Created By: hobbitguy1420 on February 2, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on February 13, 2014

Fantastic Profanity

A supertrope to separate fantasy/sci-fi swears from other Unusual Euphemisms

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This trope is about profanity. Swearing. Cursing. Cussing. Using bad language. Using bad words. Using foul language. Except, in this case, the creator uses (or introduces) words and phrases that might be profane within the context of the work, but really aren't very profane at all in the real world/

Many examples of Fantastic Profanity are analogues for real-world swear words, but are used as substitutes because the Moral Guardians wouldn't approve of such language. Using a made-up word or a normally innocuous phrase allows the characters to swear without having to use any actual profanity.

A form of Unusual Euphemism. Supertrope of Oh My Gods! and Pardon My Klingon.

Examples

Comic Books

Literature
  • In Larry Niven's Ringworld, people use "Tanj!" instead of "Damn!". Tanj is actually an English language acronymn for "There Ain't No Justice".
  • Jim Butcher
    • Codex Alera: "Crows and bloody furies!"
    • The Dresden Files has Thomas swearing "empty night," among others. Interestingly, Harry's most fondly-used exclamations, "Hell's Bells" and "Stars and Stones," are real, though rarely used these days.
  • October Daye. The title character and the fae swear by Ash and Oak, and occasionally stick human profanity in with those as well.
  • There's a wizard in a Terry Goodkind book who swears, "Bags!"
  • Brandon Sanderson is rather fond of this
  • In Harry Potter, among the Wizarding world, "Merlin" and his various personal effects (such as "Merlin's baggy pants") are used in much the same way that "God" is in real life.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: "Shards!" and "By the first egg!" are both swears, reflecting the importance of the dragons (and the eggs from which they hatch) to the survival of the residents of Pern.

Live-Action Television

Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • February 2, 2012
    Andygal
    The Alloy Of Law also by Brandon Sandersson has "Rust and Ruin", "Ruination" and "rusting" Warbreaker also by Brandon Sanderson has "Colors!"
  • February 2, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
  • February 2, 2012
    hobbitguy1420
    Actually, I think "Hell's Bells" and "Stars and Stones" are real, though somewhat obscure, exclamations. "Empty Night" probably applies, though.
  • February 2, 2012
    Duncan
  • February 2, 2012
    CptSqweky
    I personally don't see how this trope is necessary. Could you perhaps give some more reasoning as to why it would be a good idea?
  • February 2, 2012
    hobbitguy1420
    At the moment, it seems like Unusual Euphemism is trying to do two things. The use of a literal euphemism that's unusual (They're tangling their wires, he's gone off to hunt the mighty buffalo, etc.) and fantasy/sci-fi swears, many of which aren't technically euphemisms.
  • February 2, 2012
    Nocturna
  • February 2, 2012
    hobbitguy1420
    Not exactly - most, if not all, of the given examples thus far are in English.
  • February 2, 2012
    Nocturna
    Ah. I see. This would be a work where the author introduces English phrases/words which are used as swears within the culture of the work. It might be worth mentioning in the description that this is based off of the culture within the work: just as what is (or was) culturally important/profane gets turned into swears in real life, authors will often figure out an analogue for their work and use that, which serves both to establish the culture within the work and allow them to have their characters swearing without having to include any actual profanity.

    In that case:
    • In Harry Potter, among the Wizarding world, "Merlin" and his various personal effects (such as "Merlin's baggy pants") are used in much the same way that "God" is in real life.
    • Dragonriders Of Pern: "Shards!" and "By the first egg!" are both swears, reflecting the importance of the dragons (and the eggs from which they hatch) to the survival of the residents of Pern.
  • February 2, 2012
    troacctid
    When I saw the name, I thought it would be about Perfectly Cromulent Words like "Frak" or "D'Arvit".

    I think that usage is distinct from the "By Thor's beard!" variant.
  • February 2, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Live Action Television:
    • In the 1960's live action Batman, Robin had a habit of making up his own swears at least Once An Episode, most of which are listed here. Holy Smokes, Batman! That's a lot of phrases!

