‘Clean’ cuss words to swear by

The Gaali Project, a curation of swear words started by two-like minded women seeks to scout out words without any bias

By   |  Published: 13th Jan 2021  12:35 amUpdated: 12th Jan 2021  4:41 pm
Left to Right: Neha Thakur and Tamanna Mishra

Whenever we curse, chances are it’s most definitely going to be something that denigrates women. Almost every curse word commonly used in Indian society today is misogynistic and insulting to religion, caste, gender, and sect.

So when the lockdown left two women with some extra time on their hands, they decided to compile a list of ‘clean’ cuss words.

They called it ‘The Gaali Project’. Between the two of them, Tamanna Mishra and Neha Thakur, both former colleagues, have managed to pull together some 800 cuss words from across India, thanks to their friends, family and entries sent in to their Instagram page. “We are living in a time where we used swear words freely. It’s okay to vent, but it should be the right word. Most often, the curse words are casteist slurs, steeped in patriarchy and demeaning to minorities. As colleagues, we had many conversations about such words. Our idea behind ‘The Gaali Project’ was to find words that let one vent their frustration without being harmful to anyone,” explains Neha, who hosts AirBnbs and stays in Mumbai. So, instead of f&*k, think ‘bhak’, which means venting frustration or extreme disappointment.


The two women knew that finding words that didn’t perpetuate prejudices and disrespect would be tough. So, their very first batch of curse words came from friends and family members. They prepared a Google Form that they sent out on WhatsApp as well as social media and asked people to fill in their favourite “clean” swear words in their language, and use them in sentences.

“Then we started our research by Googling it, speaking to native speakers and the roots of the words. About 40 per cent of words we got were problematic which were supposedly ‘clean’,” adds Tamanna, Bengaluru-based communications consultant. But, they did find many words that were funny and allowed a person to vent.

Like ‘Aiyo mudiyala’ which means ‘I can’t tolerate this’ anymore in Tamil. The duo says one of their designers from Jaipur who made the creative for the word now uses it frequently. “We are now looking to explore words from the north-east States,” they share.

After research and understanding usage from native language speakers, Neha and Tamanna try to popularise the words through social media. Using historical memes, and Ravi Varma paintings, the girls try to lighten the loaded words with humour. So, the next time you feel like venting about a person, call them ‘bawaseer ka naaksur’.

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