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T-Word Euphemism

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Brian: Of course, your sunburn was pretty bad. I suppose it could be... the c-word.
Stewie: What the hell does that have to do with anything?!
Brian: No, cancer.
Stewie: Oh-oh-oh-okay! I thought-[stammers] You know, it's not important. Oh no! Cancer!

This trope is a common kind of euphemism, where a word that shouldn't or can't be used will be referred to as "the <letter>-word" instead. Or, alternately, the offending word will have key letters masked by dashes, asterisks, or other punctuation (such as "f-k," or "$#!+").

Usually occurs in Real Life as a specific form of Gosh Dang It to Heck! and Bowdlerise, especially in performances for all-ages audiences. Might also appear for comedic value, such as using a euphemism for an innocuous word, or leaving it completely ambiguous what the substituted word actually is.

Inspiration for The L Word (in spirit, anyway). Also see Not Using the "Z" Word and N-Word Privileges, as well as the frequently related Country Matters. Sound-Effect Bleep is the audio equivalent. Sometimes characters will resort to Censorship by Spelling instead. Not to be confused with the actual T-words considered derogatory terms for Transgender people.

More contemporary authors treat this as a Dead Horse Trope with all related snarkery — expect a dash of Lampshade Hanging as characters marvel that someone could pronounce all those dashes and ampersands. Compare Trade Snark.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • Deconstructed by Louis C.K., where he points out how redundant this trope can be:
    Louis: Literally whenever a white lady on CNN with nice hair says "the N-word" — that's just white people getting away with saying "nigger". [...] It's bullshit, cause when you say "the N-word", you put the word "nigger" in the listener's head. That's what saying a word is.
  • Stewart Lee talking about Kick-Ass: "[There have been complaints because] an eleven-year-old girl says 'cunt', which is the C-word, isn't it?"
  • John Mulaney was once told by an editor to cut the word "midget" from a skit he'd written because it was "as bad as the N-word."
    John: First of all: No. No it's not. And do you know how I know it's not? Because we're saying the word "midget", but we won't even say what the N-word is! If you're comparing the badness of two words, and you won't even say one of them? That's the worse word.
  • Mitch Benn's song "Don't Be a Dick", from the routine Ten Songs to Save the World, includes the line "Don't be a c-word, you know the one".

    Comic Books 
  • The issue of Quantum and Woody titled "Noogie" begins with the characters introducing the issue by saying that they've been forbidden to use the "N-Word", and will use the word "Noogie" instead. The idea is later subverted when a poor black character repeatedly calls Quantum "noogie". Quantum, whose full-body costume covers his identity, demands to know how the man knows he's black, only to be told "You're black? S-Word!"
  • In an issue of Viz, Student Grant is being Politically Correct and is talking about saying the N-word. Of course, he doesn't say the word itself; he says the phrase 'the N-word'. However, one friend tells another that Grant 'said 'the N-word''. Hilarity ensues.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side has a joke about "the D-word" in a MENSA convention. It's "duh".
  • Bloom County:
    • In one arc, the Bloom Picayune decides to do a frank, honest article about AIDS. The first draft, submitted by the obviously-nervous editor, is full of T-words.
      Writer: Am I waffling?
      Milo Bloom: You're waffling.
    • In another, the characters have been informed that they must refrain from using the "14-letter 'S' word." It turns out to be "Snugglebunnies."
  • 9 Chickweed Lane: In a strip, one character claims to have "beat the s—- out of Colonel Horrocks." The rest of the word starting with S is obscured because a chair blocks that part of the speech bubble.
  • Doonesbury
    • Played with when Lacey Davenport's political opponent challenged her to mutual drug tests — "Any time! Any place! I will fill any bottle!" Upon hearing this, Lacey's husband commented dryly, "It would appear the contest has turned into a p—-ing match," whereupon Davenport replied, "A what? You know I can't understand you when you use hyphens, dear."
    • In a story arc about Frank Sinatra's skills with profanity, the text is censored thusly: "Get me your (obscene gerund) boss, you little (anatomically explicit epithet)!" Which is horribly offensive because, as everyone knows, there's a huge difference between a gerund and a present participle, whether they look alike or not!
  • A One Big Happy strip has Ruthie tattle on Joe about name-calling, except that the letters used as euphemisms aren't the usual suspects so the parents aren't sure what the uncensored words are supposed to be. Joe still gets sent to his room.
  • Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes once used a variant with flash cards marked with a letter followed by several dashes in show and tell. When he showed the card, he would have the class yell the offending word in full. Subverted in that Ms. Wormwood doesn't allow it and promptly sends him back to his desk. Muses Calvin: "She's such a hypocrite about building vocabulary."

