Child-safe swear words

When you have small children (I imagine), you have to be careful what you say around them. They are just learning to speak and may seize on any word and repeat it unpredictably. This happened to a friend of mine who somehow managed to say “scrotum” within earshot of his small son. The word subsequently turned up in various inappropriate situations, to general hilarity. I’m sure this happens thousands of times a day, all over the world.

I’m not sure of the context for my friend’s “scrotum” — when you’re annoyed, all kinds of expletives can just pop out. Of course, this won’t be a problem for me, because I don’t know any rude words (except “scrotum”, and I will be careful to avoid using it gratuitously). But for the rest of you, I am compiling a list of swear words that you can safely say in front of even the most parrot-like three-year-old.

My Giddy Aunt! This sounds like something out of Gilbert & Sullivan, or possibly P. G. Wodehouse. Probably not so good if you actually do have an aunt who is giddy.

Oh, Bother. If it’s good enough for Pooh, it’s good enough for me.

Clinkers! I don’t know much about this one, but it is quite satisfying to say.

Drat. An undisputed classic.

Curses! Say this with a scowl as you angrily twirl the end of your waxed moustache. Best followed up with “…foiled again!”

Tarnation! A bit of Wild West flavour to this one.

Belgium. A rather abstract epithet from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Will probably confuse any child that hears it. Especially a Belgian child.

Fiddle-dee-dee! “What’s the French for fiddle-dee-dee?” — the Red Queen

Crumbs. This word has lovely visual appeal.

Criminy! Only characters from The Far Side ever actually say this. Maybe it deserves broader use.

Whether you have kids or not, give these words a try sometime. People are so used to hearing the same old swear words all the time — use one of these and people might actually pay attention to your annoyance.

If you have any other good words, please leave a comment — I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Update: Since I first wrote this post, I have had two children myself. They have given me many opportunities to put these ideas into practice. And while they were learning to talk, they were also tweeting at @talkingjay and @talkingfelix. Soon I will be able to retire and let them do all the writing.

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48 Responses to Child-safe swear words

  1. lex says:

    I came to check out the Evermore plugin, but I enjoyed this post.

    Anyway, my mom always said “criminy” when I was growing up. “Crud” was also a biggie.

    My grandmother always said “lands,” and sometimes she mixed it up with “oh, lands,” “lands alive,” or “goodness-lands.” I have no idea where that comes from.

  2. JxT2J says:

    Hahahahahaha! That’s hilarious!

  3. Mister Moy says:

    I second Lex — I’ve heard criminy among older speakers many times.

    Personally, I find “oh, dear” always works for me in polite company.

  4. Bennett says:

    Ah yes, the classic “oh, dear”. I have recently adopted its variant, “dear oh dear”. This is particularly good because you can adjust it to the severity of the situation — from “dear oh dear, I’ve spilled my coffee” to “dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear, I’ve accidentally cut off my finger”. Very useful.

  5. IainW says:

    “Good Grief”, “Goodness Me” and “Gee Whiz” are popular in our house. But the best source is kid’s cartoons…

    “Drat”, “Double Drat”, “Jinkies”, “Jeepers” and (a favourite) “Gadzooks”.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I find using animal names and emotions to be fun replacements
    eg. befuddled badgers, sad snakes

    also have heard land’s sake, cruddy cakes. Really, anything with cakes or other baked goods seems to work.
    eg.crumbly biscuits!

    When using longer epithets, it is good to employ alliteration. Thanks for the suggestions everyone!

  7. Mik says:

    My grandmother’s favorite was “luv a duck”


  8. Bennett says:

    Ah, “Lord love a duck!” Another Wodehouse favourite.

    I’d also like to popularise “Fritter my wig!”, one of my favourite phrases from Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark.

  9. steve says:

    a last minute ‘i cant swear here word’ was always “shhh..ugar” especially good when in pain and have forgotten about your present company!

  10. Andrew says:

    Well there are a range of culinary based ones to choose from, as mentioned above, but for me… Fu…dgecake! springs to mind. Given my circumstance, I suppose I should pay close attention to this post… ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Bennett says:

    That’s right Andrew — no sooner do I write a frivolous blog post than everybody starts having babies. Including me. I’m doing well so far — the Jay web log has no swearing on it (yet). At least you have a few months before you have to start watching your language. (Though apparently babies can hear in utero, so be careful…)

    I worry about the “emergency” swearing substitutes like sh-ugar and fu-dgecake. They are a bit too euphemistic for my liking. Besides, in these times of epidemic obesity, they may be sending the wrong dietary message.

  12. Andrew says:

    The “in utero” is an interesting concept…Taking that as a suggestion, I bought a “Bebe sounds” prenatal baby sounds monitor and microphone from a garage sale on the weekend for the princely sum of $2. it consists of a highly sensitive microphone/amplifer unit with 2 sets of headphones the unit is place apon the belly and sounds are heard…mostly of the large intestinal kind it seems…but as baby grows you are suppose to be able to pick up the heartbeat. It also comes with a pair of small speakers, an amplified microphone and a wide elastic belt, with which to hold the speakers in place on the belly(the speakers can also be plugged into a mp3 player or any such source also). You then speak into the microphone and the sounds are transmitted though the walls of the belly and to the baby. I see great promise for this a learning device, and will be playing, The Feynman Lectures, to the child for remainder of the duration. I am also looking forward to speaking to the child…. “Testing testing *thump thump thump* Is this thing on?… Oh.. Ahhhhummm, Child, This is your Father speaking…”

  13. Andrew says:

    Oh and to get back on topic my Mum always use to say, Blow!

