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

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17
votes
6answers
46k views

Non-offensive substitute for a swear word

What term describes a non-offensive substitute for a swear word? For example, Battlestar Galactica used frack instead of fuck. Another example is the use of snap instead of shit. I think I may have ...
22
votes
4answers
47k views

What's the difference between “informal”, “colloquial”, “slang”, and “vulgar”?

It seems many people get confused about the differences (and similarities) between "colloquial" and "slang", so what exactly does each term apply to? But to be even more thorough it seems to me we ...
35
votes
7answers
10k views

How bad is the f-word, really?

I am confused: on the one hand, many of my native-speaker friends keep telling me that the f-word is very, very bad. Much worse than the s-word for example. On the other hand, I see it being used ...
10
votes
6answers
9k views

Why did the descriptive “Orientals” shift into a pejorative?

It seems as if a shift occurred and the descriptive "Oriental" was replaced by "Asian" as the accepted term in polite society — what caused this shift?
47
votes
5answers
27k views

“Screwed” vs. “nailed”: why is the slang so different?

While the two names nail and screw have similar shapes and functions, why do the verbs differ so much? Someone has screwed something sounds like they have ruined something to me, while someone has ...
39
votes
6answers
7k views

How did “Jew” become pejorative?

For some reason, the word Jew often carries a pejorative or offensive connotation, which the related adjective Jewish does not carry. This is most obvious when either word is used as an attributive: ...
12
votes
2answers
5k views

What makes a word offensive?

Whilst I was sat on the bus yesterday, I overheard a group of teenagers discussing various things. As per the usual social requirement at that age, every 5th word was an expletive. Not exactly the ...
1
vote
6answers
33k views

What is a polite substitute for badass (used as a noun)? [closed]

Badass and BAMF are both modern words with approximately the same meaning: "Someone who is awesome to an extreme level, thereby leveraging unquestionable authority." Is there another noun or title ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

Where does the word “*ag” come from?

Once upon a time in America, particularly during the 1970s, if you asked an American whether they ‘fancied a shag’, they might well have thought of this: And therefore declined the offer for fear ...
125
votes
7answers
80k views

What the #$@&%*! is that called?

Is there a name for the use of symbols in place of curse words, for example #$@&%*!?
29
votes
5answers
43k views

Is there a difference between “arse” and “ass”?

From a comment here, in frequent usage, arse and ass are often interchangeable when used to refer to buttocks or to a person of dubious charms. However, although “to arse about” has a vague connection ...
22
votes
6answers
61k views

“Hooker”, “whore”, “prostitute”, when to use which?

"Hooker", "whore", and "prostitute" all mean whore; what are the differences between them?
19
votes
4answers
4k views

Is there anything wrong with the word “denigrate”?

A few years ago there was a controversy over the word niggardly — a perfectly innocent word that unfortunately sounds like a racial slur. Given that controversy, is it safe to use denigrate, which ...
7
votes
3answers
4k views

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. ...
5
votes
4answers
9k views

Does “This blows!” (it's bad) derive from “This sucks!”?

The origin of blow = suck, be bad/unpleasant recently came up in comments to this ELL question. I'd always assumed it was a standard slang "meaning reversal" from suck. But a few minutes on Google ...
4
votes
5answers
2k views

Why aren't there any common words for 'defecating' and 'urinating'?

Besides 'poo(p)ing' and 'peeing/weeing' used by and to children, besides 'shitting/crapping' and 'pissing' which are spoken, not polite, says the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, besides '...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Why the opposite meanings of the word “bollocks”?

The phrases the dog’s bollocks, the bee’s bollocks, and golden bollocks are used to mean something or someone excellent, fine, or well thought of. But if one were to say a load of bollocks, or ...
7
votes
3answers
18k views

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?
28
votes
12answers
5k views

Just how offensive are the terms “retarded” and “gay”?

My college-age son and his friends use the terms "retarded" and "gay" pretty much interchangeably to mean substandard, bad, lame (in the sense of ineffectual or weak) or just plain wrong. I've ...
22
votes
6answers
162k views

Meaning and usage of “bite me”

I often come across the phrase bite me in many TV shows. What does it mean and is there a specific context in which this phrase can be used?
23
votes
7answers
4k views

Does “gay” still include the meaning “merry”?

Dictionary.com lists eight meanings of gay, with “merry, lively” as the first entry. Microsoft banned an Xbox user for listing Fort Gay (a real place) as his hometown: Xbox Live considered the term ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

When and why did the N-word and “negro” go apart?

Both the terms nigger and negro come from the Spanish and Portuguese Negro which denotes "black". But today they have widely different connotations, the former is considered a horrible racial slur, ...
23
votes
11answers
3k views

Is it okay to use the word “Negro” in a historical context? [closed]

In a few days, I have to do a class presentation project about the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. I want to say that the movement's original name was the "New Negro Movement," but I'm not sure if that's ...
10
votes
6answers
148k views

Madam vs. Ma'am

I suspect that the answer to this depends on region, so insights from multiple areas would be beneficial: It has been my impression that in the US addressing a woman as "Madam" is considered ...
22
votes
7answers
37k views

How derogatory is “chicks” when used to refer to women?

A comment in “What is a feminine version of guys?” got me wondering: how derogatory is the use of chicks to refer to women (either in general, or to a specific group). To me (I'm a man), it was quite ...
21
votes
5answers
12k views

Is “what on earth” still commonly used in real life? Is there any alternative that is not cursing or obscene?

