English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm putting a character in a book who is replacing all typical swear words, exclamations, or name calling with old fashioned or little known words. For instance, exclaiming "Snails" instead of Damn or "Confound it!" instead of something else. What are some other words that I can use? Any time period is fine.

share|improve this question

closed as too broad by user49727, Hellion, Kristina Lopez, terdon, Bradd Szonye Oct 3 '13 at 2:13

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This is technically known as Euphemism. – John Lawler Oct 2 '13 at 18:14
An alternative model for this is 1982's "A Christmas Story" where the father of the protagonist cursed constantly but with unintelligible syllables. Check it out for other ideas - maybe come up with a unique sound to give your story some color. – lonstar Oct 2 '13 at 23:35
One can always fall back on Nixon's famous "Expletive deleted!" – Pieter Geerkens Oct 3 '13 at 1:39

You're looking for minced oaths.

There are lists here, here, and here.

Note that "'snails" has been used in place of "by God's nails".

share|improve this answer
Very good. I called them mild expletives but yours are better – mplungjan Oct 2 '13 at 17:32

I have heard "Crumbs" a lot - I just looked up a supposed etymology linking it to Cromwell rather than Christ :)

Another one for Christ is "Crisps!"

Searching for mild expletive I get

"Yikes!" "Shoot!" "Zounds!" "Holy cow!" "Good heavens!" "Goodness gracious!" "My word!" "Heavens to Betsy!" "Cookies!"

share|improve this answer
+1 for zounds, since the O.P. asked for "old-fashioned" swear words. – J.R. Oct 3 '13 at 8:45

Never being comfortable with cursing, I find I use a variety of harmless (I think) expletives in the course of a day.

In frustration: "Bullfeathers!"

With mild unbelief or incredulity: "Good night nurse!"

To register surprise: "My word!"

A non-committal yes: "Eh, what the hey!"

Haven't use this one in awhile: "Oh, fudge!"

Said with a measure of incredulity: "Well, I'll be dipped!", or "Son of a gun!"

Of late, my form of understatement, or, a left-handed compliment: "Beats a high colonic!" Or, "Beats a sharp stick in the eye!"

Couldn't care less: "I couldn't give a rip!"

Not mine, but Flo's, from the TV show Alice: "Mel, kiss my grits!"

share|improve this answer
My father would string together multisyllabic city names in lieu of a blast of curse words. His favorite was, "Sacramento California Cincinnati Ohio!" I don't know of anyone else who does that regularly, but, if the O.P. is writing a book with a fictional character, it could be worth introducing a more idiosyncratic way of expressing frustration. If not, though, I'm upvoting this just for bullfeathers. – J.R. Oct 3 '13 at 8:53

I've never heard anyone use snails for damn it; I have however hear drat and darn it/gosh darn it.

Other examples:


Holy Crap

Jumpin' Jehoshaphat

Holy cheesesteaks/cannoli

Jeez/Gee whiz


Horse/bull puckey


share|improve this answer

Watch Anchorman: "great odin's raven!" & "by the hammer of thor!"

Also, I call people stupid crumbums.

Also, "Shut the front door!" and "Get the cat out!"

And finally, "I'd like to show her the fifty states!"

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.