On Bad Language

Some time ago when my mom was visiting from the States she passed a little girl who was about 4 or 5 years old in the supermarket who knocked something over.  Her response was to loudly shout, “Oh bugger!” My mom didn’t really take notice since she saw no problem with the girl’s exclamation, but HER mum did take notice and promptly turned on her heel, looked at the girl and snapped, “Whatdidyousay?” The little girl replied, “I said pugger!  I said pugger,” frantically trying to dig herself out of the trouble that she was already in.

You see, in Americans’ eyes words like bugger are just innocent little things those lovely, quirky British people say.  The best evidence for this is the sheer number of times Cpt Jack Sparrow says “bugger”  in Disney-produced Pirates of the Caribbean (what I would consider a children’s film).  I reckon if we counted them all up it would be hundreds.

The problem is bugger and its definition is NOT a good word, in fact it is a BAD word.  However, I too think that it’s just another one of those little English colloquialisms that is just oh so cute and have selected it as my word of choice when I am surprised, frustrated or injured.  I usually equate it to other innocent phrases like “Old boy ” and “Cheerio,” until the other day when I dropped a can in a supermarket and shouted out the same as the little girl did all of those months ago.  A man close in age turned to look at me with surprise and chuckled at my choice of words and so I was again reminded that it is, in fact, a rude word.

Of course, I was also reminded that I now have a British daughter, even if I haven’t grown up with it being a bit of a bad word, it will be to her in the years to come.  And whether I have to implement a ‘naughty word jar” for myself or pull out the bar of soap, the mission begins of trying to un-learn those bad words, those words that are harmless in America, that have become a part of my lexicon, but could land The Duchess in hot water if at a young, tender age she is sweetly standing in front of her teacher’s desk, showing off one of her phenomenal pieces of work, drops it, and decides to shout “Oh bugger!”


5 thoughts on “On Bad Language

  1. Lauren

    Is “bugger” better or worse that the “dog’s bollocks”? Hehe 🙂 And PS – I like the new graphic at the top…is that The Duchess?

  2. Deborah

    Love the new picture at the top. Great post, Are there any other common phrases that are okay in America but mean something totally different over there? When I was in Australia I remember it being a big no no to call that bag older tourists often wear on their tummy a “fanny pack” because of what fanny means over there. I’m sure there were more, but its been 6 years now since I was there so I can’t remember…

  3. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

    Yes, that is The Duchess in all of her houndstoothed glory. The dog’s bollocks actually means something is great, and while not a nice phrase, I think it is probably a bit better than bugger.
    Fanny (giggles like a child) means the same here..I’m sure there quite a few similarities between the UK and Oz. We will have to have a virtual chat sometime, D, and I can tell you some words to avoid should you ever visit.

  4. Lanna

    isn’t “bloody” a really bad word over there? I was thinking about that last night because of how often Ron says that word in Harry Potter! It’s funny to say it here, but I was thinking it was like the equivalent of the f bomb over there!

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Thanks for posting, Lanna! “Bloody” is a bad word, but it’s not nearly as bad as the f bomb. It’s one of those words that’s not nice, but isn’t terrible. You wouldn’t really want to say it in front of a conservative grandma.


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