What should I say instead of "fudge" around my kid?
September 28, 2017 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Hi. I swear a lot. It's fun. I've been swearing since I was a little kid on the bus who dropped f-bombs (like this previous ask). I have a kid now and realize I need to curb that, but most of the obvious substitutions are really corny and cheesy. Help me out!

I know I shouldn't be saying fuck, shit, or asshole around my kid. They're not verbal yet, but probably will be soon, so I need to knock it off. My partner doesn't really use profanity, so I would totally be the issue.

I've tried "heck" instead of fuck, but it didn't last. I'd prefer to not use the standards of "fudge" or "sugar" because that seems contrived. I've looked and it seems like most parents have a broad enough vocabulary to manage, but I would love suggestions for new curses that aren't profanity but also not forcibly wholesome. (That's not really me.) Help me Metafilter before my says "fuck this shit" at daycare! How did you wean yourself off of it?
posted by kendrak to Writing & Language (62 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I get pretty far with an exasperated "oh for Pete's sake!"
posted by Liesl at 9:25 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

I like 'frick'.
posted by kitcat at 9:25 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

I work in intense situations where it's highly inappropriate to swear, but boy do I want to! I've gotten in the habit of saying benign things like "rats," "oh boy," "holy moly," and "holy cow," as I think "sugar" and "fudge" are kind of twee and silly. There's also the classic "oh jeez," which may or may not be offensive depending on where you are.
posted by stillmoving at 9:28 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

Go British? I like "bloody hell" myself.
posted by quaking fajita at 9:30 AM on September 28 [7 favorites]

"Oh poop!"
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:30 AM on September 28

"Cuss" is your answer.
posted by cocoagirl at 9:32 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]

I have friends that just don't treat it as an issue. They purposely didn't talk babytalk to their kid and purposely didn't change how they talked to each other - so swears were included. So you can go that way. Kids are gonna learn somehow.

Another set of friends did try to curb their language more, still had mistakes, made a big deal of the mistakes, so then their kid would say those words for the shock value.

Another set of friends - I'm not sure what they did. But I remember a story of their kid at three while they drove through farm country saying "it smells like shit". And you know, the kid was right. It did smell like shit.

Personally, I don't want to ever swear AT my kid. Part of that might also be reducing my own swearing, but the situations in which I swear are usually hot-tempered situations. And I'm trying more to reduce the times I get hot-tempered about something, which in turn reduces when I swear.
posted by jillithd at 9:33 AM on September 28 [8 favorites]

Go British? I like "bloody hell" myself.

FWIW that's on the same level as "crap" here (the UK) and I would definitely not want my kid saying that in front of teachers etc (and whatever you're OK with at home, you have to assume any words they learn will be repeated in front of the most embarrassing person possible - teacher, granny, etc).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:36 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

My preschooler brought home "oh, bubblenuggets!" from his teacher. It works as a great way to ease tension, because everybody breaks down in giggles after saying bubblenuggets. Try it. Bubblenuggets!
posted by Liesl at 9:37 AM on September 28 [7 favorites]

On The Good Place the characters say "fork" and "shirt". As in, "holy motherforking shirtballs".
posted by acidic at 9:39 AM on September 28 [7 favorites]

Cheese and Crackers
Holy Hannah
For Pete's Sake
For the Love of Pete
Con Sarn it
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:42 AM on September 28

And I'm trying more to reduce the times I get hot-tempered about something, which in turn reduces when I swear.

This has pretty much been my solution, too. My kid rarely hears oaths, minced or otherwise, from me because I try really, really hard to keep my temper down around her. (Although we evidently haven't reduced our "Jesus Christ"s enough, because ... hoo boy, it's sort of a problem when you stop short and hear a loud "Jesus Christ!" from the back seat.)