    Fan Works 
  • In Harry Potter and the Children of Change Draco asks if Hermione is a Mudblood and Harry punches him in the nose.
    Harry: Sorry, the M word in the magical community is like the N word in America. It is racist and vulgar.
  • In Midnight Flights and Midnight Follies Harry mentions shopping and the Greengrass women light up.
    Cyrus Greengrass: Harry, you've just spoken the "s" word.
  • In A Werewolf and a Veela Walk Into a Pub Draco ends up in the Weasleys' custody after his parents are arrested and begs Harry to convince Sirius to take him instead.
    Harry: You do realize that Sirius is alive because of Hermione, right? If he hears you use the m-word he's going to destroy you.
  • Doing Things Differently:
    Ron: [Kreacher] has a fit if Sirius even thinks the C-wordnote , Hermione. When will you accept that house elves don't. Want. Freedom!
  • Of Darkening Souls:
    Harry: Where did you learn all this fashion stuff? Did someone like Lavender rub off on you in the dorms?
    Hermione: Don't mention the L word in front of me.
  • Outlawed:
    Steve: Could the son have had contact with Loki before the New York portho-
  • In Can't Rely on Authority Ron calls Hermione a Mudblood.
    George: As far as Ron is concerned...
    Fred: ...he abandoned his right...
    George: be our brother...
    Fred: ...once he said the M word.
  • In Cold Blood Ginny comments that Ron is a selfish idiot.
    Hermione: And language, Ginny.
    Ginny: What? I said nothing bad!
    Hermione: You used the R-word.
  • Harry and Hermione Starring in: The Digital Revolution:
    Harry: Miss Granger, you are completely daft.
    Hermione: Am I? Well then there's nothing to it, right? After all, some barmy witch can do it. Besides, you get to cheat.
    Harry: I'm sorry. I must have misheard you. Did you just say the c word?
  • An Honourable Man:
    Ron: Correct me if I'm wrong, but judging by the severe case of googly-eyes the two of you seem to have come down with, I'd be willing to bet that the L word has been broached?
  • Cult Potter:
    Edith: Lovely. I'll be lucky if I ever get my bloody name out of the papers at this rate... Who's even writing the interviews?
    Fleur: Rita Skeeter is. That self important cunt.
    Edith: Did...did you just use the c word?

  • Played for laughs in A Very Brady Sequel, when the villain confronts Mr. Brady with a threat to "kick your Brady butt!" The family gasps, and little Cindy exclaims "Daddy, he said the B-Word!"
  • Beetlejuice, when the title character is about to marry Lydia:
    Ghost Minister: Do you, Betelgeuse...
    Beetlejuice: Uh-uh! Nobody says the B-word.
    • There is, however, a practical reason: B can be summoned or banished by saying his name three times.
  • Played with in a scene in Rush Hour 3. Carter and Lee are interrogating a man who speaks only French, so they enlist a nun, who's fluent in French, to translate. So, naturally, when she translates the prisoner's taunts, she summarizes with "Well, he used the N-word". For the rest of the scene, Carter and Lee ask her to translate things like "Tell this piece of S-word that I will personally F-word him up", complete with brief stops to determine the spelling of some of the words.
  • A right-wing American senator in In the Loop repeatedly uses minced oaths rather than swear words. When Malcolm Tucker dresses him down, Tucker says, "You are a real boring fuck. Sorry, sorry, I know that you disapprove of the swearing, so I'll sort that out: You are a boring f-star-star-cunt."
  • The trope is comically subverted in UK cop film Hot Fuzz. The police station's swear box has a list of prohibited swear words, each of which is bowdlerised — except 'cunt'.
  • A Christmas Story: "It was the word! The big one! The queen mother of dirty words! The "F dash dash dash" word!
  • The Parent Trap (Lindsay Lohan remake) makes use of this trope when Hallie-As-Annie talks to her mother.
    Hallie: Doesn't designing all of these wedding gowns ever make you think about the f-word?
    Elizabeth James: The f-word?!
    Hallie: My father.
    Elizabeth James: Oh, that f-word...
  • In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, when Cartman calls Kyle a "fucking Jew" in class.
    Mr. Garrison: Eric, did you just say the F-word?!
    Cartman: "Jew"?
    • Later in the movie when the boys' mothers come to school, Sheila asks if her son Kyle said "the S-woid" and then when told no, she asks, with greater horror, "The F-woid?!”
    • Also, trailers for this movie include a deleted scene of Mr. Mackey asking, “Young man, did you just say the Q-word?” The finished film features no allusions to or mentions of this word.
  • The 1958 film of Auntie Mame used this. The title character has given her nephew a pad of paper on which he can write down any words he hears and doesn't understand. When he mentions his father's opinion of her (basically that she's not fit to raise a dog, much less a child), she takes the pad from him and begins to write:
    Patrick: What's that?
    Auntie Mame: That's a "B", dear. The first letter in a seven-letter word that means your late father.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World:
    • Roxie does this while attempting to finish off Scott in a fight.
      Roxie: Your BF's about to get F'd in the B!
    • Earlier:
      Other Scott: Is this an Envy related dream?
      Wallace: We don't use the E-word in this house.
    • All these T-words are probably why Scott is confused about what, exactly, the L-word isnote .
  • In Easy A Olive admits to her parents that she got sent to the principal for calling another girl an inappropriate word. They ask her what letter the word started with, since her little brother is around, but then can't think of a bad word that starts with T (it was "twat").
  • In Deadpool 2, "family" has always been an "F-word" for Wade - a moral of the film is about him and others finding a Family of Choice.
  • In Battle for the Planet of the Apes, humans are forbidden to use the word "no" or any similar "negative imperative" if they are addressing apes, who can, in turn, freely use it on each other and on humans. The justification is because the humans used to keep the apes as slaves and conditioning them to respond to the word "no" was part of the training before they fully developed human-level intelligence.