    Literature:
    • In Larry Niven's Ringworld, people use "Tanj!" instead of "Damn!". Tanj is actually an English language acronymn for "There Ain't No Justice".
  • February 2, 2012
    dalek955
    Add to Sanderson's list:
  • February 3, 2012
    InSingularity
    In Firefly and Serenity, the characters swear in Chinese. It is unclear whether said Chinese is actual profanity or just incoherent Chinese babble.
  • February 3, 2012
    AgProv
    Smeg, smeg, smeg. I'm sure there's already a trope for things like this - the Red Dwarf page may reference it, under the aforementioned Italian manufacturers of kitchen ranges?
  • February 3, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
  • February 3, 2012
    hobbitguy1420
    This seems to be mutating; I think it might be best to split it. There's Fantastic Profanity, supertrope to Pardon My Klingon, Oh My Gods, and this one, then there's this trope itself, (which, if it winds up representing only pre-existing words that are used as swears and oaths, could probably use a better title)

    The three different types of Fantastic Profanity:
    • Oh My Gods: swearing by an unusual deity
    • Pardon My Klingon: swearing in a fictional language
    • This trope: Using existing non-swear words a swears.
  • February 3, 2012
    LarryD
    In Bujold's Sharing Knife series, the standard Lakewalker explicative is "Blight it!", or "blighted" as an adjective.

    Girl Genius often uses "Sweet Lightning" as an expression of amazement.
  • February 3, 2012
    SharleeD
    Should this trope be specifically for profanity that exists because it's a fantastic setting, or would any Unusual Euphemism qualify simply because it's being spoken in a Speculative Fiction work? For instance, in the Garrett PI Verse, "kobold-knocker" is a slur directed at humans who have sex with kobolds, so it's fantasy-derived; OTOH, when Garrett is investigating a criminal from the city's homosexual community, he calls them "pirates" as a Running Gag euphemism, which isn't pertinent to the setting and could just as easily have been used in a non-fantastic detective novel.
  • February 3, 2012
    Falkon
    In the Shannara series, a very common swear word is "Shades".
  • February 3, 2012
    hobbitguy1420
    I'd say keep it broad - the use of a non-swear-word as a swear. Other opinions?
  • February 3, 2012
    Nocturna
    I would say that it should be profanity which exists because it's a fantasy setting. Otherwise it's just an Unusual Euphemism swear.
  • February 3, 2012
    Euodiachloris
    Red Dwarf very famously has "smeg". Which can be and is often used in many interesting ways. Although it's entirely up to you what you think it means, as it seems to cover a wide range of possibilities.
  • February 3, 2012
    SeanMurrayI
    Many, many, many examples for this would already be found on Future Slang and among its wicks.
  • February 5, 2012
    hobbitguy1420
    Some, but many of these are from alternate universes, rather than the future. Does that trope apply in the Brandon Sanderson or Jim Butcher examples?
  • February 6, 2012
    ArtfulCodger
    Adding to the example of Larry Niven, in his Known Space series (which includes the Ringworld) novel, in addition to Tanj, you also have the word "Censored" become an actual profanity after people start using it as a substitute for traditional profanity.
  • February 9, 2012
    HumanaUox
    In the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (and others) people from the Foundation tend to swear "Space!" or "By Galaxy!"
  • February 10, 2012
    GreenPrincessofGracela
    "Shuck" is used in The Maze Runner, for the same reason "frak" is used in Battlestar Galatica– to keep it PG-13 for the target audience.
  • May 8, 2012
    wotnoplot
    Hell's Bells is far from an obscure euphemism. What about Snagglepuss's "Heavens to Mergatroyd!"
  • May 8, 2012
    mdulwich
    The Thief series has various versions of "taff": "taffing", "taffer" etc.
  • May 10, 2012
    TBeholder
    Then that's just Hold Your Hippogriffs Only For Cursing.
  • May 10, 2012
    Koveras
    To add to The Dresden Files example: Jim Butcher has revealed that "Hell's Bells", "Stars and Stones", and "Empty Night" will be the titles of the books in the big apocalyptic trilogy that will conclude the series. He also strongly implied that there are in-universe explanations for these expletives, to be revealed in the final books.

    • "Bosh'tet" is a popular Quarian swearword in the Mass Effect series, though it's never translated to English.
  • May 10, 2012
    peccantis
    Web Comics
    • The player characters in DM Of The Rings tend to swear by Conan and things like his codpiece or his well-oiled nipples.
  • May 10, 2012
    fulltimeD
  • May 10, 2012
    Nocturna
    ^ Pardon My Klingon would be a subtrope, as the description states.

