Neil Patrick Harris is sorry for using the T word, not that one. Offensive or no biggie?

When you hear that someone used the T word, you think twat, right? That’s the first word that came to mind for me, because it’s like the PG-13 version of c*nt, and that’s the C word. Only Neil Patrick Harris said another T word, one that is considered offensive to members of the LGBT community, “Tr-nny.” Harris was co-hosting “Live With Kelly” last Thursday when he took part in a science segment in which he inhaled a gas called sulfur hexafluoride, which makes your voice sound very deep, kind of like helium but with the opposite effect. After his voice got all deep, Harris did the “put the lotion in the basket” line from Silence of the Lambs (at 2:05). A little later he said “I’ve never sounded more like a tr-nny in my life.” It made sense in context, since the character who said that was a transvestite. Harris later apologized on Twitter. Not everyone knows that “Tr-nny” is an offensive word, but you would expect that Harris would realize that he shouldn’t say it on television. He did and he said sorry for it.

How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris was guest-hosting on Live With Kelly Thursday with special guest Science Bob, and during their fun experiment, NPH accidentally said the T-word.

And what word might that be, you ask?


Science Bob had Kelly Ripa and the actor inhale sulfur hexafluoride, or as he calls it “helium’s evil twin,” which makes your voice sound extremely deep.

While we laughed listening to Ripa’s Darth Vader impersonation and Harris’ Buffalo Bill infamous quote from The Silence of the Lambs, “Put the lotion in the basket,” things got a little awkward when he followed with, “I’ve never sounded more like a tr-nny in my life.”

Knowing that he might get some backlash, the actor tweeted, “Truly sorry for saying the word ‘tr-nny’ on Live this week. Twice! Should have been more thoughtful. Didn’t at all mean to offend.”

[From E! Online]

This reminds me of when Jennifer Aniston called herself the R word on television. They’re words that used to be usually casually, but that are iffy now. The T word can be used in a joking way too. I found this video where a transgender person said that “tr-nny” is just slang and she doesn’t find it offensive. Others say that it’s the context in which the word is used. Unlike Aniston, Harris realized his mistake and he apologized pretty quickly though. It seems like a non-issue.

Also, I love how Kelly doesn’t know the difference between a compound and an element and asks if inhaling some gas will make her gain weight.

Here are some photos of Neil and his partner, David Burtka, at The Trevor Project’s 2011 Trevor Live event yesterday. (Kaiser covered LeAnn Rimes’ dress earlier.) They look good! They’re also shown on 11/12 at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s 40th anniversary auction. Credit: Nikki Nelson/

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64 Responses to “Neil Patrick Harris is sorry for using the T word, not that one. Offensive or no biggie?”

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  1. mln76 says:

    Yes grown-ups and sensitive people apologize when they make human mistakes. Just the act of acknowledging these groups educates the public at large about being respectful. NPH >the Nitwit Plastic Hacktress any and every day of the week.

  2. rogue says:

    The world is getting way too PC!!!!!!!!


    • Silk Spectre says:

      So true! Same issue with the word “gypsy” some weeks back.

    • Ari says:

      I totally agree, I rolled my eyes because Tranny is not even remotely offensive lol…its means what it implies. Its like Scotty for Scott. Please lets get over ourselves already.

      I want to know what the R word is too LOL

    • leetruth says:

      Come on people! Very soon everybody will find themselves with no words to use.

    • the original bellaluna says:

      There will ALWAYS be SOMEONE who finds SOME WORD offencive. It’s gotten to the point of ridiculousness.

  3. JaneWonderfalls says:

    I like Neil Patrick and as a huge supporter of the LBGT community, I feel no one will make this as much of a big deal as the media, but he apologized and I believe he’s sincere so all is forgiven.

  4. WillyNilly says:

    All of my gay friends say tranny… as do my tranny friends. I guess if you’re looking for a deeper meaning you can find anything offensive.

    • Marjalane says:

      Seriously. I wonder if some people go through life with no other mission than to find reasons to be offended. Screw ’em.

    • MW says:

      @Marjalane – You are so right. Some people just live to get all indignant and offended. They are probably just miserable people looking for a reason to point at everyone else and appear to be righteously righteous.

