Alternatives to fuck

Having posted recently on the alternative shag (of obscure origin), I was moved yesterday to wonder about other alternatives. There are a lot, some of them definitely on the obscene side themselves (a lot depends on who you talk to, but shag is still problematical for some British speakers, and frig for some American speakers, and of course the phallic denominal verbs dick and bone are as obscene as the nouns they are derived from, whatever level of obscenity that is for you).

The alternatives don’t necessarily share the full syntax of fuck; there’s a separate story for each one, and a lot of variation.

From Sheidlower’s The F Word (3rd ed.), we have the phonologically related items (most of them invented), with f … C (where C is mostly /k/ or /g/):

fark, feck, ferk, flak, fork, frak, frap, freak, frell, frick, frig, fug, futz

Then there’s a set of semantically motivated alternatives, turning on actions similar in some way to fucking; plus the phallic denominals:

screw, shaft, stuff; dick, bone

(There are probably more of these. Add to them smeg from Red Dwarf.)

And now, for you inventive types, there’s a world of existing words that could be pressed into service as alternatives. The phonologically motivated

fig, flag, flank, flick, folk, frank, frog

and the semantically motivated; plus again some phallic denominals:

fill, plank, push, thrash, shove, spear, stick; cock, prick

(No doubt readers can think of more possibilities.)


10 Responses to “Alternatives to fuck

  1. mollymooly Says:

    I doubt if any alternative is nearly as versatile as the original.

    Irish “feck” is quite wide-ranging:
    “Feck it!”
    “Feck off!”
    “the fecking thing”
    “the fecker”
    “you little fecker”
    are all very natural-sounding to me;

    but I would the following too contrived, and alluding too blatantly to the unminced original (in increasing order of blatancy):
    “What the feck…”
    “fecking terrible”
    “Feck no!”
    “we’re fecked!”
    “I don’t give a feck”
    “fecked if I know”

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Nancy Whittier on Facebook, about her daughter and swearing:

    Eva coined “holy fart” in the hopes that we would agree she could say that at school, but we suggested that it would be a bad idea. Same for “Jesus farting Christ”.

    Love “Jesus farting Christ”. Fart for fuck has real potential for the slightly faint-hearted.

  3. This Week’s Language Blog Roundup | Wordnik ~ all the words Says:

    […] song or ballad.” Perhaps to avoid the fine, one may want to use one of Arnold Zwicky’s many suggestions for replacements of, shall we say, the king of four-letter words (we like […]

  4. Aidan Wilson Says:

    I particularly like the delightful Mormon euphemisms like flip and fletch.

    Italian has a whole slew of quite vivid semantically related metaphors, such as ‘trombare’ to trombone and ‘chiavare’ to keyhole.

  5. arnold zwicky Says:

    More phonologically based alternatives, more distant than the ones in Sheidlower: beep, bleep, puck.

  6. arnold zwicky Says:

    Missed in Sheidlower: flip in flipping. Marked as chiefly British there, but it’s more widely used. Sarah Palin seems to be fond ot it.

  7. Raping and punking « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] and the OED that anal-intercourse punk can be a stand-in for fuck (so that punk is yet another alternative to fuck), in which case Cuban’s use would echo this (rather than any of the ameliorated senses) […]

  8. arnold zwicky Says:

    Both Sheidlower and I missed fudge — possibly because it seems to be used only as a free-standing expletive: “Oh, fudge, I broke my fingernail!” (but not, say, “Get the fudge out of here!”).

    (OED2 has an interjection fudge ‘nonsense!, bosh!’, of some vintage and of obscure origin, but I’m assuming that fuck-avoidance fudge is a separate development. I suspect that it’s also an American thing.)

  9. bork (the portmanteau) « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] euphemism bork for fuck (an alternative to the phonologically-based avoidance words listed here). It can be sexual: Hanners borked me in the ass! […]

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