    This covers things like "Merlin!" in Harry Potter, "Crows!" in Codex Alera, and "Shards!" in Dragonriders Of Pern, as well as the made-up swears in Pardon My Klingon. Basically, the trope is non-real life swear words being used as swears in-universe.
  • May 10, 2012
    captainsandwich
    smurfs decide to randomly replace words with the 'word' "smurf" with no regard to consistency on its definition. i assume its been used as profanity, and i am even more confident it has been used as profanity in parodies.
  • May 10, 2012
    captainsandwich
    so is the just a form of Getting Crap Past The Radar
  • May 10, 2012
    fulltimeD
    ^^ I see
  • May 10, 2012
    Pig_catapult
    Captainsandwich: Getting Crap Past The Radar has subtropes. Specifically the trope you're describing is Informed Obscenity, i.e., Getting Crap Past The Radar via using a nonsense word understood to be profanity in-setting. In fact, a lot of these examples seem to fall under Informed Obscenity, but I think there's still a trope here in the "odd oaths" examples, like Pern's "by the shards" and Harry Potter's "/erlin's [noun]!"

    Fulltime D: This isn't Pardon My Klingon because that's Getting Crap Past The Radar by having characters swear in a fictional language. I think there's a sister trope here about Getting Crap Past The Radar via vulgar-in-setting English phrases.
  • May 10, 2012
    Pig_catapult
    Er, rather, in addition to the supertrope the OP is going for. I'm not sure the supertrope should have examples, though, since they all seem to fall into neat categories. Also, what I was talking about might or mightnot be covered by Oh My Gods; I haven't read it recently.
  • May 10, 2012
    Sheliak
    In the Truth Series, "Ashes!" is used as a swearword (it refers to cremation); variants include things like "Burn me to ashes". There's also "by the eight wolves/puppies", after a constellation similar to the Big Dipper.

  • May 10, 2012
    peccantis
    ^ x 6, Smurfing is a relevant link.
  • May 11, 2012
    Rognik
    I think this counts: Beast Wars has them using the term "slag" as a curse. Slag is the rejected part of ore after the metal has been smelted out.
  • May 11, 2012
    lbritten
    In Transformers Prime, the characters use "scrap." It seems to be used as both an expletive/interjection ("Oh, scrap!") and a verb (for example, a character can say that he "scrapped" someone).
  • May 20, 2012
    TBeholder
    Currently it's under Oh My Gods for swearing and Hold Your Hippogriffs for other parasitary phraseology. Not sure whether a split would be good or counterproductive. Maybe, a redirect and merge now, split via TRS later?
  • May 21, 2012
    Sheliak
    My impression was that Oh My Gods refers only to swearing by gods, and is specific enough to exclude these examples (or at least, I'd been mentally excluding them from things that ought to go under Oh My Gods). If established as a trope, this would be fantastic swearing that is unrelated to gods. For what it's worth, I'd rather have it as a separate trope; I think it's distinct enough for that to work. But if the consensus is that it shouldn't be, I'd like to clarify if these examples ought to go under Oh My Gods or Hold Your Hippogriffs or something else, because I've been a little confused about them for a while.

    Anyway, another example: In the Secret Country Trilogy by Pamela Dean, characters swear by Shan's mercy, which is explained later on: Shan was a wizard who was made immortal against his will, hated it, and ultimately got the Lords of the Dead to allow him to die. "Shan's mercy" is actually short for "That mercy which was granted to Shan".
  • May 22, 2012
    TBeholder
    ^ de-facto, and long ago, it expanded past this. Like "sweet lightning!"... which, coincidentally, isn't "profanity" as such, just an oath.

    And de-facto it would be a split. Sensible enough, but it's still better to wave at TRS.
  • May 23, 2012
    troacctid
    Splitting subtropes, missing supertropes, or missing sister tropes is certainly within the province of YKTTW. If you wanted some opinions on what the current boundaries of a trope are, you could go to Trope Talk. Nothing here seems like it needs a TRS.
  • May 26, 2012
    ArtfulCodger
    In The Mote In Gods Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the word "rape" is used as a substitute for the word "fuck", but only when "fuck" would be used to indicate anything other than sexual intercourse (at which times the word "fuck" is used).
  • February 12, 2014
    XFllo
    Bumping.
  • February 12, 2014
    DAN004
    Between Pardon My Klingon, Hold Your Hippogriffs, Smur Fing and Unusual Euphemism, isn't this really covered already?
  • February 13, 2014
    Arivne
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=nptb2p0fzg4oo3m9sxthd6bv