV (since the only show Stewie watches is Caillou) and Peter (who has been hanging out with Caillou's dad and has learned to talk more politely). To Lois' horror, she finds out that Stewie learned to swear from her after she lets out an F-bomb right in front of him.
  • Similar to the Caillou example, preschool show Franklin had an episode about the word "stupid", and how using rude words reflects on your character.
  • In Henry Hugglemonster, the episode "Huggle-Whaa?" has characters learn a cuss word that sounds like "hugga" followed by Blowing a Raspberry. They eventually learn that it's rude, and stop.
  • The Loud House: In "Potty Mouth", when Lincoln and his sisters overhear Lily saying "Dannit!", they worry that they might have accidentally taught her "The D-Word", and also worry this will interfere with an interview with Dr. Shuttleworth, the manager of an important daycare center. Lincoln and his sisters first try to get Lily to copy good behavior, then when that fails, they disguise Lisa as Lily. In the end, it is revealed that the reason Lily was saying "Dannit!" was because she wanted a donut, but when Charles takes Lily's donut, Lily swears for real. Unlike many examples of this trope in kids' shows, the word Lily says really sounds like the existing curse "damn it".
  • Downplayed in the Milo episode "Bad Words", where the moral is not to say bad words... only, the two "bad words" are "dummy" (said by Milo to insult Judith) and "darn" (said by Vanessa after spilling something).
  • Subverted in the My Gym Partner's a Monkey episode "The 'A' Word". After getting beaten up by Bull, Adam says that Bull "went ape" on him; Jake gets so offended by this phase that Adam spends the rest of the episode trying to apologize. It's implied throughout the episode that "going ape" is a Fantastic Slur for primates, but Jake explains at the end of the episode that "going ape" is a compliment and Jake was jealous of Bull.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998) had "Curses" where Bubbles overhears Professor Utonium swearing and begin using the curse word themselves. They later have to fight a monster with a literal potty mouth who is constantly cursing. After the Professor explains what the word means, they are shocked and apologize, then send the potty-mouth monster to time out.
  • Recess: In "The Story of Whomps", TJ invents the word "Whomps" so that he and Vince can say it instead of swearing. However, Miss Finster and Principal Prickly still treat "Whomps" like a swear word and punish TJ for saying it by giving him detention until 4:00 P.M.. In response to this, TJ gets his friends to start saying "Whomps" every chance they get, causing Prickly's office to become overcrowded. Desperate for a solution, Prickly calls Mr. White, head of the Board of Education, who puts TJ on trial with Superintendent Skinner. When TJ explains to Skinner why he invented "Whomps", Skinner sides with him, as do Miss Grotke and most of the jury. This leads to TJ winning the trial and "Whomps" officially being declared a word that's okay for children to use.
  • The Rolie Polie Olie episode "Dinglie Danglie Doodle" has Zowie learn the eponymous bad word (nicknamed "the 3-D word") from her dad and keeps saying it. When she tells her mom where she learned it, they confront her dad, who apologizes for saying it. Later in the episode, Zowie's best friend Binky starts repeating the word after hearing his dad say it.
  • The Rugrats (1991) episode "The Word of the Day" had Angelica, sneaking backstage after being selected to be on a favorite kids' TV show of hers, overhear the disillusioned host call the general audience something that is blared out. When she says it aloud on-air (after she had already been punished for saying it to her parents), this prompts the host to outright say it on-air as well, causing her to be fired and replaced by her far more personable assistant.
  • Seven Little Monsters's "The Bad Word" has Two learn a (censored) bad word from a construction site, and Mom has to teach him not to say it.
  • The Simpsons: In the B-plot of "Bart the Lover", Todd Flanders starts swearing when he overhears Homer swearing while trying to build a new doghouse for Santa's Little Helper. When Ned explains his problem to Homer, Homer agrees to have a Swear Jar in exchange for Ned shaving off his mustache. At first, Homer finds it hard to watch his language and the swear jar becomes very full, but eventually, he becomes so programmed not to curse that he says, "Oh, fudge!" and "Fiddle-dee-dee" before breaking down into Angrish as he kicks down the doghouse. Fortunately, the money in Homer's swear jar was enough for Marge and Lisa to just go out and buy a new doghouse for Santa's Little Helper (since the one Homer was building was so poorly designed to begin with) along with a case of beer for Homer.
  • South Park is a show infamous for its foul language, but a few episodes specifically focus on the usage of swear words.
    • "It Hits the Fan" is about a television show using "shit" for the first time, resulting in massive controversy and a plague upon humanity as everybody says the word "shit". Mr. Garrison, recently out of the closet, also takes delight in being able to say "fag" uncensored while straight characters cannot. The lesson of this episode is that using swear words too much will result in them losing their meaning.
    • "With Apologies To Jesse Jackson" is about N-Word Privileges, where Randy becomes a pariah for guessing the N-word on Wheel of Fortune (the solution was actually "naggers").
    • "The F Word" focuses on the history of the usage of the word "faggot", where they try to change the legal meaning to be a slur against annoying bikers rather than gay people.
    • The movie, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, starts out as this, with the kids learning swear words from watching "Terrence and Phillip: Asses of Fire", and the resulting parental backlash...which results in a war with Canada, Sheila Broflovski seeking to execute Terrence and Phillip, and Satan and Saddam Hussein bringing about the Apocalypse.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has the episode "Sailor Mouth" where SpongeBob and Patrick learn some so-called "sentence enhancers" and get in trouble with Mr. Krabs for using them. However, Mr. Krabs later stubs his toe and says all thirteen of the known curse words, so SpongeBob and Patrick go to tell his mother. These words also each have a memorable censor bleep, with the main curse word, Number 11, represented by a dolphin's cackle. However, at the end, it's implied that the censor noises in question are the swear words, since Mr. Krabs mistakes a car horn for his mother swearing after she stubs her own foot. The episode provides the page quote.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: "To Bleep or Not to Bleep" (part of "Test Stressed") marks the debut appearance of Fowlmouth, the Junior Counterpart of Foghorn Leghorn, who is described by Buster as swearing so much, his beak has been declared a toxic waste dump. Fowlmouth wants to ask Shirley the Loon to a dance on Saturday, but his swearing habit drives her away. Fowlmouth asks Buster to help cure him of his swearing habit, and when Buster discovers that Fowlmouth refuses to swear in front of little children, he carries three babies they passed by in the park so he can pull them out when it seems like Fowlmouth is about to swear. At the end of the episode, after curing Fowlmouth of his swearing habit, Buster suddenly starts swearing.
  • Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto!: In an episode aptly titled "The Bad Word", Toto goes around spouting "diga-boo-boo", which is apparently a curse word in this universe, a phrase he learned from a group of mean apes. He ends up alienating everybody, and even makes Deenah the baby elephant cry and anger her father, until he finally gets the courage to say that he's sorry.


Video Example(s):


"F No"

Phoebe's teacher is concerned that Roy's foul mouth has rubbed off on his niece and asks him to use his influence on her properly.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SwearWordPlot

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