1. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Swear words in fantasy.

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Safety Turtle, Oct 7, 2016.

    This is something I recently came to think about as I was trying to find a substitute word for "hell" (as in "what the hell is going on?!") in a fantasy world that doesn't have a concept of hell, and I got curious about swear words in fantasy.

    Often it seems to me that fantasy swear words ends up sounding silly ("by the beard of my ancestors") though.

    After doing some digging I found out that the words "fuck" and "cunt" have been in use as far back as the 16th century, more interestingly to me though was the word of the use "sard" earlier and I've considered adopting this for my own story, as it's sort of a cool word.

    Have any of you invented swear words for your fantasy stories and if so, what were they and how did you come up with it?
     
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  2. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have not on the grounds that swear words, or the subjects of them or more or less universal. That which is unwanted. No one wants excrement around, explaining "shit". Same with bastards and no one wants to go to hell". Look at your culture, ask what is unwanted or taboo, and try to keep it short. I can't think of a swear over two syllables.
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Making them up can be effective if the epithets have a basis in the world, but I also just use normal swear words. The point of time at which they came into use in the real word is irrelevant, in my view, because you're writing in a fantasy world not bound by real history.
     
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  4. yellowducky
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    yellowducky Banned

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    After doing some digging I found out that the words "fuck" and "cunt" have been in use as far back as the 16th century, more interestingly to me though was the word of the use "sard" earlier and I've considered adopting this for my own story, as it's sort of a cool word.


    I think swear words are very bad in a story unless you want weridos and creeps to read ur story no offence but you might get some inspiration from NOT USING SWEAR WORDS and might come up with a better paragraph ... I donno I think its bad language and if your story is good well then you don't NEED SWEAR WORDS.But its up to you . :)
     
  5. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    On the contrary I find that using swear words makes characters more relateable.
    Swear words aren't just used by "weirdos and creeps", far from it, and whether or not a character swears have nothing to do with how good a story is.
     
  6. yellowducky
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    yellowducky Banned

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    That's true but if all your characters swear you might aswell make up a crime scene book that would work :) a gangster book.
     
  7. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    I don't see what a crime book has to do with it honestly...some people swear, other's do not and swearing is a common thing in our world...I almost feel like a fantasy story would seem too weird and strange without it.
    It's a normal and natural way for people to express themselves.
     
  8. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say using our real-world swear words in fantasy stretches suspension of disbelief no farther than using other non-swear words. I'd also think that making up swear words could sound contrived and eye-roll-worthy unless done really well. I think this is one of those cases where suspension of disbelief has you covered and most readers would find this to be an acceptable break from the "reality" of the fantasy world.

    On the other hand, if done for comedy or for children's stories, making up your own swear words might add to the experience.

    However, I say this as having not written fantasy that doesn't have grounding in our world, so...
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed with @xanadu. Contrived swearwords always sound contrived to me. Much as I love Larry Niven and all his Known Space books, his constant use of tanj (there ain't no justice) as a faux, futuristic explicative always makes me die a little inside. It's got absolutely no grounding in good linguistics. It's just... bad. Bad, bad, bad.

    I'm not saying don't do it. Every once in a blue someone comes up with one that strikes a chord and feels right, like frak from BSG, but this is so very, very rare.
     
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  10. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    It's funny you mention frak, because that's one of the words I thought about...I dunno if it works because it's so close to "fuck".

    I think what I struggle mostly with is words like "hell"...and not just as a swear word but in general.
    For us, because of Christianity etc, hell has a special meaning, so when someone says "it's been hell", we know it's been hard/tough/etc...but if a fantasy world has no concept of a hell, to me it would seem weird to use it, and yet, I find that I sort of "miss" the word or something like it.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    One that comes to my mind is from Steven Brust's Dragaeran histories, which started as a sort of nod to Dumas. There is the mild epithet or exclamation "Blood of the Horse!" that I think gets shortened to "The Horse!" and refers to some specific event at an important battle in the world's history. It is mostly used by solider-types, I believe, and particularly those who were actually present for the battle. That's my recollection, in any event. Something like that bothers me not in the least. Generic made-up epithets like "by my ancestor's beard" do bug me.
     