That said: "Son of a gun!" isn't great, but it's a workable replacement for a frustrated "fuck!" But if the "wholesome" oaths are too wholesome for you, I really think it's best to try to cut them out rather than replace them with a soundalike.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:44 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:54 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

Not to threadsit but two quick notes:
1. I don't swear at my kid, just around them. Like "Man, the beat on this Mac Dre song is fucked up." or "Wednesday were shit today."
2. While I do love saying fuck and shit, I try to avoid terms based on religious stuff (like jeez or goddamn) because I'm an atheist and that seems just as bad. It's complicated.

Thanks for the suggestions! Please keep 'em coming!
posted by kendrak at 9:57 AM on September 28

My elderly Southern boss used to exclaim "Hello, Pete!" all the time as an expression of exasperation.
posted by something something at 10:00 AM on September 28

I like to go meta. It's surprisingly satisfying to yell, "Oh, couple o' swear words!"
posted by dr. boludo at 10:00 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]

I swear to make a sailor blush so I feel your pain. With my first pregnancy I often joked that my kid's first word would be "fuck!".

Most of the time that I swear is when I'm in the car, so I trained myself instead to say "DUDE! What are you doing?!?"; this became much easier to remember as kiddo became more verbal and started mimicing me.

It works, most of the time. However, last week, in the car and on the way to daycare with only second kiddo (still just learning to talk) with me I shouted "fuck!" at some other driver and kiddo said "fox mommy?" to which I replied "Yes. I said Fox." Of course this led to him saying "fox fox fox fox". I'm decidedly more okay with him saying fox at daycare than fuck, so maybe fox is a good replacement.

Still, I think a strong "Dude!" is the best way to go.
posted by vignettist at 10:00 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]

I like "dang," but it's actually a variation of "darn," which is a variation of "damn." Same with "dagnabit," which I think is fun. On the old Superman TV show when I was a child, they used to use "Great Ceasar's Ghost."

Found this list of 101 alternatives to swear words for parents. Maybe some of those will work for you.
posted by FencingGal at 10:04 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

FWIW that's on the same level as "crap" here (the UK)

Huh. I would absolutely not class them the same (also UK born & bred) - to me bloody hell is many orders of magnitude less serious than crap, to the point where crap is a "swear word" and bloody hell isn't.

More constructively, why not make up your own, or borrow one of the many you'll find if you google "made up swear/curse words"?

(Though note: "Ach crivens" on that list wasn't in fact made up by Terry Pratchett, it's just slightly old fashioned Scots)
posted by penguin pie at 10:07 AM on September 28

Scheisse - German for shit - I use this a lot
Gah! - satisfying for some reason
Efffffff - when I really really really want to say fuck
posted by Sassyfras at 10:07 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

This thread is relevant to your interests.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:11 AM on September 28

My niece uses "petite baguette" in place of swear words in front of her parents. I also bought her this book which included this handy flowchart with alternative word choices.
posted by thejanna at 10:19 AM on September 28 [6 favorites]

Your kid may end up giving you alternatives.
Mine called me a bobododohead once, and I used it for years.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:27 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]

A friend's kid came up with, "What the funk soul brother," which I shamelessly stole for my own.
posted by jacob at 10:33 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]

I use several of the expressions others have posted and will likely try a few new ones I've learned here.

Other ideas:
- unleash your inner Ned Flanders with a well-placed 'diddly'
- silly word combos like 'potatofart' or just 'oh fart' - not so great if you don't want to encourage bathroom words outside of the bathroom but it will induce giggling which helps when you're frustrated
- I had a neighbor that was teaching her kids to say 'oh pickles!' which made me smile
- and the always classic 'mothertrucker' or 'shut the front door' (instead of STFU)
- the classic 'dagnabbit'

And when you slip up and use the bad ones anyway, I agree with an earlier poster who said not to make a huge deal of it. Acknowledge them as grownup words if you like and talk about context (using at home is a lot different than school/work/at a grandparent's house). We haven't shielded my now 9yo from bad words, but we do try to be judicious about when/how we use them. Sometimes if I'm really mad I'll say 'I know that was a bad word, and I'm sorry, but I REALLY MEANT IT.' If anything, we've taken all of the mystique away .
posted by melissa at 10:37 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]

"Man, the beat on this Mac Dre song is fucked up."