  • Maximum Ride would sometimes say "What the h".
  • This often happened in Victorian fiction, to indicate that the characters are swearing without actually printing the offending word. Often the word is fuck, rendered as f—
    • Which gets a little confusing when they also use hyphens to mask the names of people. Mister F—- and Miss S—- are fairly hilarious.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Forward the Foundation, the word "whore" is written "wh___".
  • In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, where everyone is conceived and born artificially, the word "mother" is considered an obscenity. Thus, when Bernard Marx is writing his report to the World Controller about the Savage, he writes the word as "m——".
  • Terry Pratchett regularly uses this trope in his Discworld novels:
    • Reformed vampires rigidly refuse to say "the B-vord" for fear of losing their resolve.
    • In Going Postal, after Moist von Lipwig goes on a screaming tirade about Reacher Gilt's smug, weasely speech in the Ankh-Morpork Times, the ultra-prim Miss Maccalariat admonishes him to avoid using the K-word, the L-word, the T-word, the V-word, the Y-word, and both of the S-words in the future. "Murdering conniving bastard of a weasel" was acceptable, however, since he was talking about Reacher Gilt.
    • One must not say the M-word ("monkey") when the Librarian is around, since it's his Berserk Button.
      • He is an ape, after all.
    • Then there's the other N-word, danced around by recurring character Quoth the Raven.
    • In The Truth, Mr. Tulip habitually injects "—ing" throughout his dialog ("They never told us about no —ing dog."). It's eventually explained that, rather than being censored text, Mr Tulip actually has a 'speech impediment' that prevents him from pronouncing any part of the word except 'ing'. Lampshaded when other characters speculate on what "ing" means.
      Sacharissa: "'Ing'. I feel so much better for saying that, you know? 'Ing'. 'Inginginginging'. I wonder what it means?"
      • The best one, though, is one character's response to Tulip's comment when someone mis-identifies an antique instrument (It Makes Sense in Context). It also makes perfectly clear exactly what the word means.
        Tulip: It's not a —ing harpsichord, it's a —ing virginal! One —ing string to a note instead of two! So called because it was an instrument for —ing young ladies!
        Shadowy figure: My word, was it? I thought it was just a sort of early piano!
      • Terry Prachett has noted that people have complained about the use of —ing in reading the book to school children. Pratchett reportedly could not understand their ire, as, he said, "It is essentially a self-censoring swearword" and as such better than children really swearing.
    • Note that having characters pronounce the dashes and asterisks is a Running Gag in the Discworld novels as well:
      "D*mn!" said Carrot, a difficult linguistic feat.
      • At least as far back as Mort:
        The leading thief glared at the solid stone that had swallowed Mort, and then threw down his knife. 'Well, —— me,' he said. 'A ——ing wizard. I HATE ——ing wizards!' 'You shouldn't —— them, then,' muttered one of his henchmen, effortlessly pronouncing a row of dashes.
    • "7a", a Discworld euphemism for the number between 7 and 9, which is considered unlucky (as in, tends to attract eldritch nightmares) by magic users. Though Terry Pratchett often noted this point in his early novels, he tended to ignore it in later works...which led to a lot of surprise when Going Postal had Chapter 7a...
    • Subverted in Reaper Man, where the Dean is forbidden by the Archchancellor from uttering "the Y-word" again, because Ridcully's gotten fed up with his colleague shouting "Yo!" every few seconds.
    • And it's subverted again in Raising Steam, when Harry King threatens to throw someone down the Effing stairs. It transpires that the stairs are so-called because they're made from fine wood from the Effing Forest, visited later in the book. (In the real world, there's an Epping Forest near London.) (According to Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook, Effing Forest is also known for its birdlife, including the Effing Great Tit.)
  • In one rather bizarre novel called The Impossible Bird, characters who Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence can't say "death" unless they've killed someone on that plane. Other people are therefore very off-put if you say "the D-word."
  • Harry Potter: "Effing" is a variation, fitting since the books are set in Britain ("Effing" or "f-ing" is a common euphemism for "fucking" in British slang). Also, in a Pensieve Flashback James refers to "Mudblood" as "the M-word." The "M-word" is "magic" in Vernon Dursley's mindset. He expressly forbids Harry from saying that when he reminded Dudley that he should say please euphemistically.
  • Similarly, from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:
    Dirk: "Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable, let's prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all."
  • The Richard Matheson short story F---, set in a future where sustenance is no longer taken orally and as a result, the word food is considered obscene. The clever titling backfired on Matheson when the magazine that featured the story made him use a different title altogether because the unnecessarily bleeped one looked too obscene.
  • Rather tediously lampshaded in Philip José Farmer's Sherlock Holmes/Tarzan crossover, The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, in which Holmes's grotesquely Out of Character line, "Watson, isn't that a** *** shooting a machine gun?" merits an editorial footnote questioning whether the word has one asterisk too few, or whether Holmes might have used the American formation since the a** *** under discussion was himself an American.
  • The refrain of Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Sergeant's Weddin'" has the last word replaced with "etc." The context and rhyme make it plain the word is "whore," as the troops are delighted that their corrupt sergeant has been tricked into marrying a woman who'll make his life hell.
  • In Richard Wright's Black Boy, characters threaten to hit each other with a "f-k-g bar."
  • Booth Tarkington's Penrod uses these to hilarious extremes in his novel-within-a-novel "HARoLD RAMOREZ THE RoAD-AGENT oR WiLD LiFE AMONG THE ROCKY MTS.":
    Excerpt: Why—— —— ——you you—— —— —— —— mules you sneered he because the poor mules were not able to go any quicker —— you I will show you Why—— —— —— —— —— ——it sneered he his oaths growing viler and viler I will whip you—— —— —— —— —— —— ——you sos you will not be able to walk for a week—— ——you you mean old—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——mules you
  • In Searching For David's Heart, Darcy refer's to David's (her brother) girlfriend as "The J-word" due to Darcy's hatred of her.
  • In Lawrence Block's The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams Carolyn cancels a date for Bernie, claiming he got food poisoning from a bad burrito. The next morning he calls to reschedule.
    Patience: We'll eat someplace in the neighborhood. No burritos, though.
    Bernie: Please. Don't even say the B word.
  • In "Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch", the conjurer, the Great Edmondo, has a bit of a mouth on him when he's off-stage, letting out a "b——r" and referring to his predecessor as a "slipper b——d". But that's nothing on Lord Emsworth, who has a lengthy dashed-out complaint about a fellow guest at the party who "shows no f——n' interest" in pigs; it goes on for several sentences, with at least a third of the words dashed out, among them the F word, the C word, the S word, and four different B words.
  • In Wylder's Hand, Stanley Lake says "d——" and "d——d" a lot.
  • The Story of Valentine and His Brother spells "damned" as "d——d."
  • In A Pelican at Blandings, Johnny Halliday's landlady Ma Balsam reports speech like this, quoting Johnny's friend as saying "For G's sake isn't he back yet?" and "Oh, aitch!"