  14. Sky says:

    Well I personally don’t use this phrase a lot… maybe once or twice in my life but I know that “Oh my heck” is a big one in Utah. Betcha can’t guess why. lol. Sort of an inside joke with people who actually know what I’m talking about.

  15. Sky says:

    And of course the one the I use quite frequently is “Oh my great golly goshness” which is always a head-turner.

  16. Sky says:

    “Holy Captain Crunch” and “Blast!” work quite well too. lol. They just keep popping into my head.

  17. Wranger says:

    The guy that said “duck” reminded me…

    “Pluck a duck”

    Beat that!

  18. Robert says:

    I have used: “Oh for the love of ramen noodles!”

  19. Bennett says:

    Mmm, ramen. I still fondly remember the small ramen bar in Tokyo where we ate ramen while watching Japan get through to the second round of the FIFA World Cup in 2002. Those delicious noodles, that tasty soup.

    Anyway. I have settled on saying “curses”. I say it all the time, much to the amusement of those around me. I have not yet started on the waxed moustache though.

  20. Steve says:

    We’re a family of sailors and a favorite is “flibbidy jib.”

  21. Bennett says:

    “This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet” (from King Lear)

    It never hurts to bring a bit of Shakespeare in…

  22. April says:

    Holy moley roley poley.

  23. Maggie says:

    Re Lex’s grandmother’s use of “lands” could be reated to my own grandmother’s favorite: “Lan a Goshen!” (Land of Goshen) from the Old Testament.

  24. Isabel says:

    i absolutely adore “oh my good golly goshness” but recently i have taken to saying “oh my” or “oh goodness” or “ghe” which is pronounced ga-HEH by the way. i also like “geeses” and “JABERWOCKING COOKIE!!” in place of JESUS CHRIST!! (same initials….yeah im THAT good……u huh.)

  25. Lisabeth says:

    Another good one is “Son of a batch of cookies!” “Son of a monkey’s uncle!”. I also like “Oh dearie me whatever shall we do?” but i usually use that is sarcasm. ps “oh my good golly goshness” is my line. Isabel’s my sister.

  26. ashlee says:

    How about “You Lint Licker”….lol

  27. carla says:

    i think that you guys had a good thing in mind while doing this…but i dont think that these are good
    how about captain crunch
    or just plain old effin

  28. leann says:

    what the french toast?!
    this is STUPID
    and im a lesbian
    how about that?!
    stick that in ur juice box and suck it

  29. Bennett says:

    A little bit of stupidity never hurt anyone. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

  30. jenn says:

    i especially like Belgium.easy to say at reflex, and totally random. plus people think you’re educated ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Try kipper cups =) ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. dane says:

    I like the old classic ” oh goodness goose ” ( actually not classic XD ) .

  33. dane says:

    its good to use around children ( i figured that out when my kids like 14 word was fxxk ).

  34. Betty says:

    I can’t believe such language could be considered “safe”! I can assure you my children won’t be exposed to -any- of this! I am appalled, you should be ashamed of yourselves for using such extremities around the impressionable ears of children!

  35. Bennett says:

    Betty, it’s nice to know that there are some people who are standing firm against the inexorably rising tide of vulgarity that is today’s popular culture.

  36. Mummie says:

    Thanks to Bagpuss, I love ‘Fiddlesticks and Flapdoodle’. I did ask my 5yo son to tell me the rudest word he knows, and he said, ‘Smelly Pants’. But very quietly.

  37. Bennett says:

    “But very quietly”… I love that. That’s a fine young man you have there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. lauren says:

    shut the frount door.. i hear this on on a tv show( king of queens) and it stuck…
    it was well used when i slamed my own finger in my car door in the parking lot of my church on sunday morring..

  39. Bennett says:

    Church-safe swearing. Very useful!

  40. Lesley says:

    I work in a school and find that “blimey” works pretty well. “Rats”, is useful and “oh no no no no no no….” is fairly satisfying.

    My Mum usually makes her’s up on the spot and one day on a family outing stubbed her toe and came out with “dog danglers” – my young son kept asking over and over, “what did Grandma just say, I didn’t hear, what was it?” while we grown-ups spluttered and sniggered uncontrollably. Perhaps you just had to be there but I thought it was funny at the time.

    “Oh my days!”

  41. Kendall says:

    Well all day today I have been saying “zesty mother sucker” for no reason in particular and “shiznicky” when the occation arises. But my friends know me as the one who says “Holy _______ Batman!” quite frequently. My favorite being “Holy Porche Batman!” or whatever else happens to pop into your mind at the time being.

  42. Bennett says:

    You can’t beat the original Batman TV series. “Holy hole in a donut!”

  43. Ryan says:

    I like to yell the names of random celebrities. James Earl Jones! is one of my favorites.

  44. Amber says:

    oh my god/gosh

  45. Jenn says:

    Cheese and rice
    -my daughter is 2 and says oh my goodness!!

  46. LOLYFUNNY says:

    what the huck

  47. yomamabird says:

    *why…why… old billy-dog bones!! (what our son (when 6…now 32) yelled at someone who made him angry)
    *well I’ll be a snortin’ piggie!
    *hokey smokes li’l lizard
    snorkle burgers! sometimes…it’s all I can say. snorkle burgers~

    We had 3 children all grown up now. and we had fun. and now we’re having the same kind of fun with the grandkids. what a nice page idea ๐Ÿ™‚

  48. Leanna Boyle says:

    Wand Whiskers! This is from an old show on Nickelodeon called Eureekaโ€™s Castle. Thatโ€™s the swear word I would use.

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