"Wednesday were shit today."
posted by bile and syntax at 10:40 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]

We like "rats" and "drat blast it". Not obviously a sanitized version of a swear word (seriously, 'fudge' is awful), but also not going to melt anybody's ears.
posted by telepanda at 10:52 AM on September 28

I swear a LOT. I have a kid, and try not to. (It's a good thing to try to avoid. Even if you decide you're okay with swearing around kid, it turns out that other kids' parents will make angry faces at you if you slip up. Ask me how I know!) I also work on a university campus where you cannot possibly make all those teenagers and 20-somethings stop swearing. Plus we listen to the radio in the car, and are constantly scrambling to avoid DJ's and songs using the words "ass" or "bitch".

We try not to make a big deal out of it, and the one time the little one did swear, we commented that people don't like that language, and so it's more social not to use it.

My partner allows me "plausible deniability" swears : "shishow" and "shishito" and "shit-tzu". Also "fustercluck", "effed" and "FUUUUUUUUUU" (leading to ridiculous situations like screaming "FUUUUUUUUUUU...Manchu!" when stubbing a toe and then seeing the little one out of the corner of my eye.)

And finally, once I was in tears with my partner on the phone because a bunch of nasty suburban mommies were horrid to my kid at the park. (Making it worse - they were white and we are not.) My poor kid looked up from my lap and asked "Mama can we go back to those slides when the "ditches" are gone? Can't we just fill up ditches with mud so they won't be a problem?" So now we've added ditches to the lexicon.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 10:58 AM on September 28 [13 favorites]

Previously, from me: G*******t, I swear too f***ing much.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:04 AM on September 28

I use "Fannypack" as my go-to curse in front of my kid.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:22 AM on September 28

In front of my 5 year old charge, I find myself saying "rats!" quite a bit. If something is super irritating to me, I often mutter "good GRACIOUS". "son of a nutcracker!" also comes out of my mouth occasionally.
posted by sucre at 11:38 AM on September 28

I say "argh!", as it lets me release the same satisfying energy as a heavy swear. Most substitutes are watered down versions of the swear word, so you don't get the same result.
posted by Vaike at 11:41 AM on September 28

At some point my mom started saying "focaccia" as a substitute for "fucked." As in, "We forgot to put oil in the car and now the engine's focaccia." I still say it all the time, and it's even funner now that people actually know what focaccia is. It feels profane in context.

My father, being a good Irish Catholic, had a wide range of religious themed exclamations he would slip into an old-country brogue to holler. "Sufferin' Jesus!" and so forth. It was socially acceptable (and kind of funny) but I think religious-themed profanity kind of has to come from the heart.

There's always cartoon prospector profanity. Your "dagnabbits" and "consarnits" and such.

I'm kind of a fan of just saying "farts," because it rolls off the tongue similarly to "fuck," so it's easy to redirect, but also farts are funny.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 11:47 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]

At some point my mom started saying "focaccia" as a substitute for "fucked."

Interesting, I wonder if that was based on a mishearing of verkakte...
posted by praemunire at 11:53 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]

When I can't say fuck I say "Fffffffft." It's a satisfying replacement. Something about the hiss of air, and it isn't silly like "gosh darnit!" These kinds of replacements, though polite, make me feel like Flanders from The Simpsons.

In the past I have used creative swears from Italian, like "porca puttana! Porca troia! Porca miseria!" and, when particularly annoyed, "fotiti!" I didn't use them when actually in Italy, but they sure are fun to yell at other drivers when other people are in the car.

One polite replacement I do like is "horsefeathers!" As in "Horsefeathers! The radiator's broken again!"
posted by Crystal Fox at 11:54 AM on September 28

Everyone says 'Oh, FISH' on Bojack Horseman. I'm trying to get into it.