    Live Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 3, the Mayor, when talking to Faith, states that Faith "is all the slayer he would ever need" and that, if Buffy would offer herself, he would reject her now. When Faith reacts defensively, the Mayor realizes his error and apologizes for using the "b-word" (which, in this case, is "Buffy"). Made funnier by the fact that before her Face–Heel Turn, Faith frequently called Buffy "B."
  • An episode of Arrested Development plays with this. GOB Bluth buys a yacht called The Seaward, and his brother Michael is annoyed. Then their mother shows up at the tail end of the conversation and mishears "The Seaward" as "the c-word":
    Michael: [to GOB] I want you to get rid of The Seaward.
    Lucille: I'll leave when I'm good and ready!
    • Note that GOB's other yacht in the final episode is actually called ''The C-Word,'' so written.
    • He also calls another of his yachts (after The Seaward. sunk) the ''Lucille II.'', making the link explicit.
  • The Anvilicious episode of Big Brother 's Big Mouth following the ejection of a housemate for using the N Word.
  • Gordon Ramsay's The F Word. It's not rude, it's "Food".
  • There was an early Malcolm in the Middle episode where the family meets the other families of Malcolm's krelboyne class. One mother acts hostile to Lois because Malcolm taught her son "The R word." Lois' only reaction is confusion over which word is meant.
  • In M*A*S*H the guys say that "the cook made 'food' a 4-letter word".
  • Played for laughs in Wings when Lowell is telling the guys about his fears that his wife is cheating on him.
    Lowell: I actually called her the U word.
    Brian: You called her unfaithful?
    Lowell: No, I called her unsatiable!
    Brian: That's "insatiable". You called her the I word.
    Lowell: No, the I word is "indiscreet".
  • In one episode of Father Ted, Mrs Doyle has been reading the works of a lady novelist staying at the parochial house and is shocked by the language. She refers to "the F-word", but this being Father Ted has to clarify "The bad F-word. Not feck. Worse than feck."
  • Subverted in That '70s Show.
    Eric: Mom said the "ass" word.
  • Played with in 30 Rock, when the maintenance guys are dealing with a gas leak.
    Maintenance guy: I'm too old for this 'shhhhhh' sound the gas is making.
    • Kenneth uses the C-word. "Yes, that's right, a cranky sue."
  • In the British TV series Ultraviolet, it looks like a vampire and drinks blood like a vampire, but the word vampire is never used. Instead, they're referred to as "Code fives" (as in V, the Roman numeral for five).
  • From the Community episode "Home Economics", Vaughn's song about "getting rid of Britta, I'm getting rid of the B..." (She's a G-D-B!). Has Added Alliterative Appeal since her name starts with a B.
  • In an episode of The Charmings, Snow White is upset that her husband used "the F-word" in front of the kids... but since the Charmings come from a Sugar Bowl, the F-word in this case is "fiddlesticks".
  • One episode of Outnumbered features a conversation which goes something like this:
    Alexa: She said the F word, the B word, and the K word.
    Sue: [to Pete] What's the K word?
    Pete: I think it's a misspelling.
  • In Roseanne, Becky is sent home crying by her Jerkass boss, and her father and boyfriend find out that he called her a particularly nasty word. Her brother DJ pesters them over it, asking if it was "the b-word," "the f-word," or "the l-word." (He then admits he doesn't even know what "the f-word" is after being asked what "the l-word" is). And it's heavily implied Becky was called "the c-word."
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis angrily calls an Israeli man a Jew, causing Mac and Charlie to protest, saying that Dennis used "a hard J." Dennis is confused about objecting to calling a Jew a Jew, but Mac and Charlie insist that context makes the word offensive. Later Mac calls the same man a Jew and pre-empts Charlie's objection by saying that the context was appropriate and that he had thought about it ahead of time.
  • Parodied on Living Single: Synclaire comes home upset and angrily says she's "mad as H!" Max replies "Oooh, she said the 'H' letter."
  • In "LazyTown's New Superhero" on LazyTown, Robbie Rotten created a Robot Dog that attacked whenever it heard the word "trouble" because it was traditional on the series for Sportacus to shout "Someone's in trouble!" As such, "trouble" became "the T-word."
  • On Orphan Black, Alison sometimes resorts to using the letter "F" as a stand-in for "fuck". Sometimes, "the C-word" is used instead of clone, again because of Alison, who's having a hard time dealing with being one.
  • In the Law & Order episode "Ritual," one of the detectives asks if he's "the only one here thinking the T-word." They were investigating the murder of a Middle Eastern man whose behavior looked a little suspicious; the T-word is obviously "terrorism/terrorist."
  • Sister show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Obscene," the character played by guest star Lewis Black refers to another character as a "bitch with a capital C."
  • On the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "Greg and Larry", Jake tells a suspect about to go through Perp Sweating that "You're about to get S'ed in the B!" Yes, it's the rare T-Word Euphemism/Gosh Dang It to Heck! combo.
    • On the "Honeymoon" episode, Jake is understandably flustered when Amy unnecessarily euphamizes "This B(abe) wants a D(rink) in her A(rms)".
  • Parodied in Married... with Children. When Steve returns and tells the Bundys he's back to get Marcy back. Wanting to have fun, they don't tell him Marcy already has a new husband. When Steve later asks the Bundys why they didn't tell him Marcy's married again, Peggy says they don't like to use the "M" word in front of the children.
  • In the Reba episode "Sweet Child O' Mine", "bitch" is addressed as "the B(-word)" instead.
  • In This Country The Vicar frequently chastises Kerry and Kurtan for "effing and jeffing".
  • Young Sheldon: In "A Sneeze, Detention, and Sissy Spacek", Sheldon repeats Georgie's use of the phrase "bad ass" by saying "bad a-word".

