I have a character who is a very old gentleman who never uses colorful language. He has received such a shock that the phrase "what the fuck?" would be appropriate, but it just won't work for him. Any suggestions?
closed as too broad by oerkelens, Glorfindel, Cascabel, choster, Edwin Ashworth Jun 15 '17 at 21:23
Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.
I would suggest something like:
What On Earth???
My grandparents (who speak very properly and could be said to never swear) often use this when shocked.
The Cambridge Dictionary states that the phrase is used for showing surprise which fits with your requirements. It also gives the example What on earth is going on here?
"Sweet Mother of Pearl!" (Mother of Pearl is the iridescent layer on the inside of an oyster. This is a way of avoiding the blasphemy of "Mother of God!")
"What the Hades?" (Hades is the Greek lord of the underworld and ruler of the dead. This is akin to saying "What the Hell?")