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10 Creative Expletives That Aren’t Swears at All

by Jonathan Hastad
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Swears are fun and all, but, similar to what Cookie Monster says about cookies, “They are sometimes words.” Now, of course, every family and social situation is different—some people don’t care if the F-bomb is their child’s first word or if sh–t is uttered by students.

But generally speaking, we refrain from swearing in front of kids, those who we are trained to respect (elders, teachers, community leaders, etc.), and you know, like, in church, synagogue—whatever it may be for you. Still, the urge to let an expletive fly is sometimes so strong that you can’t help it. You just have to say it.

If this is you and you are the caring type who believes that maybe you should stop using such language, there is hope. History’s wordsmiths have blessed us with creative alternatives to Carlin’s infamous seven (and more). Here are ten creative expletives that aren’t swears at all.

Related: 10 Amazing Ancient Insults

10 Sugar-Honey-Ice Tea

We start this list with sugar-honey-ice tea. It’s a nonsense expletive, meant to express frustration over a particular event. Stub your toe? “Sugar-honey-ice tea!” Did your pen explode in your pocket? “Sugar-honey-ice tea!” You get the gist. It’s best used as a replacement for sh-t, though we imagine that “son of a dirty wh–re!” would better grasp the emotion behind it.

9 Shut the Front Door!

‘Shut the front door’ – Bad Teacher

This dreadful expression has been around for a long time, and I’d rather people say the real thing than use it. I honestly can’t stand it. However, it’s creative enough in that it sounds like you’re about to say “f–k up,” but you replace it with “front door.” Emphasize the f sound to get a rise from your parents and then surprise them with the non-offensive phrase. What are they going to do? Ground you? If they ground you for suggesting you maintain privacy by closing an entrance, they can shut the feck up.

8 Holy Swear Word, Batman!

50 Of Robin’s “Holy” Sayings From “Batman”

The original Batman television series (Adam West and Burt Ward) is campy, fun, and a relic of the 1960s. Several subsequent action shows and parodies have been based on the show’s aesthetic (Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, anyone?). We’ve adopted some of the series language quirks without even realizing where it comes from.

One example is Robin’s ability to turn “Holy sh–t!” into a running list of contextual, creative alternatives. All he does is replace the swear with something relevant to his situation. And you can use them, too! Here are some of our favorites:

  • Holy Split Seconds
  • Holy Venezuela
  • Holy Bowler
  • Holy Unrefillable Prescriptions
  • Holy Frying Towels
  • Holy Slipped Discs

I mean, there are so many of them. Pop culture has given us these gems; let us not allow them to go to waste.

7 Nut-hook and Tripe-Visaged Rascal

Insults by Shakespeare

Good old Bill Shakespeare; leave it to him to come up with a creative swear or insult and for us to ignore its genius. He is very niche. Anyway, there’s one in particular that we like to throw around: nut-hook. You wouldn’t say nut-hook into the wind; you would undoubtedly direct it to someone, possibly at them.

A nut-hook is not what your mind would go toward these days, you dirty birds. It is not a hook that graces the male genitalia. It doesn’t even come close to that. It is:

  1. A police officer or constable
  2. A thief
  3. The hook at the end of a pole that pulls branches down for easier nut harvesting

Pretty innocuous, right? Well, in this case, it’s not. Its original intent in Shakespeare’s Henry V was to call someone a pig (the derogatory term for a cop).

Doll Tearsheet (who is pregnant) is arrested, accused of murder, and she’s just not having it. So she calls the arresting officer a nut-hook. To add to the offense of the passage, she also calls the other woman in the scene a “damned tripe-visaged rascal.” Translation: flabby-faced moron.

It seems pretty tame these days, I know. So we are giving you permission to call someone a nut-hook and imply that they are a hook that hooks onto um…balls. A creative replacement for the usual sh–t head or d–k face, I guess.

6 “Son of a Nutcracker!”

Shock and Awe – ELF snowball fight

Since it’s winter, we might as well include this one on the list. You may recognize “son of a nutcracker” as Buddy the Elf’s response to getting hit in the face by a snowball. Will Farrell’s delivery of the line is in every way, shape, and form “son of a b–tch,” but the joke’s on PG-13 movie ratings! It’s a nutcracker (and so the movie rating stays at PG).