  • In the spoof newspaper article accompanying Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick album, the supposed lyricist, 8-year-old Gerald Bostock, is said to have shocked everybody by using the word "g—r" during a BBC interview. The lyrics reveal the word to be "gutter".
  • Say Anything's cover of Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got Ya Money" uses "N-word!" as a Sound-Effect Bleep for censoring... well... the N-word. It's hilarious.
  • Nas's 2008 album was originally supposed to be called "Nigger", but after that sparked a huge media outcry (with the NAACP amongst the detractors), Nas changed the title to the far less memorable "Untitled".
  • Stephen Lynch's "I Wanna F Your Sister" uses a whole slew of letter replacements, starting with "I just wanna F the S out of your sister," and continuing on to "I want to F her in the A, and just C all over her chin, I'd stick my fist in her V, and move it around, then move it to her A-hole," all while her brother begs him to "stop using letters!"
  • The cleverly titled Carcass song "R**k the vote".
  • Billy Connolly's spoof version of Tammy Wynette's song D-I-V-O-R-C-E included the line "She sank her teeth in my B-U-M, and called me an F-ing C." Despite this, the BBC still insisted that the last two words be bleeped out before they would play the record on radio.
  • Kevin Fowler's I Feel Like Pound Sign. The whole song is about how he's upset, but he's censoring himself in case any "little ears" are around.
  • The increasingly ridiculous abbreviations in "FYI I Wanna F Your A" by Ninja Sex Party.
  • Bowling for Soup has a breakup song, entitled "A Friendly Goodbye," where the chorus is a string of these because the narrator's soon-to-be-ex hates cursing:
    Ain't that a B with an itch/Ain't that a mother trucker/You can go to H-E-double hockey sticks/And F yourself...
  • In R.E.M.'s "Star Me Kitten", the "star" stands in for "fuck".
  • Similarly, The Rolling Stones' "Star Star" is pronounced "Starfucker".

