© 2023 by Milan Magan. Coastal Patios Inc.

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Euphemisms and swear word replacements

As a language teacher I instruct students in a range of profanities and expressions if they ask me to. I believe that knowledge is power. As a teacher it is my god-given responsibility to instruct a student that ‘you are so fuck’ is grammatically incorrect. 

This has, of course, led to disaster after disaster: I’ve seen students thank shop assistants, “Thank you so fucking much”, compliment their homestay parents, “You are amazing cunts”. They have the correct grammar (adverb, and NZ English colloquial noun respectively), but they don’t know the appropriate context for swearing. 

Lesson #1: Learn when as well as how to use a swear word properly. 

My nephew just celebrated his 3rd birthday and is absorbing all the language around him. He’s got the first conditional down, and is starting to grasp the perfect tenses. Generally we can control for profane vocabulary but while driving, I invariably let out strings of expletives, which he parrots and takes home to his parents. Ho ho our faces as we smile and pretend to ignore him. 

Later we accuse each other: “Who taught him ‘You fucking cunt?’; “Where did he get ‘For fuck’s sake’ from?” We interrogate each other’s language, like forensic linguistics, tracing his expressions back to their sources.

It all got me thinking about the ‘soft’ words he uses sometimes: He is able to say shoot instead of shit, for example, and grins widely thinking he’s dropping an f-bomb equivalent. 

Leaving aside the vexing question of why these are socially acceptable, I wonder how many of these I know, and whether these would be instructive to teach a second language student. I’ll experiment with a student today. 





oh no!


what the heck

shut the front door

see you next tuesday


for pete’s sake



How many more do you know?