Monday, September 6, 2010

In Defense of those Naughty Words Part 2

Part 1 is here

Let's say you want to use swear words, but your target audience wouldn't care for them. Or you are looking at your characters and know they swear, but it doesn't sound right. If you are writing fantasy the solution is simple. Make up your own swears!

This is not a new idea. I was first exposed to it through Douglas Adams. I listened to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as I laid in my bed. The episode where you are informed that the most vile, offensive, and rude word in the galaxy is Belgium. I laugh so loud I woke the house.

Another good example was the TV series Farscape. "Frell", "Greebol", "Yotz", "Frelnik", etc all replaced the swear words we would have used. We still understood what they were saying. I09 has a great article on other examples of made up swears; Frak Off! We've Got the Best Swear Words from Scifi
Also everything2 has a great list of made up swear words too.

As I was writing my minstrel story I realize something. Because this is set on another world, would they have the same swear words? The more I thought about it, the more I realized they would not.  Just like here what one culture would consider a swear another one might not. So I had to come up with my own lexicon.

How did I do it? I supposed the easiest way would be to make a word sound like the swear you were substituting for, like Frell in Farscape. I did something a little inventive.

There is a site I found years ago called The Alternative Dictionaries.  This person has collected swears from every language and lists them for your enjoyment. So I dug in and found some really good swears in multiple languages. Then I rewrote the words, hoping to make them sound nonsense enough, but still recognizable.

The find and replace function on open office came in handy here. I replaced the common swear with my made up ones. I reread the story. It worked! You could still recognize the words as swears, but they were basically nonsense, at least in English.


“What the fenn is going on here?” Grail's voice echoed through the grove.

“I'm koping my pants and you expect me to calm down the crowd now?”

“You are the pulting Regent, you took an oath to the Commonwealth.”

Can you figure out which word is which? Even if you can't, you can still get a sense of what they are saying.

I don't think this would work with a modern day novel, but if some genres would welcome a creative way around swearing. Even if you are comfortable with using swear words, perhaps you can make your scifi or fantasy world richer by inventing your own.

Who knows in a few years people might say "For Zarks sake those words are great!"

1 comment:

  1. I'm not writing fantasy at the moment, but I am a reader of fanatasy and have come across what you say (though for the life of me, i couldn't give you an example...)

    Love this idea and this post. I think your made up swear words work in your story very well!

    Julie Johnson