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Jim Henson Hour episode "Secrets of the Muppets", when Jim says "I suppose you'd like me to talk about... puppets", the Muppet characters start freaking out and shouting "He said the P-word!"

  • An inversion by Jeremy Hardy during his first appearance on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue in 1996. Hardy fumbles a line, swears and then apologises 'for using the fuck-w'. (This has been left in the CD of the live recording, but obviously was edited out of the broadcast.)


  • From H.M.S. Pinafore:
    "I never say a big, big D!"
    "What, never?"
    "No, never!"
    "Well - hardly ever!"
    "He hardly ever says a big, big D!"''
    • The euphemised word is "damn". Capt. Corcoran—the "I" in the above quote—does eventually say "Damme, it's too bad!", which is overheard and, at ridiculous length, condemned.
  • Zombie Prom: "She said the C word! The really bad one! Rhymes with 'map'!"
  • In Pygmalion, housekeeper Mrs Pearce reprimands Professor Higgins for setting a bad example to Eliza:
    Mrs Pearce: But there is a certain word I must ask you not to use. The girl has just used it herself because the bath was too hot. It begins with the same letter as bath. She knows no better: she learnt it at her mother's knee. But she must not hear it from your lips.
  • In the 2006 London Royal Variety Performance Avenue Q portion, Mrs. Thistletwat comes on after "It Sucks to be Me" is played and yells this:
    Keep the noise down there! You are being TOO LOUD and TOO RUDE! The S-word and the F-word? You are in front of royalty and we are not amused!
  • Perfect Pie: Played for laughs, when Patsy is horrified at Marie for saying "the "F" word" after Marie said "shit".
    Marie: That's not the "F" word.

