I just read this article on several archaic swear words -- 10 Old Swears You'll Want to Bring Back. It was quite entertaining. The author thought some of these phrases might be fun to re-integrate back into modern speech. Here's a sampling:
Arfarfan'arf (really!) Victorian slang for a drunk. An "arf" is a half pint of alcohol, so if he or she is an arfaran'arf, they've had way too many drinks.
Bed-swerver - From Shakespearean literature, meaning cuckold or unfaithful. (I dunno. For me, the phrase summons a mental image of someone in a bed careening down a steep road. But maybe it's just me.)
Fustilarian - Also Shakespearean, from Henry IV, an adjective meaning low or common
Swounds - it's medieval and actually stands for "God's wounds"
Thunderation - Evolved from damnation and tarnation, the meaning is equal to "hell!" or "damn!"
Those are just a few, but if you want to read some of the more *ahem* colorful references, follow the link.
Though I'm not sure all of those terms would work in modern day, I used a form of one of the above in a novel -- "Thunderin'" instead of Thunderation. It's actually a Newfie term, or slang spoken by those who hail from the Newfoundland area of Canada. (Also, T'underin', according to my source).
I had a character who was originally born in Newfoundland and went to space as a resident of Yellowknife, Northwest Territory, Canada, use it as part of his speech. He says the word as an exclamation or combines with other words for a more emphatic statement (such as "What the thunderin' hell?")
Adding swear words in Sci-Fi can be fun or even poignant, especially if the words are given a particular meaning in the story or significance to the character. Much of our iconic Science Fiction used particular phrases as a form of cursing, including frak, a futuristic term for another four-letter word used in Battlestar Galactica.
Firefly gave us gorram as well as several colorful Chinese/Cantonese-inspired curses.
Farscape used frell and dren as their futuristic alternatives to some of our brief present-day terms.
I couldn't think of an instance of swearing in Star Wars, but upon doing a little research I discovered that some of the related books included the terms fierfek (supposedly from Jabba the Hutt's world) and sithspawn, which was a Corellian term, with a meaning that's probably clear to Star Wars fans. Spawn of sith.
Then there are the more amusing phrases like Mork's shazbot!, which probably has no real meaning other than pure entertainment.
Clearly the use (or non-use) of swear words and the frequency is up to the author, but IMHO it's important to keep the relevancy in line with the tone and flavor of the story. Amusing terms along the lines of shazbot! might work in a humorous sci-fi tale, but in a more dramatic piece they could stand out as silly or out-of-place or the dread 'trying too hard to sound sci-fi.' Still, how a particular word fits the story is ultimately the judgment of each individual writer...and each individual reader.
When it comes to swearing, I try to tread lightly, but there are several phrases throughout my series that are considered oaths. Here's an abridged Inherited Stars Series glossary of swear words and oaths.
blue devil - an exclamation, "What the blue devil are you doing?" is like we would say "What the devil..."
blue hades - a bad hell where the blue devils hail from. See also "sixth hell"
Empora's Hades - is like saying "deep dark hell." The characters often use hades alone, but Empora was a legend and adding her name to the mix makes any "hades!" a particularly bad one.
fug - what a very common modern swear word (more politely shown as f***) evolves into in 1500 years.
gigadam (one that seems pretty popular with and amusing to readers) translates to "damn to the nth degree"
Gods of Gellen - see below
Haley's Crest - a perilous area of space that spacefarers adopted as an oath. Sometimes shortened to just "Crest"
heo - both a curse and an insult, from the Purmian language, meaning 'gutless eunuch.'
peitchau - another Purmian curse, literally meaning 'Yele-damned' which is a very powerful form of damning in the Purmian culture.
rifted - a reference to treacherous dark nebula known as Bradley's Rift. Means the same as 'blasted' or 'bloody.'
sixth hell - a particularly nasty level of hell
As to the note above, the "Gods of Gellen" is a phrase with an ancient reference that has lost it's context and meaning, like some of those old oaths from the referenced article above. Or at least, it's lost it's meaning for most of those in the 36th century (when the series takes place).
But that particular brand of curse opens a can of worms between two of the characters in my upcoming story, SpyDog, which will be part of the Pets in Space® 4 anthology to be released on October 8th.
It creates a bit of high drama when one of the characters spits it out it in an offhand way, like we might say, well...swounds!...and is then challenged by his companion for uttering it.
After learning the true root of the term, his journey takes an unexpected turn. [Can you say 'foreshadowing.'
Have you read (or written) any new swear words that are tailored to a particular story or universe? Any that you found especially amusing, or hard hitting? Please tell us more in comments below.
And let me just mention again (because I don't want anyone to miss out on this very fun #FREEBIE) that there's a sampler of Pets in Space® 4 available. It's packed with story snippets, original works and even artwork by the authors. Just click the link below to grab a copy.
Enjoy! And have a great week.