What is the proper response to "Excuse my language"?

I don't want to say "not a problem", because honestly, it is a problem. However, I can't think of any other appropriate response.

I'm looking for a response that is casual, short, and non-judgmental or preachy.

  • 3
    Possibly a bit wordy, but were I the kind of person who was bothered by things like this I would probably say "I respect your right to say what you like, but I'd prefer that you not use words like that around me if that's alright." – John Clifford Feb 2 '16 at 14:12
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    Why not say "Don't mention it?" There's a mild ambiguity that might convey your stance. – anemone Feb 2 '16 at 14:17
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    I'd tend to think of "Don't mention it" more as a response to someone thanking you for something, rather than trying to be excused for something potentially offensive or hurtful. – John Clifford Feb 2 '16 at 14:49
  • You could say, "That's OK; I don't speak French." (Because some people say "Pardon my French" when they're using vulgar terms.) That might throw them off and make them realize they're being too vulgar and also lighten the mood. ;) – Tim Ward Feb 2 '16 at 15:31
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    @anemone Expanding on your suggestion, how about Don't mention it. No REALLY, don't mention it! – bib Feb 2 '16 at 15:56

A proper response could be...

...Moving forward, let's try to keep a civil tongue

keep a civil tongue

to speak decently and politely

[The Free Dictionary]

By including yourself in the conversation (let's try to...), you show that you are not being judgmental or nitpicky (even though you'd like to be) and are offering this as a general advice.

Moreover, if you are observing this behavior (of rude language) repeatedly, you can do away with the politeness and just ask them to watch their mouth!


Because the question involves etiquette as much as linguistics, I consulted The Emily Post Institute, a leading American authority on manners and civility. Their advice is to say, politely, "Excuse me, would you mind toning down the language? Thanks!

(The person posting on the Post site suggests that if one feels uncomfortable, one should say nothing.)

I find that I use this approach with my adolescent students, whose energetic invective and scatological commentary can sometimes overstep the bounds of proper decorum. They generally respond well to my "Tone it down, folks!" even when I utter the phrase in a judgmental, preachy and magisterial way.

  • Good advice @Rob_Ster, but the OP's question is What is the proper response to "Excuse my Language". Your answer is probably more appropriate in the comments since it is basically offering an alternative instead of an answer to the OP's questions. – Kristina Lopez Feb 2 '16 at 19:13
  • Perhaps you're right, @KristinaLopez. All the same, I did feel that the idiom "tone it down" fit the circumstances described in the original post. I read the query as, "What do I say if someone utters an uncivil thing, and then says, 'Excuse my language!'" I thought the original post sought a neutral reply that would convey a preference for more moderate speech without adopting a confrontational posture. If I have misread the post, I apologize to the OP and to the community at large. – Rob_Ster Feb 2 '16 at 20:24

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