    Video Games 
  • Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse: The Penal Zone:
    Sam: Spider-webs and spooky houses go together like well-dressed dogs and naked bunnies.
    Max: How many times have I told you not to use the "b-word", Sam?
  • In The World Ends with You, a musician called the Prince has a super popular blog called "F Everything" which gets referenced several times. No, it doesn't mean what you think it does, because the Prince is high on life. It stands for Fabulous. Which is weird, because you find this out an in-game week after it is implied that "F Everything" means exactly what you think it means.
    F this ramen! F it to high heaven!
  • In Time Crisis 4 (arcade), there is a sequence where you continually (more or less) shoot at a boss while he is wrestling with an ally. As usual, you are being debriefed on the situation by another ally who is speaking to you via intercom. (This is basically narration of the game script, which is also displayed at the bottom of the screen.) For whatever reason, she decides to name the wrestling moves used by the boss. After a few ordinary examples, the script comes up "F—-!" at the bottom of the screen - and she actually yells out, "Eff!"
  • One splash in Minecraft is "Doesn't use the U-word!" The consensus among fans is that the U-word in question is Unity, a common 3D game engine (Minecraft uses Java). As such, this trope is Played for Laughs here.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, while the party is exploring Lohengrin Castle, Jusis comments on how they're finding many odd mechanisms and ghost-like monsters. Millium, who has already been scared by the monsters, tells him to not say "the g-word."
  • In Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings, after you synthesize a water bag for the first time, you get a scene in which Suelle suggests that it's a "portable toilet," although every time she tries to say "toilet," she gets cut off by Lydie. Eventually, the screen goes dark and you get Lydie warning her to not say the "t word," with a sound of Suelle being kicked and crying out in pain.
  • In No Straight Roads, Bunk Bed Junction face against the Virtual Celebrity Sayu. After talking with the digital mermaid for a bit, Mayday gets fed up and says it's pointless to talk to Sayu because she's not real. Zuke quickly tells her she can't use "the R-word" around Sayu as it's taboo in the Akusuka District. Mayday ends up even more fed up at that statement.

  • Sluggy Freelance: "F-word!" (1), (2).
    • In a very early strip, Bun-Bun is very sensitive to the word "neutered".
  • Roommates has two strips titled this way: "Roommates 145 - The M Wordnote " and "Roommates 168 - The F Wordnote " (in this one a character actually says "so... you know... the f-word..." in a questionable situation).
  • This El Goonish Shive strip refers to "the S-Bomb".
  • Goblins has the N-wordnote . The reason for this is different than usual: it is the name of the guardian of the dungeon who is summoned by saying his name. He will answer a question the first 3 time you summon him, at the 4th time he kills you.
  • Forestdale has Izabell Carroll slip in 'the B-word' as something she'd call her friend Sora after being cleverly insulted through a game of scrabble.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the first episode of Black Dynamite, the N-Word is Ninja, used in every possible way the actual N-Word is used.
  • The Futurama episode "War is the H-Word":
    If you say the A-word, you'll blow this whole planet straight to the H-word!
  • From the first episode of The Venture Bros.:
    Hank: Ah, double dammit!
    Dean: Hank! You said the double-D word!
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Bart Star" (after Homer announces that Bart will be the new quarterback, replacing the far more talented Nelson):
      Bart: Give me a "B"?
      Nelson: I won't give you a "B", but I'll tear ya a new "A"!
    • From "Marge Gamer"
      Helen Lovejoy: You are so blind, even Jesus couldn't heal you!
      Rev. Lovejoy: Helen, please. Don't drop the J-bomb.
  • South Park:
    • In "Clubhouses" Randy is trying to find Sharon's wedding ring which fell down the sink. He thinks he found it only to hold up an alarm clock.
      Sharon: That's not it, you idiot!
      Randy: Hey, back off, bitch.
      Sharon: *GASP* You just said the c-word!!
      Randy: Did I?
    • After it was heard 162 times in the episode "It Hits the Fan", Kyle notes that we are using the s-word too much.
    • The episode "You Got F'd in the A" has the trope right in the title. It's used in the dialogue as well.
    • The episode "The F Word" has the definition of the word "fag" changed to: 1. An extremely annoying, inconsiderate person most commonly associated with Harley riders. 2. A person who owns or frequently rides a Harley.
  • Family Guy:
    Brian: [referring to a mole on Stewie] I think it could be... the c-word.
    Stewie: What does that have to do with anything?
    Brian: No, I mean cancer.
    Stewie: Oh, oh! Cancer, oh no!
  • Regular Show: After accidentally damaging their bedroom wall in "The Power", Rigby grouses "Now, how in the H are we gonna fix this S?" H is a recurring one in early episodes.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The entire "G-wiz" episode.
  • Perfect Hair Forever combined this with Sound-Effect Bleep by bleeping out any usage of the F-word with a guy yelling "EFF!"
  • In Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo, Rabbit doesn't want to hear the word "Easter." So at one point, Tigger tells Roo to not say "the E word."
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "The Love God", Grunkle Stan shouts "What the H?" before getting hit on the head by a giant letter "H".
  • In the Johnny Bravo episode "The Sensitive Male!", Jack Sheldon sings to Johnny about impressing women by getting in touch with his sensitive side:
    Sensitivity, sensitivity
    Show that girl you really give a "D"
  • In the Dragon Tales episode "Roller Coaster Dragon," after Wheezie finally finds a method that works for her to be patient, she comments that while she was doing it, she wasn't thinking about the roller coaster. Zak, shocked, comments that she "said the R word," but Wheezie brushes it off, saying that she just thought of another way to distract herself.
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Flower", Wander and Sylvia try to find a planet to plant a flower before Lord Dominator destroys it. Every planet they try is too dangerous, and more than a few times they are chased by a giant bee. When they finally find the perfect spot to plant the flower, a Shadow of Impending Doom appears and this exchange occurs.
    Wander: Is it another bee?!
    Sylvia: Just the biggest B in the galaxy: Dominator!
  • In "Franklin and the Grump" on Franklin, Mr. Groundhog invites Franklin into his home for cocoa after Franklin returns his container of cocoa mix that he had left behind while fleeing from folks that wanted him to either tell him that there's either going to be an early spring or more winter. Franklin promises not to Talk About the Weather, but then notices Mr. Beaver's various meteorological instruments and comments that he "must know a lot about the weather," then covers his mouth and says that he forgot he wasn't supposed to talk about "the W-word." Mr. Beaver, however, says that he loves talking about the weather, it's just that he doesn't like everyone pestering him about Groundhog Day because there are always going to be those who don't like the answer they hear.
  • Milo Murphy's Law: In the premiere episode "Going the Extra Milo", Milo introduces himself to his new classmate Zack, saying that he has a reputation at his school for being "the J-word". Then a series of freak catastrophes lead to Milo and Zack getting chased down the block by a huge length of concrete pipe that nearly squashes them flat.
    Zack: The J-word wouldn't happen to be "jinx", would it?
  • We Bare Bears: In "Viral Video", Panda gets into an argument with Grizzly and calls him a "dingle". Grizzly responds "Hey, there's no need to roll out the D-word!"
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): In an episode “Turtle Terminator”, Krang sends a robot that inflicts a Beam Spam attack on anything even remotely resembling a turtle. Including toys, balloons and even somebody uttering the word “turtle”. The turtles and April manage to draw this robot over to an abandoned amusement park where it can’t hurt any innocent bystanders. Unfortunately, April’s ditzy friend Irma is there too. April locates Irma and warns her to never use the “T-word” in here. Irma realizes what the T-word is, only when the robot starts raining blaster fire towards her.

