1. Laura Mae.
    Offline

    Laura Mae. Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2010
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    UK

    Swearing in fantasy

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Laura Mae., Jun 25, 2011.

    How do your characters curse/swear at other characters? When writing modern fiction I'll have my characters using all the typical words, but with fantasy its a bit different and I don't really know whether I should use the same kind of words or make up new ones.

    I've searched the forums for threads on this but the ones I found weren't particularly helpful, and I've looked on many sites that Google found to no avail. I think maybe making up modern-sounding swear words would be better as the setting is kind of Earth-like, only fantasy to a certain extent, and although the characters won't be swearing loads, there is a need for it in certain situations. However, I have no idea how to go about it. Any ideas?
     
  2. cruciFICTION
    Offline

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,236
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    What's wrong with the S word (you know the one I mean. I mean, **** could be anything)?
    "Oh, you ****heads!" yelled Gandalf at Merry and Pippin.
    "You stink like ****," said some guy to another.

    If you want to drop the f-bomb it might sound a bit word. Same goes for the c-bomb. Bastard and prick are always good.
     
  3. Laura Mae.
    Offline

    Laura Mae. Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2010
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    UK
    I was thinking prick because I tend to use this myself lol.
     
  4. Heather
    Offline

    Heather Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2010
    Messages:
    338
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    London
    You could actually make up your own swear words, or ways in which your characters display distaste. Although not swearing, Rowling uses the phrase "Merlin's beard" rather than 'Oh my God' or '****ing hell' . . . . and I think people pick up on the context it's supposed to used in. Making you could try making up your own?

    If not, then any swearword will do, just try and avoid the C word, unless you are trying to be overlly shocking - people tend not to like that word at all :p
     
  5. Laura Mae.
    Offline

    Laura Mae. Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2010
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    UK
    As this issue occured while I was in the middle of writing a scene, all I've used so far are insults, not necessarily swear words because it's more characters insulting each other rather than saying 'oh sh*t' or anything like that. One of the characters called the other 'an outcast prick', 'a brute' and a 'barbarian'. I obviously did not make up these words but I'm hoping they sound alright, and not too forced.
     
  6. cruciFICTION
    Offline

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,236
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    SHAZBOT!

    In a modern speculative piece from a month or two back, I had a character with technologically augmented eyes (he could see using a mixture of echolocation and colour cameras, creating a strangely astounding colour and grayscale view of the world). Another character called him "freaky eyeball mother****er".
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Frack.
    Tanj.
    By Crom!
    Flup! Odius flup.
     
  8. cruciFICTION
    Offline

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,236
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    If you're referencing what I think you're referencing, then I hope you know that it got retconned to "Frak" so it could share the four letters of its real life counterpart.
     
  9. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,095
    Likes Received:
    5,305
    Location:
    California, US
    I'd go with regular swear words. Most of those have been around for a long time. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel, as it were.
     
  10. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    If you're dealing with an alien world in your fantasy, and are assuming an alien language, although some words do migrate from one geographic location to another, Anglo/Earth-type words would ring sour to me in an alien world. Two of my favorite profanities, simply because they are wierd and totally created for the "Stargate" tv series are 'frak' and 'frel'. They don't mean a thing as far as our human languages are concerned (which the likes of George Carlin and Lenny Bruce tried to inspire with our own accepted profanities) but they beautifully convey the essence of the feelings expressed.

    Which is the long way of saying, if your fantasy takes place in its own world, create your own swear words. The meaning will be conveyed in the context of the situations in which they are used.
    If your fantasy takes place on Earth, you can go with the 'norms'.
     
  11. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,095
    Likes Received:
    5,305
    Location:
    California, US
    Trying to impose a logic as a reason for making up swear words doesn't work. So what if you're dealing with an alien language? Theoretically, everything in your story then takes place in that alien language. All of the dialogue, because they aren't speaking English or any earth language. But of course you aren't writing the entire story in some made up alien language. When someone sees a deer, they don't say look at that "bogor."

    So if you're effectively "translating" the entire story into English so your readers can actually read it, what sense does it make to do something different for swear words? There's no logical necessity to it. If you want to do it for stylistic reasons, then I suppose that's fine. Otherwise, just use the regular words.

    The only reason it is done on TV shows is to get around FCC restrictions against swear words.
     
  12. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    uhh - yeh?
     
  13. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    You can look at how swearing is done in different human cultures. The most common sources of swear words seem to be religious (deities, devils, curses, etc), sexual (body parts and sexual acts) and scatological (excrements).

    So religious swear words would depend on the religious beliefs in your fictional world, sexual ones on the anatomy and mating habits of your fictional race, and so on.
     
