How Not to Swear.

As a longtime fan of cursing, I am of course pleased to discover this video from the series “Learn English with Ronnie!” I found the inclusion of “bullspit,” “monkey father,” and “melon farmer” odd — do people really use those? Also, I wish someone would make a video like this for Russian, which has a full panoply of euphemistic forms of swear words.

Comments

  1. I believe those are bowdlerizations that exist only in showings of R-rated films on non-premium TV. The third one definitely is: Die Hard‘s “Yippie ki-yay, motherfucker! melon farmer!” has ascended to memetic status, as have “I’ve had it with these motherfuckin’ monkey-fightin’ snakes on this motherfuckin’ Monday-to-Friday plane!” from Snakes on a Plane and “This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass! find a stranger in the Alps! / feed a stranger scrambled eggs!” from The Big Lebowski. I’m almost certain I’ve heard a “bullspit” too.

  2. Jim Parish says:

    My brother – career Navy, now retired – uses “motor-scooter” quite a bit.

  3. I’ve taken to saying “Francis Urquhart” when “fuck you” wouldn’t sound appropriate.

  4. It’s just a little taste, but here is a video of substitutes for one of the мат phrases.

  5. I’ve never heard melon farmer etc. used in speech, but I wrote about their use in swear-avoiding film dubs for Strong Language (warning: video-heavy post).

  6. Nice, but some of these are a little off. “Oh, snap,” for example, has no relation to “Holy Shit.” Kids say it (I teach high school) when one person catches another person’s mistake or defect or something and calls him out for it. A more common variant this year is “Oh, burn!” Correct me if this is some sort of regionalism, but I just live in boring old Denver, so probably not…kids get their slang imported from one coast or another (not the Gulf Coast, man).

  7. You might well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.

  8. Kozad, your understanding of “Oh, snap!” matches mine in Washington, DC. I remember being puzzled when the Chrome browser started using the phrase for the error message it gives when a tab crashes. I still don’t understand why it would be appropriate there.

  9. My husband, now an ordained clergyman, used to have a much sharper tongue, especially while driving. Someone cut him off in traffic a few years ago, and instead of the expected rubbish he used to say, husband yelled out, “Enjoy yourself!” It took me a moment to understand that the intent was just as bad as what he used to say.

  10. I believe those are bowdlerizations that exist only in showings of R-rated films on non-premium TV.

    Ah, that makes sense.

    Nice, but some of these are a little off. “Oh, snap,” for example, has no relation to “Holy Shit.”

    Yes, that bothered me too, but since I have aged out of any hope of understanding the slang of Kids Today, I just figured I didn’t know all the nuances of “Oh, snap.”

  11. It’s just a little taste, but here is a video of substitutes for one of the мат phrases.

    Thanks, that was great, and it wasn’t just one phrase. I particularly enjoyed “И биться сердце перестало.”

  12. “Enjoy yourself!”

    My favorite think-about-it expression (not a bowdlerization, however): “Your parents were brothers!”

  13. Donkey from Shrek – “Mother Fletcher! He already said it!”. That’s actually pretty risqué given it’s a kid’s movie

  14. One of the lab technicians at a place where I worked years ago used to mutter “Gordon Bennett” under his breath when something broke, or he stripped a screw, or a fuse blew. He said it quietly but vehemently, and to my young ears it sounded very crude.

  15. The BBC on ‘Gordon Bennet!’: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6226293.stm

  16. It took me a moment to understand that the intent was just as bad as what he used to say.

    Bless your heart, dear.

  17. I had been an adult for quite a few years when I figured out some of my mother’s favored expletives. “For cryin’ in the sink” was fairly easy to work out, but “sugar foot” – I had to refigure my mental image of her a bit for that one.

  18. My father was a fan of the TV show “Sugarfoot” when he was in elementary school. I find it almost unwatchably bad, deserving a stronger expletive in the title.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wblOUBVH4sg

  19. The first definition at UD is “term of endearment for a sweet, well-meaning, loyal, mild-mannered, somewhat slow boyfriend named for Woody Woodpecker’s sometimes equine sidekick”. This may have had more to do with your mother’s usage, and probably underlies the TV show.

  20. Jim Parish says:

    Nnno, the contexts in which she used it do not fit that definition at all. Anger, pain, general upset…

  21. Is there really a point in using non-swear words when you feel the urge to swear? Where’s the fun in that? All satisfaction and decompression seem to be lost. But I understand parents may think otherwise. Even so, they probably fight for a lost cause.

  22. I suppose you can condition yourself to think of anything as a swear. Though if you have a true moral opposition to swearing, then this approach would be a betrayal – you’d just be creating a profanity treadmill.

  23. My understanding of the origin of “sugarfoot” was that it was similar to “tenderfoot,” but with (obviously) more implications of urbane sweetness than city-slicker incompetence. (The protagonist of the show is a lawyer who moved to the old West.) I’ve never heard of the Woody Woodpecker character, but I would assume that the “sometimes equine” was named either as a reference to the older meaning or to the TV show directly.

  24. But I understand parents may think otherwise.

    And other authority figures with reflexive notions of “disrespect”. Even some parents and grandparents, like me, enforce the prohibition on young-enough children who don’t know when they can get away with swears and when they can’t, to discourage habitual swearing. It becomes an age-grading thing, like drinking.

    sometimes equine

    I have no idea what is meant by that either; as far as I can tell, Sugarfoot the character is always equine.

  25. They probably meant “equine sometimes sidekick”. Not a familar use of “sometimes” to me, but there are a few citations in OED. I imagine it’s influenced by adjectival “sometime” (“formerly”).

  26. I mostly think of adjectival sometime as meaning “periodically”, rather than “formerly”, but regardless I woudn’t put an -s on it.

  27. I suppose that, spoken aloud with the right intonation, “sometimes equine sidekick” could convey the intended meaning. Written, it just does not seem to work. But mostly, I’m just disappointed that the character did not turn out to be any kind of shapeshifter.

  28. I’ve never heard of the Woody Woodpecker character, but I would assume that the “sometimes equine” was named either as a reference to the older meaning or to the TV show directly.

    The first is possible, but Woody Woodpecker is a good deal older than the TV show.

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