I'm a non-native speaker. When I was at school, we were taught that "on earth" is used for emphasis in questions such as: What on earth are you talking about? However, from my experience (...
14
votes
3answers
6k views

Is “Dutch wife” one of those “Dutch words”?

The term "Dutch wife" is listed as having several somewhat related meanings. Wiktionary describes it as meaning 1) a body-length pillow, 2) a wicker or bamboo tube that someone sleeps in (also called ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

What name for bowdlerisation with asterisks (e.g., “f*ck”)?

I have always been intrigued by the English use of asterisks to replace vowels in words considered as offensive, and the reasons it seems somewhat language-specific. My (very related) questions on ...
8
votes
7answers
5k views

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 ...
5
votes
3answers
4k views

How old is “Bollocks!”?

As a non-English native it took me years to grow up and understand, what meant "Never Mind the Bollocks" as the title of Sex Pistols album. Using "bollocks" as "rubbish", "crap" or what so ever took ...
4
votes
3answers
12k views

In what English-speaking communities does “trump” refer to the breaking of wind?

It is clear from this site that the verb to trump has been used extensively across Britain to refer to the breaking of wind. It is especially the case in the North, in Wales and certainly in Norfolk, ...
9
votes
4answers
6k views

Why is “bloody” considered obscene in the UK but not in the US?

Why is the word bloody considered obscene in the UK but not so in the US?
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Is the phrase “all to c**k” considered profane?

I occasionally use the colloquialism "all to cock" to mean "disastrously wrong". I've always thought it a benign phrase, but recently I've wondered whether the use of the word "cock" in this situation ...
1
vote
3answers
482 views

How bad is the use of “n***er” today?

If I call a Black person "nigger", how bad is this today? If a Black calls another Black with this word, is it wrong?
0
votes
5answers
914 views

“Sl*t” term for males

"Slut" can have two meanings: an immoral woman, or prostitute a dirty and slovenly woman I would like a term for men that is the equivalent of the second meaning. Is there a term for describing a ...
18
votes
11answers
2k views

Language Gibberish

Sometimes, in humor (or an attempt thereof), people will make up gibberish in a certain language in an attempt to poke fun at a language or its speakers. Made-up French, German, Italian, Chinese, most ...
59
votes
8answers
17k views

If cow = beef, pig = pork, and deer = venison, then where is the word for human = [flesh as food source]?

Maybe it's the season of Halloween, because it's kind of a grim question, but I have seriously wondered from a language point of view - is there a word for human as 'food-meat', or has there ever been,...
32
votes
6answers
12k views

Less vulgar synonyms for “circlejerk”

Someone asked in the Math.StackExchange chatroom what a "more refined word for circlejerk" might be. UrbanDictionary defines this (in our desired usage) as: [...] pompous, self-congratulatory ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

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 ...
25
votes
13answers
4k views

Is there any “swearword” in English not associated with excrements, the genitals, sexual activity or religion?

SWEARWORD - A popular term for a word or phrase that is obscene, abusive, and socially offensive. For some reason, all of them seem to be associated with excrements, sex and religion. This ...
11
votes
2answers
96k views

Correct usage of replacing cuss words with symbols

I've noticed that symbols (i.e. #, $, %, !, *, etc.) are commonly used to filter profanity/foul language. Just out of curiosity, is there a specific way to do this. I've noticed sometimes there isn'...
11
votes
5answers
11k views

How many different parts of speech can the f-word be used as?

In an "interesting" thread of comments we began to look at the word fuck in several different uses. Most of them were interjections and verb uses as would be expected. But, perhaps dialectally, the ...
8
votes
5answers
9k views

What is currently the most obscene word in British English? [closed]

In a recent question, I realized that while I know what's currently considered the most obscene word in American English ("cunt"), I am told that word is much more unexceptional and workaday in ...
35
votes
10answers
5k views

Is the term “aspie” derogatory?

Until today I had never heard of the shortened term "aspie" to refer to someone with Asperger syndrome. While the term strikes me as derogatory and belittling, I'm not a native speaker and obviously ...
23
votes
9answers
39k views

Why is 'c*nt' so much more derogatory in the US than the UK?

What accounts for the strong disapproval of anyone using the word 'cunt' in the US, when the sentiment doesn't exist to the same extent in the UK? To be clear, it's still a strong word to use in the ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the name of a word like “shite”?

Whilst watching the 3rd Test match between England and Australia, from Edgbaston, this week, the Barmy Army of England fans were singing as ever (the Australians are not terrace-singers in quite the ...
31
votes
8answers
7k views

Offensiveness of “black” in reference to race or skin colour

Is black offensive when used to refer to race or skin colour? If so, should we then not use white as well?
19
votes
6answers
35k views

Is “Eskimo” a universally offensive term?

I know that "Eskimo" is an offensive term in Canada; they use the term "Inuit". But I see the term "Eskimo" popping up regularly in news articles that I read; I hardly see the term "Inuit" being ...
18
votes
9answers
5k views

Is “layman” an offensive term?

Is it offensive to use the term layman nowadays? Does it insinuate that the people to whom you are referring are uneducated? I am wanting to say This is just one of the ways that CERN's research ...
15
votes
7answers
2k views

Does “woman driver” have a special meaning other than female driver?

Rush Limbaugh’s “wrong choice of word” is causing a big fuss. And I was puzzled to find the following statement of Limbaugh from www.rushlimbaugh.com that was made 4 days ago: The reaction that ...