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

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99
votes
10answers
18k views

Differences between slang words for breasts

What is the difference between “tits” and “boobs”? P.S. I'm not sure if this question is appropriate but as English is not my native language I really would love to know the difference.
93
votes
7answers
31k views

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

Is there a name for the use of symbols in place of curse words, for example #$@&%*!?
48
votes
8answers
8k views

Polite alternative to the term “bitch” when referring to a female dog

I'm writing an example of constructing logic, and I need to differentiate between an adult female dog, an adult male dog and a puppy and am searching for polite terms. Unfortunately, the word "bitch" ...
40
votes
5answers
5k 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 ...
40
votes
4answers
3k views

Who is Jesus H. Christ?

When used as an expletive, the name Jesus Christ often gets an H inserted into the middle of it for some reason. I've heard lots of guesses about what the H stands for, the most popular one being ...
38
votes
6answers
4k 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: ...
34
votes
7answers
5k 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 ...
29
votes
6answers
6k 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 ...
28
votes
8answers
5k 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?
25
votes
5answers
24k 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 ...
24
votes
13answers
3k 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 ...
23
votes
7answers
2k 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 ...
23
votes
1answer
2k views

Explain this pickup line: “If Bangkok invaded Djibouti, would Greece help?”

I was at an Model UN conference and often notes like the following get passed. As I'm not a native speaker, I assume that this has to do with some pronunciational issue. Can you please explain what's ...
22
votes
12answers
3k 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 ...
21
votes
5answers
5k 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 ...
21
votes
7answers
19k 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 ...
20
votes
2answers
2k views

BrEng: “pull your finger out”, “cock up” and “stuff it” What do they mean?

In the British sitcom, The Thin Blue Line, Detective Grim makes three intelligently crafted sentences, which are given below. What do they mean? It's my arse on the line, so you better pull your ...
19
votes
4answers
26k views

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

"Hooker", "whore", and "prostitute" all mean whore; what are the differences between them?
19
votes
9answers
17k 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 ...
18
votes
5answers
16k 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 ...
17
votes
3answers
4k views

What does “balls” mean as a reply word or interjection?

Here’s a question again in Jeffery Archer’s The Prodigal Daughter. Richard (husband of Florentina Kane, the heroine of the novel) finds in The Wall Street Journal that Jake Thomas, chairman of ...
17
votes
6answers
95k 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?
16
votes
11answers
1k 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 ...
16
votes
7answers
3k views

Why are you a plonker?

The idiom, plonk (something/someone) down means to slap something down; to plop something down to sit or lie down on something in a careless or noisy way to leave someone somewhere to do ...
16
votes
7answers
5k views

Another meaning of the vulgar word “slut”

I guess people who speak American and Philippine English will unanimously agree that the word "slut" is a very offensive term referring to a promiscuous woman. However, Merriam-Webster and Oxford ...
16
votes
4answers
23k 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 ...
15
votes
7answers
1k 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 ...
15
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
15
votes
4answers
1k views

Obscenities considered less obscene in compounds? [NSFW]

There are at least a few cases in which a compound word or phrase, transparently containing an obscene word, seems to be considered less obscene (in some dialect/registers/circumstances) than the word ...
14
votes
6answers
22k 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 ...
14
votes
10answers
19k views

Is it offensive to call a redhead a “ginger”?

So I just re-watched this great comedy by Tim Minchin, and here are the questions: How bad/offensive is the g-word really (other than being an anagram of the n-word)? What are alternatives? Is ...
14
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
13
votes
9answers
4k views

What is the pejorative for people who only practice their faith while at the place of worship?

What is the phrase or word for person that are very faithful in their place of worship (the pejorative usually applies to persons who are showy to the point of hypocrisy), but that are anything but ...
13
votes
7answers
2k views

Is “Canuck” offensive?

I was criticized the other day for using this word. It never occurred to me that it was offensive, but Wikipedia says it "may" be derogatory. Given Vancouver's hockey team, I tend to think it's ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the origin / reason for adding asterisks within swear words like f**k?

Several variants of this topic have already been covered here, such as: What name for bowdlerisation with asterisks (e.g., “f*ck”)? What the #$@&%*! is that called? However, these deal with the ...
13
votes
5answers
2k views

Was the word “nigger” an expletive in Mark Twain's day?

Was the word "nigger" a deliberately derogatory and offensive word in Mark Twain's time, or was it just a normal word to describe an ethnicity in those days? Background: I'm curious as to whether ...
13
votes
3answers
802 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, ...
13
votes
2answers
519 views

What term describes enjambment alluding to a taboo word?

In the schoolyard rhyme "Miss Susie" the taboo word is spoken aloud, so I'm not sure that it qualifies as a mind rhyme. Likewise, in the case of a subverted rhyme the expected word isn't spoken. I ...
12
votes
12answers
1k views

Professional term for “useless: should be omitted”

I need a way to say something is useless, in that including it is actually harmful, but not so harshly. As in, "The last sentence is useless and should be omitted" Where the last sentence in a ...
12
votes
5answers
1k views

“Woman is the 'n-word' of the world”?

The other day I was watching a video, in which one white teacher was being accused of using the word "nigger" in reference to one of his students who was black. The newscasters, before showing the ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Is the term “setting someone straight” offensive to queer people?

I replaced "Thanks for setting me straight" with "Thanks for correcting me" when editing an email to a recipient who is queer. Is the term "setting [someone] straight" inappropriate if the ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

How to ask a knowledge question without causing offence?

By "knowledge question", I mean any sort of question intended to check whether the listener already knows the answer or not. For example: Are you familiar with how an operating system works? Do you ...
12
votes
5answers
47k views

What is the etymology of “cornhole”?

Since being introduced to the bean bag-toss game of the same name, I've wondered about this word. The old farm game, similar to horseshoes, has recently gained such popularity that Googling cornhole ...
12
votes
1answer
422 views

Is “tidbits” Bowdlerized or original?

Our American English local paper insisted on changing a title from titbits to tidbits for a column on minor local events and stories. I, a British English speaker, have always pronounced and spelled ...
11
votes
7answers
31k views

Is it true that “tuppence” refers to a woman's vagina in British English slang? If so, why?

I was looking up a definition online, as I often do, in this case the British slang word tuppence; I got the standard "a slang reference to a coin denomination" definition from Wikipedia, but stumbled ...
11
votes
8answers
4k views

Alternative term to “Blacklist” and “Whitelist”

In short, my company is developing a management tool for managing SIM cards. One of the features of the tool is to block the SIM card if it's put into a disallowed device by device IMEI validation. ...
11
votes
4answers
41k views

Difference between “smart” and “clever”

What is the difference between smart and clever? As far as I understand the latter is offensive. But the Cambrige Dictionary gives similar definitions of smart and clever.
11
votes
4answers
478 views

How was sexual intercourse referred to before 'sex'?

It seems that the word "sex" in the context of sexual intercourse is a fairly recent development. How would sexual intercourse have been referred to before the 1920's? Coitus? Is there a more casual ...
11
votes
5answers
50k views

What is the origin and history of the word “motherf---er”?

I'm not a native English speaker, but I would like to know how and why people started using mother fucker. Today it seems it has lost its meaning because people use it all the time, but was there a ...
11
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...