    Real Life 
  • Older Than Feudalism: Authors not wishing to take God's name in vain (from the idea of the Ineffable Name) Although, of course, this is for the opposite reason from most of the other examples here. Also, many observant Jews write "G-d" out of deference even though "God" is not the name of God.
  • A common household censorship rule imposed by parents who forbid their children from using offensive language, when extended to non-swearword insults however this inevitably leads to confusion over the severity of the word used when tattlers euphemize it. This confusion quickly deconstructs the trope and leads to Values Dissonance if parents continue to attempt to use the euphemisms and censor the children's language.
  • In politics during the late 1980s, tax was often referred to as the T-word.
  • In certain academic contexts, the T-word was Thesis.
  • The word "effing" in the terms "effing and jeffing" or "effing and blinding" (British slang for a Cluster F-Bomb) is derived from this.
  • Subverted occasionally by using the phrase "The fuck word" as in "his mom is mad at him for using the fuck word in front of guests."
  • Before it was a television series in which it referred to lesbianism, "the L word" was a T-word euphemism for "liberalism." In American politics from the 1980s onwards, conservatives have enthusiastically held onto the word "conservative", but left and center-left politicians have tended to avoid the word "liberal." This doesn't necessarily apply to people not running for office. For the bitterest of ironies, liberal doesn't even mean leftist to begin with.
    • Also standing for "Love", which can be a difficult thing for some people to directly express using its proper name... and, relevant to the TV show, extremely troublesome for homosexual couples (or would-be couples) to admit to having for each other for a lot of recorded history, or even for others to suspect. Sometimes fatally so. Hence having to whisper it, in bowdlerised terms.
  • Courtroom TV is rife with witnesses saying, quote, "The H-word." Depending on the judge's mood, he may or may not point out that the word is, in fact, spelled with a W. Lampshaded by one witness, who pointed to the word "HOE" scratched into his car and observed that the defendant appeared to think he was a gardening implement.
  • In the world of weather forecasting, "snow" is sometimes the "S-word." This tends to be especially true right around the time of the first snow of the season when people may not be quite ready yet and therefore don't want to hear it.
  • In Japan, anything sexual or erotic is colliquially referred to by the letter Hnote , which is also where the fan-term Ecchi comes from. It's also used a slang for having sex with the verb H-suru, literally meaning "to do H".


Video Example(s):


David says the F-Word.

Jake has had a bad day because a fellow classmate of his has been going around saying the f-word... as in "fat".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / TWordEuphemism

Media sources: