Potty Mouth & SSWs

Last autumn my youngest was walking around the house saying “Bloody Hell!”  We were a bit taken aback, and asked him why.  He told us that he was practicing to be Harry Potter for Halloween. We reluctantly taught him about profanity. (Reluctantly, because it was dang funny.)

But oh my flippin’ heck!  Even when you have done your best to banish actual swear words from your vocabulary, there are substitute swear words all around.  I think we would all agree that they are a common crutch in our modern vernacular.
Everyone seems to have a favorite SSW (substitute swear word) and most of us use them often. (I’m speaking of those who have matured to a point where they have left the real swear words behind.)I need help finding something new to say – quickly – before the BYU-Florida game on Thursday.

Before diving in, let me make a distinction:  There are PROFANE SSWs, and there are VULGAR SSWs.
• Profanity comes from the latin “profanus”, which literally means “outside the temple.”  We consider speaking irreverently of God and sacred things as profane.
• Vulgarity comes from “vulgaris” or “of the common people.”  Of course those pesky “commoners” use a coarse and crass language because they done lack good breedin’ and refinement.
Profane SSWs:
• The term OMG has gone viral.  My eight-year-old FOML has little friends who use the phrase constantly.  Some would argue that the third commandment isn’t talking about this, but my heart disagrees.  (Exodus 20:7)  You hear it everywhere, full out, and abbreviated.
• Oh my GOSH!  (My mom used to say this, and sometimes she would unintentionally drop the end – the whole family would flinch and look at each other).
• Geez, Cheese and Crackers, Judas Priest.  Same idea, different member of the Godhead.
“Holy” anything.
• Dang, Darn & Heck are just religious words gone astray.
Vulgar SSWs:
• Freakin’, Flippin’ Fetchin’, F-ing, Effin, Fudge, are all “F” words.  Simple enough. It is still the “Queen Mother of all swear words.”
• Bigtime new offender: WTF.
• Shoot & shucks are words plays on the sound of the “S” word.
• Crap and crud are scatological as well.  I know some ladies who are fond of using poo and poop as an expletive.  Highly unbecoming to “Daughters of Zion”.
And there are many more… you get the point.
What all of these SSWs have in common is that they are replacing a profane or vulgar expression – but not hiding what is really meant – or interpreted by the hearer.  You might innocently say “Oh my gosh”, but that may not be what my brain registers. Especially if the word is a close SSW.  Isn’t there something else we can say? I am looking for words that do not sound or feel like the real thing.
So, I am asking you to help compile a list of your favorite Non-Associated SSWs that I can use.  Because, crap, I have a dang good vocabulary, and I don’t want to fall back on these freakin’ SSWs anymore.  I’m trying to be a saint here, you know!
I will employ my vast wisdom to serve as the judge and jury as to whether your suggestion may be added to the list.  If I veto your word, please do not take offense and cuss me out.  I will explain.  Please contribute and I will cite you as the contributor. If you can’t, or won’t post a comment, email me at middleagedmormonman@gmail.com. Multiple submissions welcome.

The List: 
Blurgh! (Tina Fey on 30 Rock)
Good Gravy!  (Anna – also the Cowboys on Amazing Race)
Barnacles! (JRiggles – Spongebob)
Sweet Niblets! (Mintifresh – Billy Ray Cyrus)
Oh My Heart! – Mintifresh
Grrrrrrrr   (Jaymi)
Oh Man!  (Jaymi)
Devlin! (In the Doghouse from “Just Go With It”)
Bother!  (Anonymous – Winnie-the-Pooh)
Garbage (Anonymous)
Cuss! (Stacy Q – Fantastic Mr. Fox)
Boy Howdy! (Stacy Q – Cold Sassy Tree)
Ratzafratzenfrickenlooper (Ardis – close to a veto for “fricken” buried in there)
Ah, Snap! (The mysterious Kandis) (This one is up for debate)
Dagnabbit!  (Stephanie – Approved by my EC. I’m on the fence)
Suckbuckets (Lindberg – crass, but barely acceptable)
Great Scott! (Lindberg – Doc Brown, Back to the Future)
Great Honk! (Lindberg – Tommy Jeters, The Music Man)
Good Grief! (Carrie, Charlie Brown)Vetoed:
Rubber Duck  (rhyme)
Holy Mother of Pearl (religious)
Fruitcake (F-word)
Holy Toledo/Holy Dorito (religious)
sunuva-BISH-op (duh! Someone is missing the point)
Sheebah (Biblical and “sh”-based)
Shazbot (Mork – just plain dated, and “sh”-based)
Got down, sat on a bench (You aren’t fooling anybody)