Covers a few essential vulgarities in an odd way, like a Swiss Army knife for swearing.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:56 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]

I'm all about 'Crap' or 'Dang it'. Then there's 'Great googly moogly' when things get really out of hand.
posted by PJMoore at 12:09 PM on September 28

In a stubbed-toe type of scenario, my husband and I tend towards somewhat formless combinations of f's and r's and g's. "Herrrrbidafferrgidyggrrrrroooofff"

For the more contextual examples you list, it seems like simple vocab substitutions would work just fine. Wednesday was horrific. The worst. A circus full of flaming elephants. The beat was... bad? Good? The thing about swearing is I can't actually tell if you liked it or not.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:36 PM on September 28

I use “Mother of Pearl” a lot. My kids think I’m just quoting from SpongeBob.
posted by sealee at 12:57 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]

I love swearing...but i turned it into "chicken fried banana brains" among other tasty treats until he was big enough to reason with (ish)...he's 13 and i swear but he doesn't swear around me because of the rule: he can swear like me when he knows as many words as me. This has been excellent vocabulary building motivation.
posted by bwonder2 at 12:59 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]

"Son of a biscuit!" h/t my Dad.

"Shut the French windows!" h/t Phyllis Logan at the Emmys.

"Jeezer Annie!" h/t my Mom.

"God bless it!" h/t Dad again. This one works well when something is not going well or not working right. Depending on your beliefs, or even not, you might want God to bless, let's say, your thumb after you hit it with the hammer. That kind of thing.
posted by jgirl at 1:23 PM on September 28

+1 for Oh Fish! Cause a anthromorphic cat is a surprisingly good role model
posted by Jacen at 1:34 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]

One of my first words was "dammit." My cousin's first full sentence was "Damn that Son of a Bitch Hay! Son of a Bitch!" (My uncles were baling hay at the time and she was watching.)

Most everyone in my family cussed, and even my mother would drop an f-bomb now and then. Both of my parents were school teachers, as were two of my aunts and uncle. We lived in a small town, and it would have been quite embarrassing for one of the kids in my family to drop some hay baling language in the schoolyard. So shortly before school started, my mom and dad sat me down and explained to me that there were "family words" and "public words." Words said by the uncles when working on the farm were considered family words. They were only to be said around family because some people didn't fully understand that swearing makes things hurt less. When in public, alternate words were required and we were given full license to make up whatever we wanted. My favorite was "boogersnot." My cousin was fond of "buglover" and "poopnoggin."

All that said make sure your kid knows which ones are the bad words. No one explained to me that pecker was a bad word, so I did call a friend of my dad a peckerhead because he was such a jerk to me. I thought it just meant someone who was annoying like Woody Woodpecker.
posted by teleri025 at 3:02 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]

I tend to just drop the swear word and put extra exclamatory oomph on the last word, like:
"Oh FER..."
"WHAT (in) the..."
"For the LOVE of..."

also favorites:

I always liked the atheist version of "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" as "Jeebus, Murray and the Twins"

Lastly, there's great joy in "Jehoshaphat!", as though you were a March sister.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:05 PM on September 28

Same problem! I stopped cold turkey and just replaced the word I wanted to say with a verbal blank by pursing my lips together making little guttural noises at the back of my throat mid-sentence. Looks weird all typed out, but is easy to do.

9 years on, replacements like "Effen", "Shiz", and "Carp" have snuck in. Anecdata, but my kid does not cuss, never surprised us with a bad word a dinner parties or school, and gets the "oh-that-person-is-gonna-be-in-trouble" giggles when someone else does.
posted by this-apoptosis at 3:17 PM on September 28

Riffing off the flow chart posted by thejanna, here is a list of all of Captain Haddock's curses.

Blistering Barnacles!
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:46 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]

I go with Dunk! Or Snugglebug!

While driving, my frustrations about other drivers sometimes results in me calling other drivers “bullypunks”.
posted by Night_owl at 4:28 PM on September 28

Borrow liberally.

Frack / fracking (Battlestar galactica)
Janey Mack (Ireland, instead of 'fucking hell')
posted by DarlingBri at 6:01 PM on September 28

My dad said "frack." Which was funny when BSG picked it up a few years ago.
posted by xyzzy at 6:14 PM on September 28

I love swearing but my kids never swore (in front of me or in public) because they just thought that was how parents spoke. (They do swear now that they're grown up).

