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A lack of cursing

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Incanus, Mar 3, 2016.

  1. Russ

    Russ Istar

    When people suggest the reason they don't use cursing in their books is "I was not brought up that way." that strikes me as a very poor way to approach writing.

    Personally I try not to curse at all. I think it is bad form. It took me about three years after leaving the army to break the habit and it was not easy.

    But truth is I was also not brought up to stab someone, loose my temper, yell, cry, be jealous and a number of other behaviours that are very important to good fiction.

    By saying my characters don't do X because "I wasn't brought up that way" does that mean we should apply that test to all of our characters' actions or even thoughts?

    Seems to me using that approach would lead to some pretty dull fiction.
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Old prejudices are hard to break.

    When I grew up, I wasn't explicitly taught not to swear/curse because it's bad. Rather, the prevailing opinion around the house was that cursing is a sign of having a lesser vocabulary. This came with the implication that people with lesser vocabularies are people with lesser minds. It also carried the implication that we in our family we're better than that.

    Logically, I know this isn't the case, but it's an old prejudice I was brought up with, and it's hard to shake.
  3. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Well, for me anyway I don't curse because it wasn't allowed in my household growing up and so I never developed a habit for it. I was surrounded by people for much of my life who didn't curse and even in public school the cursing never managed to rub off on me. My natural speech patterns just don't include cursing. At this point, it's part of who I am. I don't share my parents' conviction that all cursing is evil, but it takes a real rage for me to slip a curse word into my speech because it's just not part of my normal vocabulary.

    How you speak is in large part a matter of habit. As a young teenager I noticed, as is the custom, I said "like" way too much and in ways that were silly and repetitive. I made the conscious decision to strike superfluous "likes" from my vocabulary. It took some real effort, but after a period of policing my own speech I managed to break that habit.

    I think it's likely for many people who were "not brought up to curse" that they simply mean because they were never allowed to curse they never developed a habit for it.
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    The director Alex Cox when asked to make a TV friendly edit of his film Repo Man [great film BTW] dubbed all the M-F in to "Melon Farmer" and did it so badly/obviously with no attempt to cover up the real phrase [I think one take of "Melon Farmer" was used for every utterance] that Alex Cox has said that it is his preferred version.
  5. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    Reminds me of the Cheech & Chong movies when they aired them on cable and came up with the most ridiculous fill-in dialogue to cover up what wouldn't be allowed on TV.
    AndrewLowe likes this.
  6. Vincent Lakes

    Vincent Lakes Dreamer

    I find it silly to have otherwise good text littered by unnecessary curse words. It's just not very classy, and from what I've seen, most guides and recommendations go against it. I'm sure it's perfectly fine to use them if time, place and general atmosphere of the story promote it, but I wouldn't try to stick them in just to look cool - because in those cases it's never cool and usually comes out as bad writing. And even when you do use them, be very careful to avoid excessive usage.
  7. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Hm...in my work, I tend to select words carefully. I don't have a familiar religion, so the only curses I use are damn and maybe gods-damned. So not very clever, but useful in some places for emphasis.

    I tend to use other kinds of curse-type statements that aren't common (but not that made-up horribleness we're talking about earlier in the thread with Deity name + Feature/ symbol= lame curse). I pick things that are insulting or feel like common cultural references or references, but I try to be completely original for some and use folk ones for another. Like have you ever listened to a hillbilly spin metaphors? OMG, I love that shit! Andy, my old coworker used to say, "It's colder than a well-digger's ass in here," and I just love putting in little personal thoughts like that from time to time. Try not to draw too much attention to them, but for certain characters, it's their personality.

    After reading this thread, I realize the swear words I favor personally are vulgarities, and I think that makes a lot of sense. Since religion doesn't play a major part of my stories, it wouldn't be likely for true curses to be prevalent. Likewise with some historical-feeling curses or insults, since my world isn't the real world. Things like, "pox on you," or whatever is just silly if you don't have small pox, etc..

    SO yeah, I like vulgar language, I suppose, and the thing is, I think it fits. Most of my characters are gray morality, have hard backgrounds, and aren't exactly having a good day if I'm writing them into a story. Even when I write a high-born character who is the picture of womanly grace in public, she'll lay into someone in private and use the words that convey her ire. And I do try to rely first on my extensive vocabulary. I mean, I don't go to s**thead first when I'm insulting someone as her, but I do make sure I get my point across, and it's sometimes still vulgar though I avoid those most common words we favor as modern English-speakers, and i have such a habit for swearing constantly in my home and when I'm stressed, but out in public or at work, or wherever, I don't swear at all. I figure my characters can be the same way if they want ;)
  8. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    If you're looking for replacement swears without making up nonsense words for the reader to translate, consider shortening the real ones instead to their last consonant and suffix if it's a verb.

    If a computer were to translate my speech in real life directly, it would sound something like this:

    "I'm going to be so 'king late..."

    "You are just awful. 'Koff mate.'

    Replacing them with actions to imply the frustration translated through a swear word also works well.

    "I'm not going to visit your-" Laurence's fist thudded against the table, "parents for the third night running!"
  9. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

    I love the curse words of old man McGucket. (Gravity Falls)

    Honey fogelin', saltlickin' skullduggery

    Get outta here, you salt lickin', hornswagglin!...

    Well kettle my corn. He vanish-ified.

    Oh, you've really tarred it up now, Fiddleford.

    Sweet sarsaparilla.
  10. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

    I don't use profanity, and my characters don't either, except for in very extreme situations they may say, at most, a more explicit version of 'dang' or 'darn'. It also is similar to what keeps water in, and it sends people to the underworld.
  11. Chris O'Brien

    Chris O'Brien Dreamer

    I wouldn't worry. If you feel they're needed, consider using your own implied words. You mentioned you already do this in relation to God's.

    Farscape. They use the word (if I remember correctly) 'frek' or 'frak'. Frak. Frak you. Frak me. Frak this. Frak that. It's implied what it means, clearly.

    What a load of kosk!
    Oi, love, fancy givin' us a quick whisk?
    Get here, ya kragging cupper!

    Wouldn't suggest using the above but give them a name, imply it's a curse, and rude.

    "What a load of kosk!" Valdon cursed.
    "Oi, love, fancy givin' us a quick whisk?" the burly patron grumbled, snatching the wench's hand, and pulling her harshly towards his nether regions.

    Let your readers know what it means, and then they'll be on your page so you can use then more liberally and without repeatedly explaining it.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.

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