Questions related to words or phrases that may be considered offensive in English

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Where did the word “quim” come from?

Both the OED and Etymonline offer no clue as to origin of the slang term quim, meaning minge. The OED’s earliest citations are from the 18th, which isn’t quite as old as Adam, but has certainly been ...
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Why is 'hell' considered a curse word?

Given the Wikipedia's list of profanities, you will see that it's somehow detached from the rest of curse words. The most commonly recognized profanities usually describe a body part, person or an ...
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What does “X is not a four-letter word” mean?

Once in a while I see phrases like "Think" is not a four-letter word and just about any word can be where "think" is. I looked up the Wikipedia and looks like it says that "four-letter word" means ...
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How to refer to people of mixed race?

As is commonly known, one of the most delicate question is how to refer to people of mixed race, which can be a matter of condemnation. Some words may have fueled the problem and I never would have ...
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A more acceptable word to replace the word “rectum”?

I wrote in a short paragraph describing how a cartoon character, after being eaten up by a shark, swam through the shark's internal body and fled from its rectum. It was meant to be a ...
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That which is vulgar, obscene, or profane (title reflects contents)

When I look up the word "fuck" in the dictionary, I see that it is listed as a vulgar term. However, if I use it in church, I might be scolded for speaking profanity in the Lord's house. If I use it ...
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Is it derogatory or offensive to call a detective a dick?

The word dick is generally considered offensive and is marked so in dictionaries. But there is also a meaning of detective that it carries. I usually find no derog indication for this meaning. Is it ...
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Is the adjective “vain” considered offensive when applied to a person?

I am given to understand by the Chambers Dictionary and Webster's that vain can be understood as thoughtless, empty-headed, useless, which all sound rather strong to me. Is it likely that a native ...
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How offensive is it to call someone a “slag” in British English? (NSFW)

One more colorful slang term I gleaned from the British movie I recently watched is slag. In the movie, it was used in curses like, "Fuck-ing dogs! Slags." "Right slag, that one." Now I know via ...
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Meaning of “bejesus” in the idiomatic expression “… the bejesus out of …”

According to multiple online dictionaries, bejesus is a quite common mild expletive used to express surprise and/or dismay and is derived from by Jesus. But what does it mean? The phrase “you scared ...
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What is the historic process for converting vulgar words into simply rude words?

I have noticed a pattern involving vulgarities where the previous generation's evil words become accepted as merely off-color or rude in the following generation. Is this merely each generation's ...
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What does “If she smokes, she pokes” exactly mean?

What does part she pokes of phrase If she smokes, she pokes exactly mean?
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General term for muggle-type terms?

Is there a general term to refer to "a semi-denigrating term used by a minority social group (not necessarily a racial group) to refer to the majority". Examples would be "muggle", "gentile", ...
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Sorry for the vulgarism, but is “motherf**ker” considered more insulting or racially offensive in some parts of the US?

This is more of a cultural question. A little while back, I was playing basketball at my pickup league - a friend of mine who is white (and from New Hampshire) got whacked pretty bad in the face by ...
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Why does swearing 'turn the air blue'?

Why do we say that the air is blue when someone has been swearing a lot?
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Colorful idiom/phrase equivalent to French “s'en fourrer jusque là/plein la panse”

Is there an expression/idiom in English that comes anywhere close in flavor to the colorful French expression, s'en mettre (or fourrer or foutre) jusque là s'en mettre (or fourrer or foutre) ...
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How rude is “naff”?

"Naff" is a word I infrequently use as a mild version of "shit". If something is a little bit bad or dull, it is "naff". I have just come across (via The Slate Gabfest podcast) one of the alleged ...
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How serious an insult is “wanker” in British English? [NSFW]

In the spirit of this question, "How profane is it to call someone a 'slag' in British English", how insulting is "wanker" in British English on the spectrum of profanities and vulgarities? What's ...
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Better way to say “cover our a***s”

I'm looking for a couple of good coined phrases that I can use in front of business people, apologies if the one I had in mind offends anyone. I'd use "can sleep at night" but I want the phrase to ...
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Is the term “halfcast” racist?

When I was at university in the late 90s, a girl I shared a flat with would use the term "halfcast" to describe people of mixed race, especially in the context of people who had a similar skin colour ...
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Is calling a homosexual person “gay” offensive?

My native language is German but I’ve been watching a lot of TV in English. During a conversation about the English language, a question about the term gay came up. Is calling a homosexual person gay ...
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Foul language vs. vulgar language [closed]

I have been able to find the differences between many pairs of words/phrases of similar meaning on Stack Exchange except for one — vulgar language and foul language. Could anyone shed some light on ...
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Meaning of the expression “Eat sh**”

What does the expression "eat shit" represent in the following sentences? Eat shit, I'm not going to do your dirty work. Is this similar to "I dislike doing your dirty work"? Or does it mean "Go ...
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Why haven't we used “it” instead of “he or she”?

There is a related discussion on this forum. My questions is different. I'm all for gender awareness, but why hasn't a properly defined pronoun "it" been used instead of "he/she" or "he or she", etc. ...
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Why is the term “touched” no longer commonly used?