In Ireland we have the very useful "feck", which interestingly enough, substitutes for fuck in all situations apart from the sexual meaning. For example, you can call someone a fecker, describe someone as a fecking idiot (or better, eejit), or say "the radio/car/toaster/etc is fecked". You can tell someone to feck off or just say "feck it!" in a bad situation. But if you say you fecked someone, or you spent the whole night fecking, it simply doesn't make sense.
posted by Samarium at 6:23 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]

Science fiction swear words, such as "frak" or "frell" (Farscape) or "smeg" (Red Dwarf, actually referring to something real you don't want to look up online).

You could also swear in British and say words like "bloody," as long as you don't actually go to England.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:39 PM on September 28

My favorite alternative swear word is lifted from Lemony Snicket: cake sniffers!

Not a general swear but a great epithet!
posted by duoshao at 7:06 PM on September 28

I say "JUNKMONKEYS!" and it is extremely satisfying.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:22 PM on September 28

It's along the line of fudge and sugar, but I find "kittens!" weirdly workable as an expletive.

My dad used to say "jumpin' Jehosephat!" when we were kids.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:51 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]

"Rats" said really angrily ("rrrrrATS") is surprisingly satisfying.
posted by raspberrE at 7:56 PM on September 28

There's a cartoon - can't remember what it is - but one character uses ice cream flavors as his substitutes for cuss words/interjections, and I just think it's hilarious. And there's an endless variety, too. Butter Brickle! MOOSE TRACKS AND CARAMEL CRUNCH! Black cherry sundae!

For me though, I curtail my cussing as much as possible, and I just talk to my kid about it. I explain that yeah, the rules are different for us (that I can cuss with no consequences and he can't), but that's because I can control it and I don't cuss in front of people that it would offend. When I can be confident that he won't use those words in front of our church friends or our more easily shocked relatives, he'll be allowed to cuss. But code-switching like that is not ever really gonna come easily for him, and he pretty much gets that.
posted by lemniskate at 8:32 PM on September 28

Funky Cold Medina!

My wife reports that her sister exclaims "CHAKA KHAN!"

Also I had a friend that really pulled off "fudge ripple!" Somehow the ripple really adds to it.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:14 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]

(also, Mrs Molerats says I can report she just farted and I said "you are the worst, Burr" , so there's one.)
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:19 PM on September 28

I am partial to "Cripes" and "Dadburnit". I learned to mutter "Poha" from my sister who spent a year in Brasil. She say it means something like "sperm". Works for us.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:07 PM on September 28

This is the best thread. The best.
My dad used to say "Judas Priest!" when driven to especial aggravation. My personal innocent go-tos are along the lines of "Crud!" and "Oh, spit", although I still swear my head off when I'm cooking (I don't know why the kitchen is four-letter-word central for me).
posted by huimangm at 4:28 AM on September 29

Some of the borrowed-from-foreign curses sound great. I like French Canadian curse words a lot: "tabarnac", "calise", "hostie". You can juice them up with the prefix "maudite" (damned).


(Disclaimer: You may not want to overuse them if you're an observant Catholic.)
posted by theorique at 5:55 AM on September 29

My husband, who was a robust swearer, changed many of his favorite exclamations since we've had kids. We also love the Fantastic Mr. Fox tactic of using "cuss" for everything. And, like huimangm, "Judas Priest!" is a common one for him, but his favorite of all is "dadgum." It became so commonplace that our older daughters joke that his favorite thing to do is shake his fist and yell "dadgum kids!" (No, my husband is not 85 or a just-caught villain on Scooby Doo.) It was all well and good until our toddler, in the true irony of toddler-speak, kept garbling "dad-gom" and flipping the first part of the second syllable with the first part of the first syllable, ending up with exactly what we were trying to avoid: a toddler loudly exclaiming a very common swear word that is both offensive and blasphemous to most ears. Parenting is hard.
posted by hessie at 6:30 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]

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