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Sebastian: Well, your objections have been duly noted and summarily overruled.

Sarah: Yes, Sir!

Sebastian: How come when you say "Yes, Sir" it kinda sounds like "Fuck you"?

Sarah: Practice!

This language trope is most common to family fare: A character's spoken line contains no profanity whatsoever, but the tone and phrasing used by the actor is so obvious that the audience will hear the intended profanity just the same.

This trope does not include made-up swear words or Last-Second Word Swap. The line is spoken with perfectly mundane words and the actor's inflection, tone and facial expression is what conveys the more intense and profane parenthetical. Super-trope to Witch with a Capital B. Often shows up in Bowdlerized or TV-dubbed versions of movies.

Compare Stealth Insult, Precision F-Strike. Not to be confused with Narrative Profanity Filter, where a character really does swear - it just doesn't appear directly in the text.

Examples of Parenthetical Swearing include:

Comic Books

  • One issue of Marvel Universe Secret Wars II has Phoenix (the Rachel Summers variety) express sympathy for The Beyonder's hurt feelings, while her face makes it clear she'd kill him if she could. (By the way, the reason his feelings got hurt was that she wouldn't let him manipulate her into destroying the universe.)

Fan Fiction

  • Search the Web for the phrase "made it sound like a curse." It seems to be endemic in Fanfic.
    • Considering the sort of books your stereotypical Fanfic author gets into, they probably think it makes their work sound like high literature.


 Han Solo: Afraid I was gonna leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?

Princess Leia: I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

Han Solo: I can arrange that. You could use a good 'kiss'!

  • In the 2009 Star Trek film, Spock puts a certain amount of inflection and vitriol into the respectful Vulcan salutation, "Live Long And Prosper", so that it sounds like a Precision F-Strike.
  • In the first Sister Act movie, Sister Mary Clarence says "Bless you" in a way that makes it clear the word she would use, if she wasn't in a nun habit and surrounded by nuns, begins with an F.
  • Perversion For Profit has the man character say "Come join the fun!" in a way that makes one think he really said "Darn, I just stepped in a huge pile of dog-poo."
  • "Who's been messing with the shadow man?!" sounds a lot like "Who's the dumbass?!". It helps that a Cool Old Lady is saying it.


  • In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, Lobsang tries to save his master rather than stop the obliteration of time, leading Susan to say to him "you hero!" in the same tones someone would say "you idiot!"
    • Additionally, in Interesting Times one of the Silver Horde is the subject of Saveloy's attempts to make him stop swearing every single sentence. He manages to make him use Unusual Euphemisms instead, but then it is observed that he could turn the air blue just by saying "socks."
    • In Wyrd Sisters, Duke Felmet is described as the sort of person who gets more polite and restrained the angrier he gets, to the point where he can give the cutting edge of a severe dressing-down to the phrase "Thank you very much."
  • The character of Tzetzas in David Drake and ~S. M. Stirling~'s The General series is usually pronounced as if it were a curse.
    • "He gives graft a bad name."
    • There's a Running Gag that whenever his name is brought up in conversation, Suzette tells the person/people saying it to stop swearing.
  • In the sixth Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy book (by Eoin Colfer), someone is said to say the name "Zaphod" "as if it were a curse;" Justified, perhaps, because it goes on to say that in many languages, it now is.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, McGonagall refers to Umbridge as "headmistress", and the author notes that she "pronounced the word with the same look on her face that Aunt Petunia had whenever she was contemplating a particularly stubborn bit of dirt".
  • One scene in Great Expectations has Pip's sister say "Lord bless the boy!" in a way that makes it sound quite the opposite.
  • In the Stationery Voyagers episode "Essentials of Nativity," Katrina Mantalone is depicted in a Bad Future barging into a room full of terrorists and shouting: "Coffins are on DISCOUNT!!!" right before blowing half of them away with her dual pistols. It may seem non-sequitur at first, but her actions reveal that her intended meaning of "Die, m*f*ers!" could hardly be any more obvious.
  • In Thunderball, Bond happens to be nearby for an argument with a clerk where, the text confirms, the "damn you" hung in the air unsaid when the client finally goes along.

Live Action TV

  • Penn illustrates this trope in the Penn and Teller Bullshit episode on profanity, by insulting a dog in a soft-spoken voice, then angrily screaming at it "I LOVE YOU, DOG!". The point of this exercise is to show the viewers that the dog reacts to the human's tone of voice, not to what actual words he says.

