1. AlphabeticNumber

    AlphabeticNumber Banned

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    Cursing in a fantasy setting

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by AlphabeticNumber, Mar 4, 2018.

    So I'm planning to write a book in a fantasy setting, and I thought it would be quite interesting if I added some curse moments. Like for example when someone hits the floor and breaks their teeth or something.

    Now because I don't want to use modern curse words. Is because fook and shet sound too ordinary. I wan't something that sounds at its place.

    Just as a side note... This is not in a very special place, it's in an ordinary castle. Think like a European castle

    Thanks in advance
     
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  2. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    Are you asking whether this would be a good idea or for some help in thinking of new words?

    If my characters in fantasy settings are going to swear, they just do. I never think it sounds too ordinary. In fact, the advantage of using real swear words is that the readers know they're swear words and are familiar with their usage in their own lives, and so they have a stronger impact than something that's made up.

    Is it imperative that they're made-up swear words, or can they just be something people say like swear words? For example, I wouldn't count "God damn it" or "Hell" as swear words, but they're both words that are often uttered where swear words could also be. So if you invented a god/some gods for this fantasy land, your characters could just yell their name as they fall on the floor and break their teeth.
     
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  3. AlphabeticNumber

    AlphabeticNumber Banned

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    Hmmm. Would i make gods especially for cursing? Would that be a good idea?

    Plus how do i make curse words in slangs?
     
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  4. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    You... invent them? :rolleyes:
    Also, do you plan to read some fantasy books before you write this one? Just to get some ideas about cursing. :read::superthink:
     
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  5. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I think you need to consider this during your world building. If you are inventing a fantasy world from the ground up, then at some point you will have to form some kind of government or religion - even if the religion is not what we humans would consider "religious", your characters would need something to believe in. I guess it's a little bit like the Jedi in Star Wars. For some people, the Jedi are almost like a religious order. So if you have some kind of religion with an evil side and a good side, then you can bring those names into curse words.

    Thinking on my feet here so this may sound shite.

    Lets say the "leader" of the evil side of your religion is called Thokmar, and the "leader" of the good side is called Amadallas. If someone hurts the character then they can say something like "in the name of Thokmar, I will have my revenge!"

    Similarly, if the character feels nothing's going his way he can look up to the skies (or trees, or wherever Amadallas lives) and shake his fist while saying "Amadallas! Why have you forsaken me?"

    If Thokmar resides in a fiery lair (rather than Hell) then your character can use that in expletives, "oh, lair of Thokmar!"

    And if Amadallas does reside in the 'earthly trees', then perhaps at a friend's funeral, the character can say something like "May the winged guardians of the earthly trees guide you on your journey to Amadallas' side."

    Actually, that would be a good way to include curses into a YA novel without resorting to fuck/shit/bastard/etc, because our regular curse words would up the age rating of the book.

    Sometimes, you just gotta look at it from a different angle to get the answer.

    Good Luck!
     
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  6. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Swearing has evolved through the centuries.

    In medieval times the greatest offence was the blasphemous exclamation against God, Jesus & the Saints...

    ...whilst streets of London were named quite literally -

    - most oft-quoted and infamous to our ears is/was the Gropec*nt Lane...and likewise see Love Lane, Pissing Alley, Tickle Cock Bridge and also Cock Lane named for an abundance of brothels.

    It's said that we have passed through an era of 'bodily function/fornication' type of swear words, and today major offensiveness is evoked through a racial slur - and people know the usual candidates on that list. And that 'change' is itself regarded - in a discussion of 'cussing' and history, as - 'another evolution.'

    Writing a futuristic, or sword & sandal type story I'd ruminate on a combination, bearing in mind that words such as 'fuck' in Chaucer's time were regarded as vulgar, but not rude.

    All best
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
  7. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    I ain't gonna say what Joe already said even better:
    I also have my characters say damn and hell, even though the cultures I'm making up don't strictly have those concepts. I subscribe to the translation theory of fantasy fiction, which is that the characters are speaking in whatever the language of their land is, and I'm translating it all into English for the reader. They're saying something that carries the same mood as "Go to hell, god damn it!" and what better way to convey that to the reader than to just say it? :) I do feel that damn/hell/god are a different category from shit and fuck, and I don't think I'd notice their absence if a skilled writer decided to omit them for more culture-specific curses. Shit and fuck, though, are shit and fuck.
     
