One of children’s television’s greatest lessons is that anything can be an expletive if used in the right way. Characters, no matter how adorable or steadfast, experience authentic emotions. They get scared. They get angry. They get frustrated. And, every so often, they need to let a bad word fly. While cursing on children’s shows is not allowed, writers find clever ways to work in squeaky clean substitutions that serve the same purpose. Here are the ten we use when we’re really fucking pissed.
It’s a classic. And in use, especially when the “ee” sound is drawn out, it really does the same work as stretching out the word “shit” in a defeated manner. Especially good for expressing sarcasm, or when modified to “gee-whiz.”
Shaggy’s favorite expletive on Scooby Doo, used to express fright or panic, and a family-friendly substitute for “holy shit” or just “my god, I’m stoned.” It’s a beauty.
Arguably the laziest of censor swears, “darn” is most commonly employed following “gosh” by bashful characters. This one’s also often modified to “dang,” such as in the full phrase “dang it,” which kids and adults alike shout in almost every episode of The Loud House.
It’s a mouthful for sure, but “fiddlesticks” has proven its worth in all manner of TV scenarios, from disappointment to frustration to general upset. A favorite of the Blue Senturion from Power Rangers Turbo.
“Fooey” indicates strong disregard for something, dismissing either its veracity or merits, and usually replacing “bullshit.” Nowadays, it tends to show up less than “hogwash,” but “fooey” retains this beautiful, exclamatory emphasis.
Why go through the effort of replacing curse words individually when you can employ a blanket term? “Smurf,” from, yes, The Smurfs, was the go-to base word for a lot of sayings in their shrunk down world, but worked particularly well as an expletive. Sure, may not be the smurfest censor, but it sure does get the smurf done.
“Shiitake mushrooms” deserves credit for phonetically fitting in the original swear behind its use right into the actual fungi name, making for a solid on-air method to get the best of both worlds.
“Hell” is certainly outlawed on kid’s TV, but every so often a plot necessitates a reference that fiery place where bad people go. Some shows, like Adventure Time, go a generic route with names like “The Land of the Dead,” but others, like Rocko’s Modern Life, purposefully play off of the overly-sanitized “Heck” in the infamous episode “To Heck and Back.”
Sometimes, instead of modifying a swear to get past censors, the most useful substitutions are simply words pulled from everyday life or the world of a show. We like how the teachers in Danny Phantom curse using titles of classic literature (“Great Gatsby! What’s going on?”). But our favorite example of this is how SpongeBob likes to employ terms like “tartar sauce!” when he needs to swear.
Sometimes the most useful G-rated swears are the ones that mean absolutely nothing at all. Yosemite Sam from Looney Tunes was a particularly big fan of this method, uttering strings of nonsensical, garbled variations of “rackin,” “rickin,” and “rassen-frassen.” It just goes to show that anything can be a decent swear with the right emphasis.