    • sammib says:

      I agree. I used to have a tranny room mate and she used it all the time. We all did! And my gay mates do also. In fact they call me tranny all the time cos I’m a girl with a deep husky voice LOL!

  5. Hollowdoll says:

    Neil is amazing. He spoke as if he was making a joke to some close friends. There was no malice behind it. He erred on the size of caution and apologized. No big deal. We have to be careful with our words, however this should not be blown out of proportion.
    I was not offended.

  6. I seriously never realized “Tranny” was considered an offensive term and I consider myself a PC person.

  7. Otter says:

    What is the “R” word? Republican?

  8. Vanden says:

    They’re a sweet couple, i didn’t know that tranny was offensive, especially since Buffalo Bill was one. I understand if it was used as an insult but it wasn’t. If i did an impression of Elton John and said ‘man i’ve never sounded so gay’ is that offensive too?

    Either way it’s nice that he apologised just in case he did offend someone. I hope he doesn’t get any flack for it

    • WillyNilly says:

      Well, that would be a little different because “sounding gay” is usually used in a derogatory manner meaning effiminate (of which Elton is not, anyway). Someone would sound like a tranny if they looked like a dolled up woman but their voice was super super deep. Hmm, I dunno. You’re right though, in that you would have to apply meaning to it. To moi, NPH applied meaning in a derogatory manner himself, hence the apology. I’m curious what would have happened if he let it blow over.

      Queen and queer are both of their own political caliber, however, and I don’t touch either since they’re both primarily used to offend within and toward the gay population. That is not ‘my’ word to use, you know what I mean?

  9. Girl says:

    He’s a class act. People said they were hurt by it. He apologized. End of story, hopefully. I think the context matters. What he said vs. “Eww, she looks like a freakin’ tranny”? I think he was fine to say it personally but I’m not part of the LGBT community and haven’t been discriminated against as such so I don’t think I’m the best arbiter.

  10. Leigh says:

    That clip is freaking great.
    What’s the R word???

  11. WickedSteppMom says:

    For those asking, Jennifer Aniston called herself a retard/retarded. (I don’t recall exactly which she said.) Many people who are mentally disabled/have mentally disabled family or friends find that word offensive, especially when used in that way. There are also people who take offense at every little thing-ie, I have epilepsy & have no problem calling MYSELF an epileptic, but my mother will tell people “My daughter is a person with epilepsy, NOT an epileptic!!” *Sigh* Some people just need to relax a little bit.

    • WillyNilly says:

      Huh. I wasn’t aware that being epileptic was something offensive. You learn something new every day! 🙂

      • Ducky La Rue says:

        @WillyNilly – it’s not that having epilepsy is considered offensive, but that the word “epileptic” is perceived as reducing the person to a sufferer of a disease/disorder. I ran into the same issue at work with “diabetic” vs. “people with diabetes”. Some people have no problem with it, but others can be really sensitive about the terminology, so we try to accommodate.

  12. Laurie M. says:

    Is this an example of transsexuals and perhaps some members of the gay community can use the term “tranny” amongst themselves, but the public at large is not supposed to say the word? Just trying to navigate the ever-difficult PC waters these days!

  13. Sarah Jackson says:

    I hate all this political correctness. I can’t say chola. I can’t say retarded. I can’t say midget, or fat; now it’s “horizontally challenged”. I can’t say gypsy, or Indian, or blind, or gay, and now I can’t say tranny? Excuse me while I tell my husband that he has to use the full word (transmission) in the garage so he doesn’t offend anyone.

    • lin234 says:

      Why is Gypsy offensive? Or Indian or blind? If the word blind is offensive wouldn’t the word deaf be just as offensive? Yesh it feels like it’s too politically correct.

      People get offended at being called a diabetic??!? You really can’t please everyone.

      As for the word retarded, growing up it was just another term like calling each other stupid in a joking manner. I actually wasn’t aware it was a iffy word until reading about Aniston but then again it’s not a word I’ve used since elementary.

  14. txvxf says:

    The R word? I have no idea what that would be.

