Garonne (garonne) wrote in linguaphiles,

phonetically related milder versions of stronger swear words


It seems to me that in some languages, swear words often come in phonetically related pairs, one strong word and one milder equivalent which sounds similar.

Like in English, one can say:
fudge instead of fuck
sugar instead of shit
heck instead of hell

In French one can say:
punaise instead of putain
mince instead of merde

Does anyone have nice examples from other languages, or even better, examples of languages where people DON'T ever do this?

Note that I'm specifically talking about cases where one word is being (consciously or subconsciously) used as a phonetic replacement for the other, stronger one, e.g. I doubt anyone would be going around exclaiming 'Fudge!' in English if the exclamation 'Fuck!' didn't already exist. However German Mist may be a milder version of Scheisse, but they're related by meaning, not by sound.

Etymological comments on potential pairs welcome too. This whole post was prompted by a discussion with someone who insisted that mince was a swear word in its own right and would exist even if merde didn't. Maybe they're right - I couldn't manage to confirm it either way.

Tags: euphemisms
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