Formal Wear
Various Types

An acrolect is a register of a spoken language that is considered formal and high-style. In the early 1970s, Derek Bickerton proposed the words acrolect, mesolect, and basilect...


A euphemism is an expression intended by the speaker to be less offensive, disturbing, or troubling to the listener than the word or phrase it replaces, or in the case of doublespeak to make it less troublesome...


Profanity is a word choice or usage which its audience considers to be offensive. The original meaning of the term was restricted to blasphemy, sacrilege or speaking God or Jesus's name in vain...


Political correctness is a term used in English-speaking countries to describe real or perceived attempts to impose limits on the acceptable language and terms used in public discussion...

Political Correctness

In sociolinguistics, a T-V distinction describes the situation wherein a language, unlike current English, has pronouns that distinguish varying levels of politeness, social distance, courtesy...

T-V Distinction

Profanity is a word choice or usage which its audience considers to be offensive. The original meaning of the term was restricted to blasphemy, sacrilege or speaking God or Jesus's name in vain. They are sometimes made mild, resulting in less recognizable forms, such as the minced oaths.

However, the meaning has been extended to include scatological, sexist, derogatory, racist, or sexual terms. The list includes words that are merely vulgar as well as those thought obscene. Compare the concept of the four-letter word.


There has always been great difficulty in defining profanity. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in response to complaints about a 1973 broadcast comedy routine by George Carlin called Seven words you can never say on television, ruled that such language could not be broadcast "at times of day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience." The Supreme Court of the United States upheld this act of censorship in 438 U.S. 726 (1978). Despite this definition, people from every race, class and level of education swear. 72 percent of American men and 58 percent of American women swear in public. Most researchers consider these numbers to be in line with other populations; swearing is not restricted to Americans.

Neurological facts

The human brain treats swear words more like "automatic speech" than usual words. Non-profane examples of automatic speech includes placeholders like "um" and "er." This is why you are more likely shout a swear word then a regular word when shocked/damaged. It also explains why sufferers of Tourettes Syndrome and other brain damage treat swear words differently. Some people may, due to brain damage, lose the ability to speak/pronounce all regular words but retain the ability to swear. Some studies indicate swear words are stored in the right lobe of the brain, others indicate they are stored equally in both the right and left basal ganglia, instead of mostly in the left hemisphere, where language function is usually stored.

Profane words with multiple meanings

Some words are profane or vulgar in one context but completely acceptable in another.


Terms of profanity have historically been taboo words. Some words originally considered profane have become much less offensive with the increasing secularity of society, while others, primarily racial or ethnic epithets which can be considered part of hate speech, have become increasingly taboo.

Psycholinguistic studies have demonstrated that profanity and other taboo words produce physical effects in people who read or hear them, such as an elevated heart rate.

The offensiveness or perceived intensity or vulgarity of the various profanities can change over time, with certain words becoming more or less offensive as time goes on.

Minced oath

Minced oaths are corrupted forms of (usually religion-related) swear words that originally arose in English culture sometime before the Victorian Age, as part of the cultural impact of Puritanism after the Protestant Reformation. Some minced oaths became well-known through theatre, where there were sometimes strict taboos on certain religious phrases; many survive to this day in literary contexts (such as the Shakespearean "'swounds" or "zounds"). The censorship caused people to develop a wide variety of minced oaths to avoid swearing on holy names. They were used for swearing and other types of interjections. With time they came to have a mildly comedic effect. Sometimes the comedy was intentional, such as when American comedian W. C. Fields would bypass Hollywood restrictions by exclaiming "Godfrey Daniel!" as a substitute for "God damn it!"

Since they avoid using profanities or holy words, the minced oaths are not equivalent in strength (likelihood to cause offence) as their derivations listed below. However, some of the more modern minced oaths should be avoided in polite speech (e.g. mofo).

