I'm afraid I have been somewhat innocently causing offense by using the term "money shot" in its general, non-pornographic sense. My coworkers either have dirty minds or lack awareness of the other context.

Seems I'm not the first to make this gaffe.

Regardless of the speculation on the term's origin being pornographic or not, I'd like to sidestep the sniggers and raised eyebrows. Is there a different, equivalent idiom or word I can replace it with?

The closest I could come up with is "there's the rub"... which isn't exactly equivalent (and isn't passing muster with the juvenile minds either :)

  • 4
    From your gaffe link: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a sexual allusion, no matter how secondary or recondite, will inexorably overwhelm previous uses of a word or phrase." So I don't suppose payload will do, either.
    – Andrew Leach
    May 9 '13 at 20:22
  • Ha! ... nope. :) What is it about this concept that is so profoundly prone to innuendo?
    – mcw
    May 9 '13 at 20:38
  • 2
    In what context?
    – T.E.D.
    May 9 '13 at 20:44
  • 2
    Is your intended use meant to refer to the shot that costs the most money to produce or the one that generates the most money by attracting audiences? The term you have seems to be the only one that is used for both.
    – Fortiter
    May 10 '13 at 2:54
  • Both. Specifically, I tend to use it very generally, as "the thing that is hardest/most expensive to do, and that everyone else recognizes as such, so that it's the thing everyone wants to see." In another comment I referenced a Far Side comic - the idea being that the central step is the crucial one, and everything else is essentially trivial or boilerplate. "Setpiece", "centerpiece", and "piece de resistance" are all getting pretty close... as are punch line and linchpin, in a slightly different way.
    – mcw
    May 10 '13 at 14:40

You can use setpiece for the non-pornographic sense of money shot. It refers literally to movie scenes or sequences which require “serious logistical planning and considerable expenditure of money,” although it's also used more broadly to describe significant or climactic events in a story.

Notable examples of setpieces include the Snake Pit in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Death Star Trench Run from the original Star Wars movie, the storming of the volcano lair in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, and the burning oil rig in There Will Be Blood. Alfred Hitchcock referred to setpieces as crescendoes or "bumps" and tried to put three of them in each of his movies.

Edit: While setpiece works well for movies and elaborate stories, it may not be a good fit for short works and anecdotes. For those, you can often use punch line or zinger to refer to the linchpin of the joke or story.

  • That's better than mine, I'll grant. To clarify a little though, I'm not necessarily going for something specific to content/media productions. My usage tends to be along the lines of this Far Side: star.psy.ohio-state.edu/coglab/Pictures/miracle.gif
    – mcw
    May 9 '13 at 20:43
  • @mcw0933 Ah, I see what you mean – money shot would work better than setpiece for that example. You might need different terms for different contexts; punch line would be appropriate for this one and a lot of metaphorical uses. May 9 '13 at 20:50
  • Yeah - punch line is pretty close, actually. Zinger is good too. Thanks!
    – mcw
    May 9 '13 at 21:05
  • @mcw Thanks for the feedback! Punch line is actually pretty flexible: You can use it metaphorically to describe any twist or key point in a story. Related terms include moral of the story and some senses of bottom line, all of which have metaphorical uses. May 9 '13 at 21:12
  • I'm going to give credit to you, Brad, for having the best broadly useful answer, even if it doesn't work perfectly in my usage. Thanks!
    – mcw
    May 15 '13 at 16:23

Besides Bradd's good suggestions, there's also "focal point", "highlight" or my favorite "Pièce de résistance", defined below.

From Wikipedia:

Pièce de résistance (French pronunciation: ​[pjɛs də ʁezistɑ̃s]) is a French term (circa 1839), also called "plat de résistance" in France, translated into English literally as "piece of (or for) resistance," referring to the best part or feature of something (as in a meal), a showpiece, or highlight. It can be thought of as the portion of a creation which defies (i.e. "resists") orthodox or common conventions and practices, thereby making the whole of the creation unique and special. The phrase gives the sense that the referred-to element is the most outstanding, notable, or defining of the collection. For example:

Even with a diverse movie and television portfolio, Burnett's pièce de résistance will likely forever be The Carol Burnett Show.

Originally, the pièce de résistance was the most substantial dish in a meal, but now the term generally refers to quality, not quantity.

  • n 2020 a great alternative to "The Money Shot" is "BOOM!". Jun 5 '20 at 15:27

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