Quotes on profanity:

“Profanity is the attempt of a lazy and feeble mind to express itself forcefully”

“When a man uses profanity to support an argument, it indicates that either the man or the argument is weak – probably both”

“Profanity is the common crutch of the conversational cripple.”

Good talk on the subject from Elder Dallin H. Oaks: http://lds.org/ensign/1986/05/reverent-and-clean?lang=eng


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  1. Dadgum? is that okay? It’s probably my favorite, but people do make fun of me all the time because they have never heard it, but it was commonly used in my family growing up.

  2. Wow, amen, and yeah! Glad to know my family was not the only ‘weird’ one. My mom always preached (should be praught) against ‘substitute words’, and I, over the years (like another commenter) have thought about the true meaning of “oh, my goodness!” (which I do say) or “Heavens!” (and who is Betsy?)

    Not sure who it was, I’m inclined to think a General Authority, but I remember reading a quote about how profanity evidences an uncreative mind, if that’s all you can come up with out of the whole English language. My FIL seems to be quite creative- “dirty rotten, turkey-trottin’, bow-legged, knock-kneed….something, something, something…” which either has everyone laughing or the hit thumb better by the end.

    Found you about a week ago- just before the conversion stories. Now you’re on my list and I’m forwarding links to family! Maybe you are family (not likely!)- you and my mom are eerily similar. If she (rarely) had to take a kid out of sacrament, she too made sure if was more fun back in the chapel than out.

  3. I picked up “Ah, stink!” years ago in high school when I heard my friend use it. I’m curious as to whether it would pass the test!

  4. One I use (when I’m trying to be better than I am) is “Turkey Toast!” It has lots of good consonants that help when I want to say something harsher.

  5. I love this blog post. I totally agree with your views here. My husband always said “mercy”. I think that one is safe. Thanks for all the suggestions also!

  6. My personal favorite is “piffle” which means nonsense. I always think SSW are inappropriate if my mind automatically translates to the actual swear word, which it does pretty regularly.

  7. I really liked the post. “Rats” is our family’s standby. In fact, “What the!” has turned into a “bad word” at our house. Mainly due to my EC’s asking. Which is fine, but it is funny to hear one of the kids say, “What the!” and one of the others say, “So and So just said a bad word!” We don’t even like “poop” in our house. Somehow we invented the word “yuckies” when our oldest was learning to talk which at the time seemed cute, but not seems weird. Especially when we hear the kids using it as “potty talk” so to speak.

  8. We say ‘Urgh!’. I’m surprised nobody mentioned it before considering you posted this nearly 2 years ago. Great post, though!

  9. We say ‘Urgh!’. Kinda surprised I’m the first to mention that one after almost 2 years since you posted this. Great post, though!

  10. C–p, when saved for “special” occasions, is SO helpful for a good vent. Please allow me that one.

    And if I ever again hear “My land!”, I shall fondly remember my dear grandma, who was as proper as they come.

  11. I am not LDS – I am Orthodox, actually – but am enjoying much of your blog, if only to better learn about what some of my friends believe and follow (AND some good ideas on keeping families close 🙂 I know you wrote this blog post some time back but had a story that might fit in here.