  • Begorrah = By God
  • Bejabbers = By Jesus
  • Bleeding heck = Bloody Hell
  • Blimey = Blind me, or Blight me
  • Blinking heck = Bloody Hell
  • Bloody = By Our Lady (speculative, may refer to rowdy young royalty, i.e. "royal blood.")
  • Blue Falcon = Buddy Fucker (military slang for betrayal among friends)
  • By George = By God
  • By golly = By God's body
  • By gosh = By God
  • By gum = By God
  • By Jove = By God (Jove is another name for Jupiter, the most powerful Roman deity; a folk etymology deriving from Jehovah may reinforce this usage)
  • Cheese n' Rice = Jesus Christ
  • Chrissakes = For Christ's sake (sometimes corrupted to "for Christ sakes")
  • Christmas = Christ
  • Consarnit = God damn it
  • Cor blimey = God blind me
  • Crikey = Christ
  • Cripes = Christ
  • Crivvens = Christ defend us
  • Crud = Crap = Shit
  • Dad gum = God damn
  • Dagnammit = Damnation, God damn it
  • Dagnabbit = Damnation, God damn it
  • Dang = Damn
  • Dangnabbit = Damnation, God damn it
  • Dangnation = Damnation
  • Darn = Damn
  • Darnation = Damnation
  • Doggone = God damn or Dog on it
  • Drat = God rot it
  • Far Canal = Fucking Hell
  • Farm = Fuck
  • Feck = Fuck (the two words are apparently not actually etymologically related: feck is an old Irish expression)
  • Figs = Fuck
  • Fink = Fuck
  • Flaming heck = Fucking Hell
  • Flipping heck = Fucking Hell
  • Foot= Fuck
  • For crying out loud = For Christ's sake; also, a way of hinting at 'fuck' or sanitising it after speaking ("Fuck... rying out loud")
  • Freaking = Fucking or Frigging
  • Fricken = Fucking or Frigging
  • Fruit = Fuck
  • Frig = Fuck
  • Fudge = Fuck
  • Futhermucker = Motherfucker
  • Gat Dangit = God damn it
  • G.D. (pronounced "jee dee") = God damn
  • Gee = Jesus or Jerusalem
  • Gee whizz = Jesus
  • Gee willikers = Jesus or Jerusalem
  • Goldarn = God damn
  • Golly = God
  • Gorblimey = God blind me, or God blight me
  • Good garden party = Good God
  • Good grief = Good God
  • Goodness gracious = Good God
  • Gosh = God
  • Gosh darned = God damned
  • Heck = Hell (A popular minced oath in Utah is "Oh my heck!", but the equivalent expression, "Oh my hell!", does not seem to exist anywhere.)
  • Hey Zeus = Jesus
  • Holy spit = Holy shit (frequently used in comic books in the 1970s)
  • Jason Crisp = Jesus Christ
  • Jebus = Jesus (Homer Simpson used this word in an episode of The Simpsons)
  • Jeepers Creepers = Jesus Christ
  • Jeez = Jesus
  • Jeezy Creezy = Jesus Christ
  • Jehoshaphat = Jesus
  • Jiminy Christmas = Jesus Christ
  • Jiminy Cricket = Jesus Christ
  • Jiminy Jillikers = Jesus Christ
  • Judas Priest = Jesus Christ
  • Jumping Jehoshaphat = a milder form of Jumping Jesus
  • Melon farmer = Motherfucker
  • Mofo = Motherfucker
  • Mothertrucker = Motherfucker
  • Mortar forker = Motherfucker
  • Muddy funster = Motherfucker
  • My goodness = My God
  • Sam Hill = Hell
  • Sheesh = Shit/Jesus
  • Sheet = Shit
  • Shish Kebab = Shit
  • Shoot = Shit
  • Shiz= Shit
  • Shucks = Shit
  • Son of a biscuit = Son of a bitch
  • Son of a gun = Son of a bitch
  • Suffering succotash = Suffering Saviour (tagline of the cartoon character Sylvester the cat)
  • Sugar = Shit
  • I Suwannee = I swear
  • Tarnation = Damnation
  • Thunderation = Damnation
  • Yumping Yiminy = variation of Jumping Jesus

Minced oaths have a long history. Examples used in the 16th or 17th centuries include:

  • Criminy = Christ
  • Egad = A God
  • Gadzooks = God's hooks (referring to the nails in Jesus on the cross)
  • Od or Odd = God
  • Odds-bodkins = God's sweet body
  • Sacré bleu (French, literally "sacred blue") = Sang de Dieu ("God's blood")
  • 'Sblood = God's Blood
  • 'Sdeath = God's death
  • 'Strewth = God's Truth
  • Zounds or 'Swounds = God's wounds

Holy Moley, actually refers to the Moley flower, believed to have miraculous healing power by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, not to Moses.

Some of these euphemisms have taken on a meaning of their own. "Heck", for example, has been jocularly presented as the place where the souls of deceased people who were somewhat sinful - but not bad enough to warrant the eternal torment of Hell - are punished. One example of this concept in popular literature is in the comic strip Dilbert, in which a character named Phil, The Prince of Insufficient Light (a milder styling than "Prince of Darkness") is the ruler of Heck, and appears periodically to inflict mild punishments ("darn"ings) upon characters for their moderate transgressions.

The science-fiction television show Battlestar Galactica used the coined word "frak" in the same way we might use "fuck" today.

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