On Replacement Words: “Son of a bee sting!”

“Son of a bee sting! We’d better not miss the bus!”

“Did you just say ‘son of a bee sting?’” whispered his friend.

These were the words we heard during a ride on a shuttle bus – actually, it was a rickety old school bus – from a parking lot to the Strawberry Festival in Oxnard, California last weekend. My husband and I found ourselves surrounded by a funny, attractive gaggle of teenagers. Actually, they surrounded a funny, stunningly beautiful, dark-haired girl named Josie, and the boys were vying for her attention. They didn’t mind that she snorted when she laughed; it just made them laugh even more appreciatively.

After the bus driver stood up and delivered a set of serious instructions in quite an authoritative manner, one of the boys replied with the “bee sting” comment above. Josie cracked up. Then she burst into song: “The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round…” and the others joined in enthusiastically.

Woman Covering Mouth --- Image by © moodboard/CorbisI couldn’t help it. I giggled, and my husband laughed as well. They looked at us and laughed even more, and for the remainder of the twenty-minute ride, included us in their silly conversation.  I kept thinking about how old we must appear to them – decades older. A lifetime away from our teens and twenties. They were having a blast as only kids that age can, and it was a pleasure to witness.

I had to key the “bee sting” comment into the notepad on my phone to remember for later. The novel I am working on is intended for a Christian audience and I want to avoid foul language. However, conflicts between my characters occur that, well, warrant the use of a few choice words.  But I don’t want to turn off my readers. My first draft had obvious cuss words that needed to be removed. I’ve even eliminated “crap” from the dialogue. (I loved that show, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and would laugh when the father, Frank Barone, would say “holy crap!”)

Irreverent, funny language like “son of a bee sting” won’t be appropriate for the serious issues I tackle in my novel, but it’s still fun to explore replacement words.

I asked a couple of student workers at my workplace – a secular, private university – about replacement words they use. One, a Mormon, said replacement words are customary among her friends. Her favorite is: “Shut the front door!” But she says that it basically means the same thing as the commonly used f-word phrase, so she tries to avoid using it.

When I was in high school and college back in the 80’s and 90’s, my Christian friends and I would use:

  • Pick
  • Frick
  • Dang
  • Shoot
  • Darn
  • Piss (oddly, this word was okay to use even at the Christian liberal arts college I attended and the Bible college I worked at for several years)

Nowadays, here are my most frequently used replacement words:

  • Crack!
  • Dagnabit!
  • Fuji film!
  • Ding dang it!
  • Caca pooey!
  • Cheekaboongas!

And my husband’s favorites are:

  • Chingowa!
  • Son of a buck!
  • I swear to George!
  • Hot damn!
  • Fudge balls!
  • Dufus!
  • Bonehead!
  • Holy smokin’ samolees!
  • You wally!

Alone in my car, or in my journal, or venting to my husband, the real stuff comes out. I do believe that sometimes, a choice four-letter-word is the most appropriate word for a given situation. But most of the time, usage of nasty language reflects a lack of discipline on my part. Or it simply displays a lack of originality.

Shakespeare was the consummate purveyor of unique insults:

“Thou smell of mountain goat.”

“Out, you baggage! You tallow face!”

“The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.”

“She is spherical, like a globe. I could find countries in her.”

Check out these awesome Quotation Magnets: Set of Magnets with Shakespeare Insults at Amazon.com.

Shakespeare's Insults

There’s even a video on YouTube.com: Replacement Words: When Swearing is Not an Option. The video doesn’t provide the name of the stand up comedian, dang it.

UrbanDictionary.com defines replacement words as this: Words that replace curse words and are usually immature, obnoxious, and unnecessary.

Jack: “What the fruit is going on here?”
Jill: “What didn’t you just say f***?”
Jack: “Oh, I’m trying to stay appropriate for the kids, so I’m using replacement words.”

I don’t agree with their definition, but I thought I’d share anyway.

What are your favorite replacement words?

Which replacement words would be appropriate in a serious confrontation between two characters?