  12. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Swear words are not just used by weirdos and creeps, al I can think is that you must have led a very sheltered life ... ATEOD it really depends on what you are writing about, i've mentioned before the beta reader who thought by short story about mercenaries in the belgian congo had too much swearing and violence :D... if you are writing about soldier, cops, criminals, bikers, rock stars, teenagers etc then some swearing is necessary to make the dialogue realistic

    If you are writing a period romance , not so much " reader I fucked him" doesnt really work
     
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  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Probably. There was even the episode where Cally makes use of the derivative 'mother-frakker" and Galen later laughs at her use of this word and you almost feel a 4th wall break, as though he's laughing in the story line and also laughing along with us, the audience, at the use of this derivative.

    I know what mean here, since "hell" has a much broader web of cultural ties to its etymology that makes using it feel like you're skirting anachronism within a story that doesn't have a "hell", or if it has something similar it's called something else. You'll have to feel this one out. I personally would probably not even notice its use in the manner you indicate, since it's much more figurative. It's not like some person in the story is discussing the actual Christian Hell, which, yes, that would stand out to me as wonky and out of place.
     
  14. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Oooh I remember that episode, did have myself a good chuckle over that ^^ "mother-frakker"...brilliant ^^
    Also, Boomer, best waifu :love:

    Most people probably wouldn't even raise an eyebrow over "hell" in a fantasy story, I just know it would bother me writing it ^^
     
  15. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I put stuff like this in the same bucket as other, non-swear things like the sun and the moon...in a fantasy world that isn't Earth. We just go with it because it's so natural that any attempt to be more "realistic" to the fantasy world feels so out-of-place that it distracts from the story.

    Of course, anything like this can be done well. But if it isn't, I find it to be really, really noticeable.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm pretty sure the derivation of the word "hell" extends beyond it's more modern Christian association. I don't think it would be problematic in a fantasy story if you look at those origins, and also if you look at the definitions of the word that do not relate to its function as a proper noun.
     
  17. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    the thing that makes me laugh is when people use 'frig' as a stand in for fuck , thinking they are being jolly decent, and not realising that frig is a swear word in its own right reffering to the act of female masturbation
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    We had a thread not long ago that discussed alternate terms for sun and moon on a planet that isn't Earth. I agree completely. If I were to read a book that contained the dialogue: "The Tau Ceti-set is particularly lovely this evening." that's probably as far into the story as I would read. ;)
     
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  19. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Incidentally the romans used to use the latin for cunt as a swearword - I saw an interview with Anthony Riches (author of the empire series about the roman army ) where he defended his liberal use of 'fuck' in dialogue by saying that it would have been more historically accurate to use cunt, but that he felt fuck was more acceptable to modern readers
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Wreybies you're still using English, which makes no sense in a fantasy world. What your character would really say is:

    "Xmq Xwt Eqxn-rqx ur ywvxuetpwvpb pisqpb xmur qsqgugo"
     
  21. yellowducky
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    yellowducky Banned

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    Yes but seriously do people WANT to read swear words ,like I said you can express yourself without swear words. !!!
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Given the popularity of fantasy novels (and other novels) that have swear words in them, I'd say it doesn't bother a lot of people.
     
  23. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    People want what they are reading to be realistic - so if the book is about say mercenaries in the belgian congo then they want the characters to speak and act like mercenaries - which means a fair bit of swearing (the same is true of police, bikers and the other examples i mentioned)

    Of course if you are reading say Pride and Predjuduice you don't expect " well" Said Lizzie " that Mr Darcy strikes me as a complete wanker, but I wouldn't mind if he fucked me senseless"

    That is its not about swearing for the sake of it , its about appropriate cultural context (of course some people don't like to read swear words regardless, in which case they are free not to read books with them in)
     
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  24. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    I don't really see is as people wanting to read them, but it's natural.
    Some people don't want to read about characters having sex, but that's natural as well...you can still tell a good story without sex...or violence...or many other things, I see no reason to single out swearing.
     
  25. yellowducky
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    yellowducky Banned

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    SNAP (then don't use swear words)

    "you can still tell a good story without sex...or violence"


    LOL safety turle don't use swear words LOL :D
     

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