Tough Traveling: Creative Cursing
The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in (and inspired by) The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information.
This week’s tour topic is: Creative Cursing
New lands, new languages, new things to cuss out. Nobody in fantasyland cusses in quite the same way though; each world has its own way to yell at the world.
The sign of a good creative curse word is when it transcends its fictional world to become a part of my every day phrasing. Sometimse I’m calling someone a bosh’tet, other times I might be swearing on Andraste’s tits. More often than not, I’m alternating between these two darlings:
But no matter how many fraks I do or don’t give, cursing in fantasy is a fine art and one that great care should be given to when deciding your own fantastical curse words. N. K. Jemisin offers some excellent food for thought on the subject here.
“Goddamn it I hate the word “damn”. Because the instant I want to use it, I have to stop and consider a fantasy culture’s beliefs about the afterlife. Do they have a Bad Afterlife Place to which people can be damned? Who does this damning, and why? Why is being damned such a problem? ” ~N.K. Jemisin
For some reason, many of the picks I came up with this week are from science fiction. I guess that makes sense. Language is dynamic; it develops and evolves within cultures and societies. We curse differently than people did in the past, and future generations will in turn curse differently than we do now. In Dark Eden, the language drift is even more extreme, since their society grew out of a small founding population stranded on a planet. A lot of their curses involve the names of original two settlers, like “Angela’s tits!” or “Tom’s dick!”
To me, creative cursing can also be how you finesse your swear words. While Luke Scull isn’t really making up new curse words for his fantasy world, just using the ones we’re all familiar with, he does it in very colorful and creative ways: “Now get the fuck out of my sight before I shove this dagger so far up your dick eye it tickles the back of your throat with your balls.”
Creative cursing can also be how you relate your world back to your swearing, I guess? In a sci-fi world you gotta cuss people out using some sci-fi related touches. Chrisjen Avasarala is the acting secretary-general of the United Nations and also a grandmotherly old lady who swears like a sailor, entertaining readers with memorable gems such as: “That man’s asshole must be tight enough right now to bend space.“
Honestly, it’s much easier to think of characters who curse creatively, rather than creative curses. After spending years in prison, protagonist Jack Forster is a soldier who returns home with two things: a reputation as a traitor, and a virtual puppet named Hugo Fist tethered to his mind. Fist mostly exists inside Jack’s head but can also be “pulled” out to manifest in a form similar to that of a ventriloquist dummy. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that such an innocuous-looking puppet can actually be a deadly weapon, with one hell of a potty-mouth on him to boot.
The corn-related curses in The Heartland Trilogy. Miriam Black from Blackbirds. Reagan’s hacker speak from Zer0es. I was originally planning on writing out my comments for each one when it suddenly occurred to me, oh heck, why not just make it easier on myself and save some time? 😛