  15. MorticiansDoItDeader says:

    NPH and his partner were in Harold and
    Kumar’s 3D Christmas, and their part was hilarious! NPH was a crack smoking womanizer a lá Charlie Sheen, and he paid David to pretend they were gay because it helped him bed more women! LOL

  16. shawna says:

    PC is getting way out of hand. Tranny??? That is offensive?

  17. only1shmoo says:

    So is it offensive now if a French person says that they’re “en retard” b/c they’ve utilized the “R” word? Maybe if trannies didn’t have their literal & figurative panties up in such a bunch they would see how pointless and juvenile their complaint is.

    • WillyNilly says:

      That’s a little unfair. No tranvestite even complained, to my knowledge. Its the media’s panties you’re concerned with.

  18. Newtsgal says:

    I am sooooo over this PC crap…..people need to stop being so sensitive and grow a damn pair!
    You can’t say this and you can’t say that…just get over yourself already.

  19. jay says:

    Oh, please, as pointed out, it is in the context and intent of the use of the word. It isn’t all about being PC and walking on eggshells; it IS about being respectful of another person. I sincerely doubt that is a hard concept to understand.

    And using the word tranny in relation to a car part is definitely in context with it’s usage, the car being allowed to just “be” itself with no smirking involved; see? easy peasy.-;

    • vicky says:

      You need to chill out and get a sense of humor.

      The transmission comment was funny!

      • WillyNilly says:

        You must be a diabetic. Ahem.

        TOTAL 😉

      • jay says:

        Actually, I thought the car joke was mildly amusing, hence the “wink”. I guess a full on “guffah” woulda been more appropriate? I still say that my point stands….be respectful of people and understand that what you find amusing may very well be hurtful to someone else. It’s not rocket science, it’s not brain surgery, although a few that spout some of the crap out there could use some, and just learn to live and let live. Big, honkin’ :-).


  20. whatevs says:

    i hate this couple ever since that amy winehouse halloween dinner scandal (google it, not for the faint of the heart) it was just heartless and disgusting. and also jennifer aniston was disgusting for saying the r word too because it wasn’t even so casual. she said “i dress up and play for a living, like a retard”. children play dress up and retarded people; the ones she is referring to, are still child-minded. they cannot help their condition and shouldn’t be made fun of or spoken of in such a light manner. she is disgusting and so is nph and his vile bf

  21. sassenach says:

    I really don’t think you can compare Aniston’s mishap to NPH. I had no idea that tranny was offensive since it seems short for transvestite. Aniston’s statement was insensitive and really makes her seem like she is dim.

  22. Feebee says:

    I can’t keep up… had no idea that tranny was now deemed offensive.

  23. lee says:

    ok, I get that people want to rebel aganist what they see as people being too PC, but you need to think about the history and the meaning of these words. Tranny was commonly used to dehumanize people who are transgendered and claiming that you sound like a tranny when your voice is deep and gravelly is actually pretty offensive too because it plays on the idea that a trans woman is truly a man with a mans voice and can’t possibly pass as a woman.

    that being said, I think NPH really didn’t mean to be offensive and that’s worth taking into account too. he apologized right away and clearly, a lot of people were unaware that the language he used might be offensive and thus drawing attention to the issue will hopefully have a positive effect in the end.

    I get that we shouldn’t jump down every well meaning person’s throat when they make an honnest mistake, but it’s also important to be mindful and conscientious.

    p.s. it’s easy to chalk these things up to overly sensitive people when you’re surrounded by privilege. let’s try and keep that in mind.

    • skilo says:

      I’ve always known people to use tranny as a short form or slang form of transvestite . Rupaul is a transvestite and he sings a song a song “Tranny Chasers” I never knew anyone gay or transvestite to be offended by it. But I think it’s also the spirit in which it’s said and the comfortableness of the parties relating to each other.

    • olcranky says:

      but let’s be honest, almost everyone (except for maybe the Baha’i stuck in Iran) have some degree of privilege at some level and we have gotten to a level of idiocy in attacking people for way too many words regardless of the context/tone/manner/intent in which the word was used.

    • Lindy says:

      Beautifully stated. Thanks for the reminder, lee.

  24. the original bellaluna says:

    FTR, the “R word” used was “retard” which is offensive to the developmentally disabled and their families and friends.