Fun Will Farrell fact, while we’re on it. He recently produced a Netflix docuseries featuring Nicholas Cage called History of Swear Words. No, they don’t say “son of a nutcracker,” but they do go into the etymology of a rainbow of expletives.

5 Dad-Sizzle and Dadgum

Heavy Metal Mater – All Dad Gum scenes

No, you are not implying that someone’s dad sizzles like a piece of bacon, and Snoop Dogg didn’t come up with it. Dad-sizzle is a stand-in for “g–d damn.” In terms of levels of anger, dad-sizzle is pretty high up there. So if you were alive in the 1800s and heard someone say this, you knew they meant business.

Other swear alternatives, like Dadgum, use the “dad” prefix, and all mean some variation of “damn.” Dad-blasted, for instance, is used to indicate frustration, surprise, and anger, though it’s not as angry as dad-sizzle.

4 Alan Rickman!

Severus Snape Swearing

The late and great Alan Rickman was best known in the 21st century for playing Professor Snape in the Harry Potter franchise. The role successfully launched a Millennial generation cult following and added to a long list of film achievements, including Die Hard, Sweeney Todd, Dogma, and Galaxy Quest. And for some reason, his name turned into an expletive.

We can’t pinpoint the origin of shouting “Alan Rickman!” when you’ve stubbed your toe, hit your funny bone, or hurt yourself in other humorous and inconvenient ways, but it exists. And I guess there’s enough oomph to his name (that k drills the pain home) to get your point across. We would assume what you want to say is “Mother f–ker!”

But Rickman is not the only celebrity who has the honor of being a swear. “Kelly Clarkson” was screamed by Steve Carrell in 40-Year-Old Virgin during the chest hair waxing scene. Judas Priest, the British heavy metal band, has been a popular swear alternative for a long time. Even Mr. Slave from South Park conjures Judas Priest instead of the Christian figure.

3 Barnacles!

Spongebob Squarepants – This Is A Load Of Barnacles

If you grew up watching Spongebob, you know this one very well. Almost every main character in the series uses it at least once, and it has proved to be incredibly versatile. That means that it could mean—pardon the censorship—sh–t, f–k, damn, d–k (when they call someone a barnacle head), etc. Barnacles may not be a popular alternative to anyone born before 1990, but anyone who was a parent in 1999 and on should be familiar enough with “barnacles” to get it.

As we know, this isn’t the only made-up swear in the Spongebob universe. If it weren’t for the creativity behind such words, Spongebob would be an entirely different show. Other popular swears include:

  • Fish paste
  • What in the name of Davy Jones’ locker?
  • Tartar sauce
  • Jumping jellyfish

However, the Spongebob swear that takes the cake is the 11th bad word: *dolphin noises*. If it weren’t for the fact that making dolphin noises is so unnatural for humans, it’d take the number three slot instead of barnacles.

2 Heavens to Betsy

What’s the Origin of “Heavens to Betsy”? – Famous Phrases with Eddie Brill

Another oldie, but a goodie. Heavens to Betsy falls into the blasphemous category (100+ years ago), originating sometime between the late 19th century and the start of World War I. At the heart of the phrase, it means “for God’s sake” or, if said with more emphasis, “Jesus Christ.” The idiom is far from offensive nowadays and raises eyebrows for how antiquated it sounds.

1 Bratchny and Skitebird

A Clockwork Orange, Flat Block Marina scene.

If you’ve read A Clockwork Orange, you know that it’s a literary trip. The protagonist, who is actually an antagonist to some extent (his dystopian teenage angst and delinquency is his own worst enemy), Alex, is a disaster—and not one of those lovable disasters either. Part of you feels like he should receive greater punishment than he does, and yet, at the same time, you can’t help but feel for him as he’s forced to watch the disgusting acts of history.

If his character arc isn’t enough, elements of British slang and a slew of made-up, Russian-inspired words confuse the heck out of the reader. One of which is bratchny, which means, roughly, bastard, and another is skitebird, which means sh–t head.

Saying bratchy and skitebird probably won’t get you into a fight since no one will know what the eff you’re talking about. It’s obscure. But for an English student or Anthony Burgess fan, they should get the hint that you’re upset with something or someone.

Other naughty words and expletives in A Clockwork Orange include:

  • Lubbilubbing for sex
  • Pan-handle for erection
  • Sharries for butt

Have fun with those, droogs.

fact checked by Rachel Jones