    Our family was going out to dinner at a restaurant one night and it was in the downtown area of Baltimore. A man was following after a woman who was walking down the street and he was calling her all kinds of names and swearing a blue streak at her back. He saw us walking from the parking garage toward the restaurant entrance and stopped in his tracks, full of apologies. He apologized over and over and kept saying, “I respec’ the children! I respec’ the children!” Truth be known, he was probably pretty drunk, but from that point forward, we have often used “I respect the children!” as a means of curbing what might become some pretty colorful words that we’d rather our children not use!

    That being said, it is much easier for ME to curb my words than my military husband who is frequently only in the presence of other military men or in high-pressure, high stress situations. I think our only daughter (so far) might help break him of his habits though – she came to me the other day to inform me that she “has not freakin shirts” (I don’t use that word… er, any more! high school and my own time of military service were different times though!) He sheepishly admitted he might have had a part to play in that.

    A friend broke her “Navy” habit by saying, “Curse, swear, curse, swear!” until the moment passed and she was calm enough to speak better things. Just thought I’d add to the relative serious-levity of your post!

    1. Loved your story! i think I’m going to have to use the ‘I respec’ the children!’ regularly in my life when I’m tempted to say anything in anger that I wouldn’t want my children to hear or repeat. 🙂

    2. I love your story! I’m going to add ‘I respec’ the children!’ to my life to avoid saying anything in anger that I wouldn’t want my children to hear or repeat. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  12. Rats is my fave. I see it on the list already.

    I think it’s interesting that the true swear words are more easily formed in the mouth than the substitutes.

  13. I still remember shortly after I was baptized at eight, I got surprised by something and a bad combination of oh my gosh and oh my goodness came out which ended up being an OMG. I felt so horrible –my first big sin!
    Anyway, you can see how even these SSW’s can sometimes make the real thing slip out. Other ones like “shoot” can just sound bad if not heard clearly. Like the comment before me, I’ve also determined that “oh my goodness” and “oh my word” and even “oh brother” are bad because who is Goodness? Who is The Word? Who is our Brother?
    This is a great post, I love how you break it down, because some people still justify that a vulgar word isn’t technically breaking any commandment, and that’s true, but
    I still think that it’s offensive and a sign of disrespect to others, to God, and even to yourself.
    I think the non-SSW’s I use most when surprised or frustrated are “Seriously?!” and “Come on!” –which, in essence, is a form of encouragement right?

  14. I didn’t read through all 63 comments to see if this was mentioned, but I had an institute teacher that explained that “oh Man” comes from “the son of Man”. –Off to burst somebody’s bubble and take away a perfectly good expression!

  15. Blast, Rubbish and (my personal favorite, taught to me by an ex-biker trying to clean up his act): tiddlywinks!

  16. As a young married teenager I found all this new freedom. One day my dad called me on it and stated “you curse worse than a sailor.” I decided to clean up my act. For years I used a word thinking it meant oh my goodness or golly. I found out much to my dismay that it was slang for the “F” word. I have since changed to plain old “dirty word dirty word” I have thoroughly enjoyed this blog. Thanks!

  17. Rubbish is another one. It’s fun to say because it’s more commonly said in England but means the same as garbage. 🙂

  18. In college I started saying “what the hum-uh-nuh?” or just “oh, humuhnuh humuhnuh”. 🙂 My brother would say “Sweet Sister Susie”, when he was surprised by something. 🙂

  19. BTW, I’m a new reader (via FHE Avengers) and added you to my Google reader immediately. I’ve been surfing your site all day. I think I’ll have to do the Book of Mormon Avengers with my three boys, too. We’re reading Alma right now, and they’re pretty into it, with all the arm-removals and crashing prisons and stuff. 🙂 Do you think the movie is okay for 8,6 and 4 year olds who are already familiar with Star Wars and other superhero stuff? I’ve heard good things from adults, but I haven’t seen it myself yet…

    1. That is really a parent decision – you know your kids. For us, we took our 10-year-old, after a great deal of discussion, and after his older brothers had already seen it and could give us their opinion – and that was pushing our limits.