  14. Daydream
    Offline

    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Messages:
    562
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    In another dimension.
    Frak is the best swear word ever! :p
     
  15. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Swearing casually is not common in every culture. Where I live, it's very unusual to hear people swear unless they are really angry, under pressure etc. You could have your aliens come from this type of background. Also, writers got by with no swearing for years since they couldn't publish the f-word and others. I really loathe gratuitous use of swearing in books and movies. For example, the 'bl***y *ell' in Harry Potter wasn't in the books and it was totally offensive and unnecessary. However, I must admit the first scenes of 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' are funnier because of the swearing. Just use the swearing if it has something artistic to offer.
     
  16. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,095
    Likes Received:
    5,305
    Location:
    California, US
    Yes, this would then vary by circumstance even with a culture. A group of ladies having tea and gossiping may not use foul language.

    On the other hand, in a battle scene with a group of soldiers preparing to take a trench, how realistic is it going to be to have the sergeant say "Now, lads, I'd be gratified if you would all undertake to dispossess that trench of its current occupants."

    I'd be more convinced if I read "All right lads, get your ****ing arses into that trench. Move, move, move!"
     
  17. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    There are plenty of swear words in Turkish, and even more colourful ones in Arabic, but swearing is much more serious in these cultures--like you really want to curse or insult someone. So in the example above I'd say it is not particularly common for officers to swear at their men. It doesn't mean to say that they speak in over-formal language. They just say 'Get in that trench. Now.' My source for this is my husband, who was a first lieutenant in the Turkish army when he did his compulsory military service.
     
  18. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    My favourite was in 10th Kingdom when things went wrong: "Suck an elf!"
     
  19. Phruizler
    Offline

    Phruizler Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2011
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    I've found that in most fantasy settings the swear words, when they are made up, are often religious. Things to do with the creator, the gods, or what have you often make for easy curses that might give pause to even the most foul-mouthed of louts. 'Bloody' and 'bastard' seem pervasive in most worlds. Also, things to do with animals work well because calling someone a dog or a yellow-bellied mackerel seems insulting pretty much anywhere.

    Examples from the Wheel of Time fantasy series include: "Flaming," "Blood and ashes," "Blood and bloody ashes," "Light!" and "Goat-kisser!"

    The Sword of Truth series has some of its own also, with things like "Dear spirits," and various assortments involving the "Creator," though these aren't so much swear words as they are exclamations.
     
  20. Ashrynn
    Offline

    Ashrynn Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2011
    Messages:
    170
    Likes Received:
    7
    You could call someone a 'Motherless Ogre', 'Trogg', say '****' ^, 'Hell.....'

    Etc.Etc.

    Be fun with it!
     
  21. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    Oooh! A motherless ogre. I like that!
     
  22. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    More to the point, the form that swearing takes can convey a lot to the reader about the person swearing, and the society she comes from.

    For instance, profanity based on the sex act, vs. scatalogical cursing, vs. religious-based swearing.

    For example. son of a gun is a sexuality based insult/curse. It's origins are naval. When a woman on board a naval vessel gave birth, and there was no father identified, the birth record would indicate "son of a gun." It's sematically equivalent to "bastard."

    "Son of a bitch" is similar, but also has implications of bestiality.

    So your characters' swearing can be an expository tool.
     
  23. cruciFICTION
    Offline

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,236
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    ... wat. "Bloody hell" is not offensive. Not even remotely. I mean, I'm glad you mentioned that you live in a place where swearing was unusual, because otherwise I'd be worried.

    I mean, I grew up as a kid (Australian, if you must know), hearing "bloody hell" somewhat frequently. It's not a swear. It's just an exclamation. Clearly, the Brits have it the same way. What I found offensive in the films was the crap acting after the third movie.
     
  24. SteamWolf
    Offline

    SteamWolf Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2011
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Newcastle
    Yep, curse words as being offensive can be cultural to a degree. "bloody" is so common here as to be a polite substitute for real swearwords. And yet an Australian was incarcerated after a flight for saying "Fair Dinkum" when told of a delay, and the attendant took it as something offensive (when all it means is "is that true?").

    Some cultures don't do a lot of swearing. I'm told the Swedish rely on English words when 'helvetet' won't do (Can one of the Swedes here confirm?). But most do so I think some form of verbal frustration is valid in a fantasy story.
     
  25. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    You might wanna google "Shakespearean insulter" if you need inspiration for giving an oldfashioned ring to your curses. It randomly mixes words into sentences, based on the rather enourmous list of swearwords used by the poet himself.

    Personally, I much prefer when swearwords and curses show creativity from the author's side, and has a dash of humor. The F word doesn't offend me the slightest, but it gets dull hearing the same word over and over no matter what it implies, and suggest a very limited vocabulary from the speaker.
     

Share This Page