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  8. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Just for cursing? Probably not, but it's a good idea to make deities and religions anyway. It impacts people and place names (think how many popular English names are from the Bible). It will influence the values your society holds (for example, Greco-Roman polytheism didn't consider it wrong to leave unwanted infants to die of exposure; Christianity did and does). It can make a powerful motivation for characters. And it impacts language, through cursing and exclamations.

    Personally, I just use real curse words, with the religious ones tweaked to fit the dominant religion of my world.

    Word of advice: watch out for making clunky exclamations. Say them out loud and see how they roll off the tongue.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
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  9. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    Tamora Pierce, an author I've loved for years, has a few different ones. Not sure how other 'high fantasy' authors handle it, but this is what she does.
    Where you or I would say, "Oh my God", her characters would say, "By the gods..." "God damn it" becomes "Gods damn it." "God's own headache" is now "[a specific god]'s own headache".
    Some characters swear by specific things or gods. "Mithros' knees, that's terrible." "Mithros, Minos, and Shakith...why?!" At one point, I'm pretty sure someone swears by "Mithros' sweet prostitute..."

    "Godsteeth" used to be a swear word. Your swears don't have to make...an exceptional amount of sense on their own, I suppose you could say, but keep in mind that a CEO of a Fortune 500 company doesn't swear the same way a trucker does, who may not swear the same way a farmer does, who probably doesn't swear the way a professional chef does. Add a variety of gods and ethos to the mix, and it can get complex.
     
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  10. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    An important factor is how steeped into your world building is your story. Also what genre is your book and what is your target audience.
    For example, your story is a young adult action/adventure or a romantic/adventure the world may serve only as a backdrop to add 'color' to your story. Your use of language will be contemporary with only a few words here and there substituted with words unique to your world setting.
    Now, lets say your book is a fantasy book aimed at adults. The story is a romantic/adventure, but its about the prince of an Irish inspired kingdom falling in love with a princess from a Germanic inspired kingdom. Now, you may do some research in Gaelic and Old High German for words and phrases that add color to your character and show that they are from different places and cultures.
    Planting seeds of real world origins in your head will inspire some great and unique ideas.
     
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  11. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    I think they'd all fall back to the same words when they bash their toe. :)

    In general, people have always cursed using sex (especially taboo-at-the-time kinds of sex), sexual organs, or excrement. You can't got far wrong sticking to the classics.
     
  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Remember that curses, vulgarities, and blasphemies are special kinds of words and phrases. They invoke (or are intended to invoke) a particular kind of impact, both in contextual use and as the reader reads it. When that impact is missing because the word or phrase links to nothing in the reader's experience, then it fails. This is why words like frak (and its derivatives) from BSG works because it sounds enough like the real word fuck to flip all the right switches.

    Totally agree for the aforementioned reasons.

    Try not to, tbh. Even authors of impeccable pedigree usually get this really, really, really, cheesily wrong. Larry Niven - an otherwise excellent writer of Sci-Fi - makes use of the word tanj as a mild-to-medium curse in his Known Space novels. It's an acronym for There Ain't No Justice. The linguist in me cringes every time I come across it in his work because no, no, fuck no, that's not how words come into being. He's attempting to parallel terms like fubar (fucked up beyond all recognition) and snafu (situation normal, all fucked up), but the reason those acronyms came into being is because they contain the F-word, and the acronym allows one to deploy it without actually saying it in mixed company. Niven's word fails that initial causative reasoning and is just cheese-o-matic.
     
  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You could translate modern swearing to the time period you are talking about - for instance in Anthony Riches books about roman legionaries the characters commonly say stuff like "Jupiter's balls" where we might say "for gods sake" he also includes the great if crude description of a particular girl one of his characters is sleeping with as " She must come like a fully wound bolt thrower" using a simile that is appropriate to the time and setting.

    If your characters aren't in a world where Christianity is a thing they can't say "For Christ's sake" but they can say " for the love of [whatever diety is appropriate]
     
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  14. AlphabeticNumber

    AlphabeticNumber Banned

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    Thanks for all the information guys!
     