    2. Thanks. I’ll skip it for my boys if it was pushing it for you to take your 10 year old. I appreciate the opinion. 🙂

  20. Totally guilty as charged, although I do it more out of emphasis (as in “Holy freakin crap, sister! You’re so skinny!!! All that running is really paying off!) than out of anger, and mostly online, and try hard to restrain myself around my kids. I was verrrrry inactive from about 17 – 24 and prided myself on being able to out-drink and out-cuss the boys. Soooo dumb, I know, but at the time, the crowd I was running with thought it was cool. I think I may have to try the ratzawhateveritwas up there, and probably substitute oh snap for oh crap (one of my all-time fave kid movies: Chicken Little). As for the use of the middle finger, my dear friend has a super funny anecdote about that:

  21. Upon being surprised or hurt I will often say, “Bad WORDS!!!!” which usually makes my kids laugh. I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with swearing and SSWs. My favorites are (in no particular order),

    Bad Words
    Oh Crap

  22. When I was in school at BYU-Idaho I was learning how to twirl a color-guard flag for a class (it’s complicated, but it was related to my major). Somehow I flipped the flag and hit my thumb really, really hard. At the time I was getting over a swearing habit developed in high school, but I was also with two of my professors. So I made up a fantastic phrase as I writhed in pain: “Sweet teddy bears of mercy!”

    Needless to say, the entire class stopped and said, “What?”

  23. I am from down-under (Australia) and always found it offensive when the American missionaries would say Crap – as that is considered offensive here (the same as the S word). They were equally shocked with my use of Hell and Damn which are not considered swearing here. My husband still likes to laugh at when I attended General Conference for the first time (in SLC) and standing in awe an usher came up and asked if I knew someone in the choir and i replied “Hell no I am just so happy to be here”. I have since tried to cut out Hell and Damn from my vocabulary

  24. How about: Yessss! or NOoooo!
    Credit goes to my sister for this one. In high school she called out her classmates with Matthew 5:34.

  25. Did anyone mention: “Shut the front door?” I don’t use it, but it still strikes me as funny. I used to use freakin’ a lot, but not so much anymore. Crap has been a crutch for a while now. Through no fault of my own or my EC’s, my 4yo has picked up the SH.. word. We’re trying everything to cure him of it. He doesn’t even use it right, but he likes the shock that it causes. If I ever swore, hearing it from one of my kids would cure me. Great blog BTW. I’m pretty hardcore LDS, but you’re inspiring me to to be better in the small things.

  26. In Japan they use words like: “unfortunate”, “unexpected”, and “inconvenient”. Of course saying it in Japanese makes it sound more natural and forceful: “Shimata”, “Masaka”, and “Mendoksai”.

  27. I’m super late at this but the realtor who sold us our house always said “Gracious Day!” and its stuck in our house. Most times my husband can’t tell if I’m saying it because i’m mad or i’m laughing… and at this point I can’t either. Once it comes out of my mouth I laugh because it sounds so silly.

  28. When I was younger the boys at school would tease me when I said “shoot” because they knew I didn’t swear. I had the same idea of wanting to come up with a word that no one would be able to mistake and so I came up with Shpooey.

    The best part about this word is that it is so weird that when I use it helps me get rid of some of the negative feelings I do have. It’s similar to the “monkeys” replacement. I liked the anonymous comment that we shouldn’t just try to find replacement words but rather learn to control our speech completely.

    P.S. – I was just introduced to your blog today and I love it. I have already burst out laughing numerous times. My roommates probably think I’m crazy. Thanks for sharing.

  29. I use Hell’s Bells, too. But only with a Southern accent. It’s the Southerner in me.

    My Granny, an old Southern lady, has had trouble with cuss words in her life. If ever I’ve been shocked or offended, she says, “Why them’s just Bible words!”

    I have a long way to go before being translated, I know. I’m working on it!