    NPH & his man are so adorable! And have you seen their twins? Adorable squared!

  25. Penguin says:

    I work as a ER nurse. Some of my colleagues and I got into trouble cos we described 1 of the patients as ” the big lady in the corner”. She heard us and even though she weighed 448 pounds she was very offended that we called her big and put in a formal complaint.

    • olcranky says:

      I probably shouldn’t repeat this but it happened 20 years ago when I was working in the ICU and a patient’s family was ripping into the unit director because their loved one was having quite a few complications after a bypass. The unit director made the mistake of trying to politely explain that their loved one was morbidly obese when the wife ripped into him screaming you can call my husband obese but how dare you use the word morbid. a bunch of us slipped out the door before she could start screaming at us (and because I’d just peed my pants trying not to laugh).

  26. skilo says:

    I think most people of my generation have always used tranny as short for transvestite. I think the offense is mostly taken by transsexuals, I think it might be because the transsexual community is often treated much worse in society than transvestites.

    It’s really easy to be ignorant of what words are offensive and unpc when it’s constantly changing.

    • olcranky says:

      funny, up until relatively recently, the only people I know who used the word often were transgendered themselves

      • WillyNilly says:

        Really? We’ve been saying it since the 90’s.

      • olcranky says:

        @ Willy – in all fairness, I spent much of the 90’s surrounded by a lot of LGBT friends and acquaintances and, since then, I still don’t hear the word used too often outside those circles of friends. Not even among my group of decidedly un PC friends.

  27. Ahappyrobot says:

    It is my understanding that “tranny” is offensive when referring to a transgendered person (someone who does not identify with the gender/body they were born with), not necessarily when referring to a transvestite (someone who is comfortable with their gender and dresses up as the opposite sex for fun or whatever).
    I know some professional female impersonators that refer to themselves and co-workers as “trannies” – Its an ok slang word when dressed up. Otherwise they are just gay dudes (all the ones I know, at least). But they would never call a transgendered person a tranny- it’s not the same. Some consider it a disorder, and it is insensitive (and ignorant) to refer to a transgendered person as a “tranny”, when they are
    uncpmfortable and struggling to match their outside with how they feel inside, not dressing up for kicks. Calling them a “tranny” makes them feel like you’re making fun of them. Why would you make fun of someone with a disorder? It’s mean.
    Sure, some people can get all up in arms about anything. Do I think some Trans people are overly sensitive? Yes. (Not everyone knows the distinction, and not everyone is going to be sure how to address you, especially if you don’t yet “pass”). But some people are overly insensitive, too. So instead of getting upset that things are “too PC”, why not just cut people, who are often given a hard time because they are different, a little slack and refer to them how they want to be referred to? It’s an easy kindness.
    That said, I’m sure NPH wasn’taking fun of transgendered (women trapped in men’s bodies) people… He sounded like a transvestite because they are dudes. This is no biggie. But good on him for being sensitive to the misperception that many people have as to what a tranny actually is. NPH is the best.

    • WillyNilly says:

      Thank you for clarifying. I, too, think most people were referring to transvestites, not transgendered. But the distinction is very important, absolutely.

    • Andria says:

      YES! Thank you. In my community “tranny” is a term happily used by transvestites and their friends. It is not used to refer to transgendered (aka “trans”). folk.

      <3 NPH

  28. Lotr Dork says:

    Damn he is so fine

  29. Jayna says:

    Somebody else was called out on it recently.

  30. Isa says:

    I thought the T word he used was going to be “taint”

  31. Heine says:

    I was honestly confused as to which ‘t’ word was being used. I have never heard of anyone taking offense to the word ‘tranny’-though I will say I would never call my friend’s husband a tranny because he’s transgendered and it seems…off to say that about him. But I have used to the word tranny around him in reference to transvestites and drag queens and he’s uses tranny the same way so…

    From what I can gather, it’s ok if you are talking about transvestites and drag queens but not ok when talking about transgendered people.

    I don’t think Neil Patrick Harris should have apologized since he was clearly making a joke in reference to a transvestite, not a transgendered person.

  32. Penguin says:

    I always thought “tranny” was short for transvestite not transgendered.