Cursing?! Jinkies!

No, not on this blog.  I don’t give a shit about that.  I curse when I speak, so that’s how I write my personal blog.  I try to keep it to a minimum in my own books, and I never curse in mixed company, but we’re all friends here, right?  No?  Ahh, fuck it.

How does one curse in a work of epic fantasy?  It’s not so much a question about whether it bothers you to read it, that’s an entirely different issue.  I agree that it should be excluded from MG and YA books or any book you expect to be read by a younger audience.  Or, at the very least, limited.  Like a PG-13 movie, maybe you’re allowed one, nonsexual F-word per script.

I’m not talking about whether you like it or not.  I’m talking about HOW do you do it?  If you want your fantasy setting to sound gritty, or even real, you need some good, salty cursing in there.  So, how do you make your setting sound gritty?  Common curse words or expletives in medieval times would have been more like, “you lousy peasant!” or “ill-bred malcontent!”

While I’m sure those would have earned you a sword in your gut in those days (everyone carried a sword, right?), they sound more like a children’s book now.  Like the haughty prince calling Aladdin a “worthless street rat”.  Ooh, take that, Aladdin.  You’re not going to come off as gritty with writing like that.  You’ll probably be laughed at.  Especially by younger readers, the crowd whose sensitive ears you’re trying to protect.

The preferred method seems to be the modern usage of words.  It differs from author to author, but nothing says gritty like giving a fuck now and again.  Which is probably a lot older than most people think.  What about words like bitch?  It dates from c.1400 as a term of contempt for women.  “Son of a bitch” comes in around c.1700 or so, but the word bitching, as in, “stop bitching about all the cursing in this post” didn’t come around until the 1940’s.  I have seen all of them used.

You can make up your own words or misappropriate words as your own.  I love that Derek Prior uses “shogging”  (and derivatives: “shog”, “shogger”, “shog off”) as his catchall curse in his Nameless Dwarf series.  It’s fun and non-offensive.  You know, for kids!  Joss Whedon used Chinese curse words in his canceled-but-never-forgotten series, “Firefly.”  I think that’s a pretty good answer if you can come up with something that doesn’t sound stupid.  Probably not going to come off as gritty though.

No, if you want true grit, you have to go for the real deal.  Jinkies simply won’t suffice when you need an “Oh, shit!”

2 Responses to Cursing?! Jinkies!

  1. Joanna says:

    I do like the peasant insult 😉

    It’s fun when in fantasy worlds the curse words do relate to the world setting. Like “you son of a troll” or something 🙂

    • Oh, I think that can work really well, and it is fun, but it’s not going to come off as very offensive to most readers. Not that your purpose should be to offend a reader, but if you want them to FEEL the offense the target of the insult should feel, you need them to feel the insult.

      It can totally work creating your own words if you do it right. I absolutely felt the insult when Draco would spit the word “mudblood” at Hermione in Harry Potter. Rowling wrote it well enough that it sounded just nasty. It doesn’t hurt that it sounds a bit racist to boot.

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