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When someone uses a naughty word without realizing it's a naughty word. Quite often, the person (almost always a child) will get into a lot of trouble for using such a bad word without knowing the meaning of the word or what he or she has done wrong.

Related to Entendre Failure. Compare Fee Fi Faux Pas. Truth in Television for kids who are very young or very sheltered.

Examples of Innocent Swearing include:

Anime and Manga

  • In episode 20 of Persona 4: The Animation, Nanako happily announces to the group that Margaret, the fortune teller at the cultural festival, told her that Yu was a "gigolo."


 Calvin: "It's still not safe to go up. We're going to have to wait twenty-four hours."

Helen: "Oh, shit!"

(Helen immediately covers her mouth)

Calvin: "Excuse your mother's French, son."

Adam: "'Shit' is French?"

Calvin: "Its... uh... a colloquialism meaning... roughly... good."

Adam: "Well then.... Shit!"

Calvin and Helen: "Heh heh. (sigh)"


  • The novel My Best Fiend had one chapter where the headmistress was cracking down on swearing at the school. When the main character's friend fell and got a nasty gash on her leg, and all the other kids were crowding round, she shouted "She can't move her bloody leg!" A variant, since she did know "bloody" was a swear, but that wasn't what she meant; she meant the leg was covered in blood. She explained this to the headmistress, who agreed that it was a shame perfectly good words became swears.
  • Famous Victorian poet Robert Browning used the word "twat" in "Pippa Passes". Browning was under the mistaken impression that "twat" meant a part of a nun's habit.
  • Two-year-old Friday Next in Something Rotten learns naughty words (notably "bum", "bubbies", "arse" and "pikestaff" rendered in an Old English font) from St. Zvlkx. Thursday speaks as if she isn't certain what he said the first time he uses them, but the second time she tells her son, "If those are rude Old English words, St. Zvlkx is in a lot of trouble--and so are you, my little fellow."
  • In The Jungle, little Antanas learns "God damn" and starts repeating it after his father reacts to his saying it with laughter.
  • In Thud, Sam Vimes reads his son his own version of Where's My Cow with the Catch Phrases of promenant Ankh-Morporkians instead of animal noises, including Foul Old Ron's "Bugrit! Millenium hand and shrimp!" The next day Young Sam announced "Buglit!" to his nanny, and from then on Vimes sticks to the written version.

Live Action TV

  • Dinosaurs had one episode where Baby learned one such word, "smoo". (In the dinosaur lingo, this is a dirty word because it describes debris that accumulates on the sole of a dinosaur's foot.)

Newspaper Comics

  • Family Circus had this with Jeffy, who got spanked.
  • For Better or For Worse had an example involving April.
  • One storyline in FoxTrot has Paige watching Jerzy Spaniel while babysitting. Of course, the kid hears the word and starts repeating it. In the epilogue, Paige reports that the mother said kids always hear bad words and repeat them, but if you don't use them often or attach special significance to them, they'll eventually drop it. Then they discussed watching Jerzy Spaniel while babysitting...

Web Comics

  • The webcomic You Damn Kid at one point recounted an incident with the author's little sister who asked him who Sunsub is and why he itches when something bad happens. Things didn't click for him until at the dinner table when, after his dad tells a story, the sister shouts, "Sunsub itches!" (say it out loud if you haven't figured it out).
  • Questionable Content has a twist on this one. After Pintsize tells Hannelore that robot swear words come from mashing on the keyboard, she asks him and Winslow what "qwerty" means. They're shocked.
  • Moon Over June gives us June Akagawa's first words[1]

Western Animation

  • Arthur: In "The Bleep," DW hears a bad word and wants to know what it means. (She doesn't know at all that it's a bad word.) She accidentally gets her entire preschool class saying it. Her mother finally tells her, "You could say, it means 'I want to hurt your feelings.'"

 That's what it means? Why didn't somebody just say so?!

  • In the Powerpuff Girls episode "Curses", the girls overhear Professor Utonium using a naughty word and start using it themselves. Many Sound Effect Bleeps ensue.
  • An episode of Rugrats entitled "Word Of The Day" had Angelica overhear a Depraved Kids' Show Host state, rather sarcastically, that the "real" catchphrase of the show is that the children who watch it "are all little [censor]" while auditioning for it. Angelica, being a toddler, thinks this is sincere. Hilarity Ensues
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Sailor Mouth", SpongeBob and Patrick read a bad word written in a trash bin and start using it. Patrick claims it's a "sentence enhancer".
  • After overhearing Bart one day on The Simpsons, one of the Flanders children swears twice at the dinner table ("Hell, no!" and "I don't want any damn vegetables.") The humor turns heartbreaking after he is scolded and runs from the room crying, not understanding what he has done wrong.
    • Same user, different episode: Moe has started a family restaurant and has worked himself near to the breaking point. And then one little girl complains that her soda is too cold, causing Moe to erupt into a sanitized-for-primetime Cluster F-Bomb, ending with:

 Moe: And I'll tell you where you can stick your freaking' sodie too!

[crowd gasps]

Rod Flanders[2]: Ow, my freakin' ears!

[crowd gasps again]

  • Seen in a story from the Franklin television series. The word in question? "Stupid."


  1. (on one of the few remotely SFW pages in the entire series)
  2. or maybe Tod; who can tell?
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