That muscle-tensing moment in time when you realize that you are watching a disaster unfold before your eyes and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

An "Oh, Shit!" moment is the perfect way to capture this, but I need it for formal correspondence where the vulgarity is unprofessional.

Here's an example of the sentence I want to use:

It was not an "Oh, Shit!" moment for him, so I did not respond with an "Oh, Shit!" sense of urgency.

  • Well, trivially, there's "oh crap", which avoids the vulgarity, but which of course is still fairly informal. – Doug Warren Nov 17 '16 at 19:53
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    or "oh snap" which is a more recent snarky equivalent – Jason S Nov 17 '16 at 20:29
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    One person's vulgar is not another's. Oh shit!, whether one considers it vulgar or not, has its own, specific meaning, which is not likely to be conveyed by some euphemistic replacement. – Drew Nov 18 '16 at 0:40
  • @Drew; Ya that's the problem with vulgarity. Those words take on a meaning all their own and then work their way into the common vernacular until it becomes impossible to express certain things without them. When I was a kid, the word douchebag was a swear word. Now it refers to a very specific kind of jerk. – Wes Sayeed Nov 18 '16 at 0:48
  • I'm surprised that no one suggested D'oh. – David Handelman Nov 18 '16 at 15:01

You might consider emergency or one of its synonyms. Here is some information about the word from ODO:

a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

"your quick response in an emergency could be a lifesaver"

synonyms: crisis, urgent situation, extremity, exigency; accident, disaster, catastrophe, calamity; difficulty, plight, predicament, danger

"a military emergency"

arising from or needed or used in an emergency.

modifier noun: emergency

"an emergency exit"

synonyms: urgent, crisis; impromptu, extraordinary

"an emergency meeting"

Oxford Living Dictionaries

At the very least it might be a good place to start a thesaurus search.

The term uh-oh moment also came to mind, but that's probably a little too childish for what you're going for.

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    Hi Kevin; Every dictionary needs to have its name textually cited in the body of its answer according to our attribution policy. Also, Google's Dictionary is a very convenient dictionary for those of us who just-so happen to have it open, but there are reasons we should not actually cite it in our answers. Most relevantly, they source most of their information from other sources which deserves the primary accreditation. In most cases this is Oxford Living Dictionaries and their information seems to match, so I made a rectifying edit. – Tonepoet Nov 18 '16 at 1:10
  • Please review it though, because there are slight differences from Google's derivation and Oxford's original source material which may require your personal reconciliation. – Tonepoet Nov 18 '16 at 1:13

"Oops-a-daisy," but it might sound childish. "Oh, dear" or "oh, my" are rather good options.

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    If the poster had simply asked for a replacement for the vulgarity "oh shit!" your suggestions would be reasonable enough. But he is asking for a nonvulgar replacement for X in the longer expression "X moment," where X is currently identified as "oh shit!"—and I don't think "Oops-a-daisy moment," "Oh dear moment," or "Oh my moment" capture the direness of the moment of realization he's talking about. You'd probably do better with something like "I'm dead moment" or "It's all over moment." – Sven Yargs Nov 18 '16 at 2:10

I settled on the words "panicked" and "crisis".

He did not seem panicked, so I did not respond as though it were a crisis.

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It was not a pivotal moment for him, so I did not respond with that sense of urgency.

Pivotal Adjective
1 extremely important and affecting how something develops.

a pivotal moment in the history of the Egyptian state.
He played a pivotal role in the negotiations.

Reference: Macmillan Dictionary | Archives: Archive.is/Waybackmachine

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Google Books has a couple of dozen several instances of an “Oh Dear” moment, which is very close to OP's original without being in the least bit crude.

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  • @Tonepoet: Duly "improved" :) – FumbleFingers Nov 18 '16 at 13:39

Oh, no!

It was not an "Oh, no!" moment for him, so I did not respond with an "Oh, no!" sense of urgency.

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I suggest shoot which the Oxford Dictionary of English by Angus Stevenson (2010 Ed.) defines as meaning:

Exclamation N. Amer. informal Used as a euphemism for ‘shit’: Shoot, it was a great day to be alive

Oxford Living Dictionaries also provides us with the exemplary sentence: "Shoot! I've forgotten my book!"

And how about oh damn. (Longman)

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I would call that something along the lines of "a dawning sense of dread."

From Merriam-Webster:

Dawn: to begin to be understood

Dread: to fear something that will or might happen

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  • Plus, "dawn of the dread" sounds like a George Romero movie. – Sven Yargs Nov 18 '16 at 8:08

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