 Penn: (reassuringly) No, it's okay. Really, I hate your stinking guts.

  • Angel example: There is a moment in the third season where Cordelia is forced to overhear a part of Angel's Epic Rage against the way The Powers That Be treats Cordelia. She only hears the part: "She is a rich girl from Sunnydale who likes to play Superhero. She doesn't have what it takes!" Considering Cordelia's reaction, he may as well have said "A Spoiled Bitch..."
  • A recent episode of Supernatural has Rufus, one of the boys' allies, mutter, "I'm too old for this." Four guesses as to what everyone heard at the end of the sentence...
  • Babylon 5 has Bester's name treated like this. Anyone who has spent five minutes in the same room as Bester and is NOT a telepath would understand completely.
  • It's been noted that Project Runway fashion consultant Tim Gunn can make the word "implausible" sound like a swear word.
  • Occasionally used on Have I Got News for You as a way of Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Perhaps he should go sack himself."
  • The way Jerry Seinfeld always greets his arch-rival Newman one could easily substitute any swear word in for his name.

 Jerry: Hello... Newman.

  • The Daily Show played a clip of professional persecution junkie Bill Donohue ranting about how "every Lenten season" Catholics in America have more Political Correctness Gone Mad to put up with; Jon noted that "Lenten" really sounds like a swearword when you say it in that tone.
  • Emily Prentiss from Criminal Minds has an uncanny ability to make the phrase "Yes, ma'am" sound like a particularly blunt and vicious "Fuck you sideways and the horse you rode in on too".
  • Robin Hood. The episode name and Title Drop of "Peace? Off!" would sound like a swear to a British person more than an American, although the swear is not unfamiliar to the latter.


  • In some translations of The Bible, in the book of Job, Satan dares God to strike Job to take away all that he has and see if he won't "bless" God for it, in which the intended meaning (as pointed out in most other translations) is to "curse" God.

Stand Up Comedy

  • From Dane Cook's Vicious Circle special:

 I said, "God bless you"... but it kind of sounded like "Cover your fucking mouth." Incognito.

    • PEACE OFF!
  • Oddly enough Sam Kinison, who normally had no problem bombing the neighborhood, used one when describing his second ex-wife: "God bless 'er!" delivered in a jaw-clenched tone that clearly implies an alternate meaning.


  • At one point in Hair, a character says "Thank you, Sandy"; the stage directions call for it to be intoned as "Fuck you, Sandy."
  • One Touch of Venus has this at the end of the title song:

 Mix a little bit of goddess,

A little bit of damsel,

And life is just one goddess damsel cinch.

Video Games

  • Mass Effect gives us a particularly wonderful line on the subject:

  Ashley Williams: "Why is it that whenever someone says 'with all due respect' they really mean 'kiss my ass'?"

Web Comics

  • "The gnome was muttering to himself, too, in a low, unpleasant manner. He didn't so much curse as deliver each word as if he were cursing, so that 'Butter and bedknobs!' came out sounding like something you'd use to send a demon back to the abyss." - Little Creature and the Redcap by Ursula Vernon.

Web Original

  • Five words--"Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!"
  • In the Homestar Runner cartoon "Donut Unto Others", Homestar opens a donut stand near Bubs' Concession Stand. Bubs comes up to Homestar and makes small talk... at the top of his lungs, in a threatening tone, and with his face solid red. Homestar, ever-oblivious, takes a few minutes to realize "Are we in a fight?"

Western Animation

  • In one episode of X-Men, Wolverine infiltrates an anti-mutant hate group, the Friends of Humanity, by posing as a trashy, mutant-hating bigot. He plays the role to the letter, down to growling "mutant" like a swear word.
  • In Gargoyles, just about any time Goliath says "Xanatos."
  • Despite its very family friendly tone, A Charlie Brown Christmas has one.

 Charlie Brown: Man's best friend...

  • In the pilot movie/first two episodes of Young Justice, Kid Flash takes issue with Robin's disappearing act antics and calls him on it: "Way to be a team player, Rob." He comes down hard on the nickname, and it's clear to this troper that it's a placeholder for Robin's real first name, which Kid Flash knows... and which doubles as a pretty vicious curse.
  • Adventure Time is full of this.
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