Using British Slang in a Fantasy Setting:

Total posts: [18]
1 TheMuse3rd Apr 2013 06:10:25 PM , Relationship Status: Browsing the selection
So, my fantasy work takes place in an ambiguously-Medival European setting. I really don't want to have to go to the trouble of creating a huge foreign cuss words, (words like fuck, shit, etc. just don't sound right in the setting) so I was think about including some 'foreign' British profanity (bugger, twat, etc.) to add a little flavour (It also allows more crap to get past the radar)
  • Only thing is, I don't want the entire setting to scream "THIS IS MEDIVAL ENGLAND" because it isn't and it could make it sound cliched
I was also thinking of perhaps including profanity based on non-English languages. The only detriment with that is there isn't the (at least slight) familiarity like there is with English profanity, so the average reader isn't going to immediatetly be able to realize: "They just swore." And that could get REALLY distracting
  • Any thoughts/tips?
2 Bisected83rd Apr 2013 06:49:45 PM from Her Hackette Cave , Relationship Status: In another castle
Maximum sadness
You might be better off using archaic European profanity (which has the advantage that nowhere will still use them as they did at the time, unlike modern British profanity). Most of Europe spoke French as a lingua franca in Medieval times (and most people would have a bit of exposure to Latin from the Church's influence, even if they weren't educated), so they might be a good source.
3 JHM3rd Apr 2013 09:52:59 PM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Well, there are plenty of modern swear words that were common in the Middle Ages in one form of another, some of which (crap, shit, piss and arse in particular) were not especially vulgar early on. Bugger and fuck were used less frequently and perhaps not as interjections, but they were definitely out there and quite offensive; similarly, cunt was still fairly crude, but somewhat more common than it is now in regular speech.

There are plenty of interesting obsolete or archaic swear words that sound halfway familiar: By far my favourite mediaeval cuss, sard, is similar in meaning to fuck, but implying adultery, fornication or other misdeed specifically. (The last citation of the word in the OED is in this example: "Go teach your grandam to sard!") Synonymous with sard to varying degrees are swive, jape, taste and occupy.

A good pair of useful but highly non-PC insults are badling (meaning "an effeminate wuss, a pathetic twit") and ingle or ingler (meaning "catamite, punk"), each of which roughly served the role of the modern faggot, which was at the time a more general term for someone useless, usually older and female. Great words for singling out an asshat or... well, someone really catty, shall we say.

A nice insult that still survives to this day is pissant, which means exactly what you would think it means: A piddling excuse for a human being. The adjective pusill ("small and pathetic") is also nice.

I love old swear words. They are just so much fun.

edited 3rd Apr '13 9:58:05 PM by JHM

4 Bisected84th Apr 2013 07:49:45 AM from Her Hackette Cave , Relationship Status: In another castle
5 LastHussar4th Apr 2013 10:28:33 AM from the place is here.
The time is now,
Do the job in front of you.
6 TheMuse4th Apr 2013 05:15:09 PM , Relationship Status: Browsing the selection
I just want to make it clear that I don't want to directly use any profanity from foreign languages (considering that technically France, the Netherlands, etc. don't exist in this world) but mutations of cusses (something like 'mard' instead of 'merde' for example) could be done.
  • I also want to know, does using archaic or unusual profanity bring a good chance that it could distract people from the story?
7 TheMuse4th Apr 2013 05:21:11 PM , Relationship Status: Browsing the selection
[up][up][up] And JHM, I couldn't find anything online about ingle/ingler or badling. May I ask were you got this source?
8 Wolf10664th Apr 2013 05:35:01 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Typin' strangely
What's wrong with just applying Translation Convention and using English profanity since, presumably, the rest will be in English?

Just take care to avoid using words like "fuck" outside their older contexts - avoid using them as exclamations or intensifiers.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
9 TheMuse4th Apr 2013 05:51:45 PM , Relationship Status: Browsing the selection
I was planning on using mostly English profanity. The 'foreign' profanity would be used to render profanity spoken in 'not English'

edited 4th Apr '13 5:51:54 PM by TheMuse

10 JHM5th Apr 2013 03:20:36 AM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up][up][up] The Oxford English Dictionary is a wonderful source for obsolete words of import. Both also appear in Shea and Novobatzky's lovely little lexicon Depraved and Insulting English.
11 TheMuse5th Apr 2013 07:42:54 AM , Relationship Status: Browsing the selection
But (because this wasn't answered previously) would using particuarly unusual insults distract people and pull them out of the narrative or would it be fine as long as the meaning of the phrase can be inferred decently from the context?
Seeking for Light
Considering the prevalence of Pardon My Klingon and lack of complaints about it (aside from people fussing that it breaks suspension of disbelief to have people use their native tongue only for swearing, which is irrelevant to this question), I think people are used to (or have no problem with) just rolling with whatever forms of profanity the book throws at them.
13 TheMuse21st Apr 2013 02:42:21 PM , Relationship Status: Browsing the selection
Does anyone think that using British language quirks could be overdone if there isn't a good explanation? For example: if I had a character refer to their mother as 'mum' or called vests 'waist coats,' could that be eyeroll worthy?
Seeking for Light
If they're not British/Commonwealth English speakers and haven't been exposed to it, it would be a little weird. But it doesn't take a whole lot nowadays for cross-over language to occur.
15 JHM22nd Apr 2013 12:38:03 AM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up][up] There is a slight semantic difference between a vest and a waistcoat...
[up] Would I be correct in the assumption that, aside from the British/American English divide, a "waistcoat" is specific towards the sleeveless, button-up garment used in Western European culture, that is worn over a shirt and under a jacket; while a "vest" is a more generic term that can also be applied to other similarly designed pieces of clothing that differ in terms of origin, how they are worn or function (e.g. a life vest)?

edited 22nd Apr '13 1:36:19 AM by peasant

17 JHM22nd Apr 2013 01:36:09 AM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Precisely. There are other differences, but that is the key one.
18 VincentQuill5th May 2013 01:27:35 AM from Dublin , Relationship Status: Sinking with my ship
swear words can word fine in a vaguely medieval setting - just look at A Song of Ice and Fire. most british slang 'swear' words can also word easily, but be careful your readers will understand them. i tend to veer towards actual swear words, but prefer them to be a a little different; e.g., i use the word 'feck' a common swear word in Ireland quite a bit, but tend to avoid its default version, 'fuck'. some characters suit some words better than others.
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Total posts: 18