  30. I’m a convert to the church; I joined when I was 18. One of the hardest things for me to do was to train my brain with different vocabulary, because I had a horrible mouth. It’s amazing how long those thoughts and habits stick with you. Because I was trying really hard to stop cursing, I picked a fairly ridiculous word to use so I would notice how much I actually used swear words… “MONKEYS!” It was a great choice, because not only did it call my attention to the words I used, but it also usually made me (and the others around me) laugh when it came out. It took several years, but now the only thing that even comes to my mind when I slip on the ice and bust my tail is “Monkeys”. Success!

  31. I am partial to Heinlein’s “shucks and other comments.” But really, I find muted understatement has more shock value becuase it’s so uncommon. A simple “What?” as my wingmen dissolve in flames, for example.

  32. (Just found your blog, MMM. Great stuff.)

    I’ve honestly wondered about “Oh, Man.” Could it be derived from “Man of Holiness”? Obscure, but possible?

    Interesting side note. The play version of Music Man has Tommy saying “Jeely Kly!” A definite veto. They changed it to “Great Honk!” for the film. (Also, in both his last name is “Djilas,” not “Jeters.” Played him in high school, thank you very much. No autographs, please …)

  33. I’m late to this party. I did a blog about swearing (http://annajonesbuttimore.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-i-object-to-swearing.html) but yours is so much better. Love what the guy above me said too. I too may take to saying “Adjective!” “Dismay!” “Astonishment!”

    My suggestions are “Belgium” and “Zarquon” (Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and “Smeg” (Red Dwarf).
    But maybe you don’t have such comic delights in America.

  34. Crud (my usual favorite)
    Dogs of War! (my brother)
    Bah! [as an expression of frustration] (A roommate from BYU)

    It seems like swear words are used as:
    1) a one-size-fits-all adjective for emphasis
    2) an expression of dismay when something goes terribly wrong
    3) an expression of intense surprise

    Maybe in the future when I need an expression of dismay when something goes terribly wrong, I will exclaim, “Dismay! Dismay!” And maybe when I am intensely surprised I should say “I am astonished!” or “Oh my astonishment!”

  35. I tend to say fetch,oh mercy, and holy smokes. I never really considered them bad words, but I can see how they aren’t good words.
    Another one I use to say a lot when I was surprised was “Eek the cat!”

  36. my EC is in Medical school at the moment his buddies like to curse “alot” <---internet for bunches. anyways, somehow he has convinced most of his friends to meow like a cat when they want to curse and now it is an inside joke and stuff now for "very cool" graduate students

  37. I’m sorry to be a party-pooper here, but an expletive is an expletive. Not to say that I don’t use them, because I do. But frankly, I can’t really picture a prophet or the Savior using an expletive of any kind. The closest the scriptures ever come is an onomatopoeic exhalation like Ah or Oh. Whether or not an expletive is profane and/or vulgar, we are still shouting nonsense rather that keeping an even temper and thinking of a way to clearly and concisely express how we are feeling. Instead of spending our time trying to come up with less offensive things to shout when we’re angry or frustrated, why not work on not shouting at all. Instead of changing what we say, try not to say anything. After all, didn’t your mother tell you that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?

  38. I always say: Shut the front door! I got it from Stacy on What not To Wear. it might get vetoed just for having the word “shut” in it, but I usually emphasize the word “door.”

    P.S. So glad you commented over at Women in the Scriptures and came to visit my blog! I love your sense of humor and so does my hubby. 🙂

  39. My dad got upset with us when we were kids for saying Oh My Gosh! for the exact reason you mentioned, so my bff (who was not LDS) and I vowed to say “oh my strawberries!” instead, it didn’t stick, unfortunately (or fortunately, you decide)…but I do agree. Not only in verbal phrases now, but online lingo too..I use omg (always in lowercase) to mean oh my gosh, but I’m sure most people do not read it that way….maybe I’ll start saying OMS! lol (though many will think it’s just a typo). Here from Latter-Day Homeschooling Blog! and following you on GFC!