I’ve heard the term touched used to refer to someone who is “not quite right”. I’m curious as to where this term came from, what it really means, and why it doesn’t tend to be used often anymore. Is ...
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When and how do words become offensive?

Disclaimer: Not strictly English language question, but still a question on language use I've just had a discussion with a member, who argued that the word "lunatic" is offensive and therefore should ...
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Origin of “c**p”

I've heard some far-fetched stories of the origin of the word crap. What is its real origin?
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Slang names for souteneur

What are some common slang names for the souteneur - the illicit "manager" for prostitutes? I'm fairly sure there are a few, but I can't find any in the common online resources and I need it for a ...
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What's a word to describe topics that would be impolite to talk about?

What's a word for this? I thought of taboo (or from MW - taboo). But I'm not sure that this is the right word. Examples of this kind of topic include: money sex other people not present Is there a ...
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Why are the “donkey” and the “butt” both named “ass”? [closed]

Is there any similarity between them that they have the same name, or is the reason something different of having a physical similarity? I found different meanings for both, but none of them ...
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Is 'Jap' still considered an ethnic slur?

~Seventy years after 'The War', is Jap still considered to be an ethnic slur in the US? Is/was it also considered offensive in the UK?
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What is the origin of the word “wog”?

Some friend of mine told me it was an acronym for "western oriental gentleman" and was a form of sarcastic politeness. Is this true, and is it offensive to use this word?
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English equivalent for the French expression “péter de santé”

Is there an expression/idiom in English that carries pretty much the same connotation as what is implied by French "péter de santé"? WordReference actually gives for translation, "be bursting with ...
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Is there a clean version of “no sh*t, Sherlock”?

The phrase "no shit, Sherlock" or just "no shit" is a reply used when someone else points out something obvious. I was thinking about it the other day and I realized I don't know if there is a clean ...
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Is schmuck really an obscene word?

Schmuck is supposedly an obscene Yiddish term for the male sex organ, yet it appears all of the time in the media as an American idiom for a jerk. Can one use it in polite company?
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Why do you suck at XYZ?

How bad is the usage of the word suck in English? Is this "bad boy" language or commonly used?
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Where does the term Cracker come from, and how disparaging is it?

My grandmother from Georgia openly refers to herself and other white southerners as "Crackers", and sometimes adds a state as in "Georgia Cracker" or "Florida Cracker". She says it means simple folks ...
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What does “to pick someone's cherry” mean?

Does it strictly refer to taking someone's virginity, or does it express sexual intercourse in general?
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What language function does profanity serve?

I know that the use of profanity has a number of social and psychological functions like pain relief, a sense of control over helpless situations, intimacy and group bonding through release of social ...
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Grammatical explanation of “what the blank”

In emphatic questions, it's common to see or hear an interjection such as the heck — or something more vulgar — between the interrogative and the verb. What was that? becomes What the heck ...
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Where does English get the word “condom” from?

Although once a word that dared not speak its name, thanks to popular-culture references as well as the devastating AIDS tragedy, condom seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. But does anybody ...
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Origin of “Screw the pooch”

Wiktionary says this of "screw the pooch": The term was first documented in the early "Mercury" days of the US space program. It came there from a Yale graduate named John Rawlings who helped ...
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Is it safe to use “old” to mean “previous” for a person?

Is it safe to use "old" to mean "previous" or "former" for something like "my old teacher"? Or is it a bit risky, because "old" also has a meaning with respect to age (i.e., chronologically gifted)? ...
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What is a term describing offensive word replacement with made-up slang? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What term describes a non-offensive substitute for a swear word? Is there a term for replacing one slang word with another made-up slang word? For example f*cking => ...
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Is the verb “jimmy” related to “Jim Crow”?

The verb "jimmy" is more often used in American English than other dialects, and the main thing you "jimmy" is a crow bar. Is the verb "jimmy" derived from the American English phrase "Jim Crow", ...
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Substitute for F*** in emphasizing disbelief, anger, etc

How do I replace F*** while expressing fully my disbelief, anger, etc? E.g., "I think Homer Simpson is incredibly sexy" My reply "Get out of here! That's f***ing ridiculous."
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Is the word 'consort' still considered an insult in the modern usage?

In Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt says to Mercutio: 'Mercutio, thou consort'st with Romeo.' Mercutio replies 'consort! What, dost thou make us minstrels?... Zounds consorts!' Bloodshed followed shortly. ...
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Is “gaijin” considered offensive?

Is gaijin a term that's only acceptable when it's a non-Japanese person using it self-referentially (similar to n-word privileges in TV Tropes), or is it considered ok to use in normal conversation ...
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What does 'mothercanuckers' mean?

First of all, sorry if it is offensive (I think it somewhat is). I was going through http://bleacherreport.com/articles/424590-the-funniest-promos-and-moments-in-wwe-history#page/20 The Rock ...
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Why is “ass” considered obscene?

Spam filters replace obscene "Ass" for "butt" Meanwhile, in literature, newspaper articles, forum posts, sayings, proverbs, etc. I am encountering many more expressions with ass but not with butt. ...