  15. AlphabeticNumber

    AlphabeticNumber Banned

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    I am going to try to implement a belief, not only for the sake of saying "Eat [insert god here]'s bolls m8" but just to give it more, detail? Basing it on the catholic church, should i change anything?
     
  16. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    I'd ask what it is about the Catholic church that you are basing it off of. If you're just copy-pasting and changing a few names here and there, I'd recommend against it. If it's the formal style and rigidity of belief you're after, there's lots you can change without damaging the structure of your allegory/allusion. (don't know what the correct term for this would be)
     
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  17. AlphabeticNumber

    AlphabeticNumber Banned

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    ( I'm not a historian so please correct me if i'm wrong ) I'm not going to do copy paste work, that would be lazy ( No offense). I am Basing it off being catholic in the sense of: They have to read the "Bible" in a dead language.
     
  18. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Comparativist Contributor

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    This may be slightly off topic, but something I've been wondering about: in my fantasy setting, as some here have suggested, I use curses/swears that are based on the setting, which is the usual expy of medieval Europe (thus, "God's wounds", etc.) I'm worried though that this may lead people to think this is intended for a younger audience than I mean it to be, since there are no words that would be considered offensive in 2017 CE in our reality.

    It's not that I would be upset if this turned out to be a YA book, but there's still a lot of thematic and subject matter that really is for a more mature audience, so I'm just worried about it being tonally dissonant overall.

    Is this a legit worry? Should I throw in a few "fucks" and "shits" for no other reason than to signal what age cohort I had in mind while writing? Or am I just overthinking this?
     
  19. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    Nah, there's plenty of adult fantasy out there with no swearing.
     
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  20. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Comparativist Contributor

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    Guess I must have missed them...are you thinking of any specific titles?
     
  21. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    It would probably not be good form to quote this in my signature, no matter how tempting it is...
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
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  22. Lawless

    Lawless Active Member

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    Have you read "Maze Runner"? There was a group of teenage boys who used their own curse words (such as "plonk" for "shit"). Apparently the author didn't want real-world obscenities in the book. In the beginning, someone explained to a newcomer what "plonk" meant (the explanation was really meant for the reader, of course) and then they used it every now and then.

    You might want to try the same trick. Invent some curse words that sound right in your fantasy world and then find a way to let the reader know what they mean.
     
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  23. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    My little opinion:

    Fuck shit piss slut whore are the only swear words writers need. They are strange, unholy creations that transcend time and space. If you put "frak" in your book I'll pause in the narrative, quizzically befuddled, left wondering if I read the book wrong. I'll have to re-read the passage, maybe flip to the back and look for a glossary, before I flip back and try to determine if it's a typo or a name I missed.

    Or worse, I'll know exactly what's going on and laugh. "Hah, didn't want to put a curse in your book, eh? Oh man, this reminds me of Battlestar when that Cylon babe had glowing spine sex with the-"

    All this when your hero said "frak" because their best friend died, and it's supposed to be an emotional moment, but I'm flipping through appendices like it's a research paper.

    As a reader I'd be fine if your dude just said. "Fuck." I know exactly what that means, and what I should feel from it. I wouldn't feel the fantasy fall apart, I'd feel like you wanted me to care about this moment.
     
  24. Necronox

    Necronox Contributor Contributor

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    Seconded. But then again I also believe that a well placed fantasy curse word can make your story just that little tat more unique
     
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  25. TwistedHelix

    TwistedHelix Member

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    It can feel fake and cringe worthy, but can be pulled off well too.

    While not a book, the TV series Farscape used "Frell" for "Fuck" rather well. If you do make new swears - it may work better if they are analogous sounding to the originals (namely, the starting letter). Swearing is a weird one. Many readers grimace and chuck the book away for an innocent "shit".

    Personally so long as it is used well, real swearing can make character development much more powerful. Stephen King is a favourite author of mine who has his characters swear like a trooper, or use crass language as a whole.

    Favourite line ever in my entire life of reading "Sorry, if I'd knowing you were going to put your fingers in that deep, I'd have wiped my ass with a chair leg" Said Eddie" Stephen King The Dark Tower Book 2.
     
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