  40. My Dad’s mother grew up on a farm near Austin. Her sister would often say “Hogwash!” when she heard something she thought was, let me think, um… BS. She would say “Great honk!” or “Good honk!” when shocked by something.

    I can’t stand WTF. I hate that it and OMG were adopted on the web as normal.

  41. This is a really good post. It’s like Oak A Prock! Yeah, I said half of these and I didn’t even know they were substitues because i didn’t even know the real words. Thank goodness someone set me straight, and my newist one is oh hannah banana.

  42. Great Scott! (Doc Brown, Back To The Future)
    Great honk! (Tommy Jeeters, The Music Man)

  43. For emergencies only: “Got down, sat on a bench!!”

    My go-to: “Suckbuckets!”


  44. How about “Shazbot!” from Mork & MIndy?

    I’ve really only had a problem with one swear word, the S-word, which just seemed to fit so many situations. I’ve pretty much eliminated that, but I occasionally use crap, and when I’m really teed off, it becomes Holy Crap! That only takes it further in the wrong direction.

    Interesting anecdote from a ward council meeting many years ago. I was executive secretary, and our high counselor, who was always a little distracted anyway, was mostly reading notes in his day planner (ed – what you used to use before you had a PDA, which you used before you had an iPhone), when suddenly he interrupts the rest of the meeting with a very emphatic “Crap!” ALl of us looked at him a little stunned, and he responded with “I just realized I had forgotten something important, and it’s a whole lot better than what I was thinking!” He became a hero to me that day.

  45. I never swear at home or on my blogs, but I’ve recently noticed that I’ve started letting certain words slip that I don’t usually say when I am playing competitive basketball. I guess I need to either bridle my tongue or get better at basketball so I don’t feel inclined to utter such words during a fit of frustration. My favorite substitute swear word is Sheebah, but I guess that is also a Biblical reference.

  46. Run it all together when you say it: “Son-of-a-bee-ai-ess-aich-oh-pee did-I-spell-that-right?”

    Or just sunuva-BISH-op.

  47. Bother! (Winnie-the-Pooh)

    Garbage! (introduced to me by a brother)

    Fruit Cake! (or Fruit Cake and Jelly Beans) used by my high school friends.

  48. If you ever saw the movie “Fantastic Mr. Fox” you saw the repeated and heartfelt use of the word “Cuss!” That’s one I’ve tried to incorporate into my vocabulary.
    And in the book Cold Sassy Tree they say “Boy Howdy” a lot which I’ve picked up.
    We used to say Holy Toledo at my house until my very young daughter who knows nothing about Toledo substituted something she DOES know something about, now we say Holy Dorrito.

  49. Well, my father always used to say “ratzafratzenfrickenlooper” — and when he was really upset he would lengthen it to “ratzafratzenfrickenlooperraznaritch.”

  50. I love that you say “dang funny” that’s my favorite saying! as for the “d” word in it ??? That’s my least SSW offense.
    (thanks for the post, I’m a swearer, I don’t want to be. I don’t want my kids to be and now I will try harder not to be!

  51. Once you start following a ton of blogs you see all sorts of swearing, both real and fake, all over blogs. I can’t read a blog that has the F bomb more than once in a post, although I really shouldn’t read it at all.

    I use CRAP way too much. I think that is my one hang up with swearing. That and my use of the middle finger…

  52. I love Blurgh!
    My most used when trying to be a saint is’Barnacles!’ (Thanks SpongeBob)
    Language is something I always seem to be working on. some days more than others..Whoops!

  53. I love “Blurg”! I HATE WTF and OMG!! But I use a lot of SSW’s-lots of freakin but I do like to get creative at times here’s some of mine:
    Rubber Duck
    Mother of Pearl (you can add a Holy at the beginning if you like)
    Oh my Heart
    Sweet Niblets (thank you, Billy Ray)

    I must admit, lately I fall back on the originals. It’s like a drug and I just gotta get one last hit! hahah

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