Author Topic: Foul Language  (Read 1205 times)

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Foul Language
« on: January 05, 2012, 10:05:29 AM »
Getting Medieval: Swearing
extract of an article by Jeri Westerson

In many instances, it was rather one's character that is questioned along  with their parentage. To call someone a "churl" or "dog" was fightin' words, to  be sure. "Villein" or "scullion" toward a person with means was quite the  insult, for you have called them the lowest of the low, a menial, as if you  called a CEO a trash collector. Not the same sting today, is it?

One was more  likely to come up with a religious oath: "by Christ's blood, toes, bones" and  any number of bodily parts. Or by the saints or the Virgin. Truly, the medieval  man would be perplexed at our concern with defecation or fornication when it  comes to swearing. In fact, many of the oaths sworn in the middle ages might be  something your grandmother would say.

It's certainly hard to picture a noble in  full dress telling someone in no uncertain terms that he is a "lousy swine"  ("lousy" in this sense meaning full of louse). And the same to you, buddy.

That's not to say gestures weren't in use. But the familiar American  "one-fingered salute" was in England (and I believe still is) a two-fingered  variety, this stemming from archers taunting their enemies, proving they still  had their two fingers in which to pull the string of a bow (the index and middle  finger) given with the back of the hand outward. If you were an archer and  captured by one's enemies it was likely they would hew off said fingers so you  couldn't use a bow against them again.
Commoners
Would use more of a basic form of swearing, such as descriptions of bodily functions or the stuff that comes from it.  Most consider such language to be uncultured, and the more unpleasant the commoner language, the less likely they are to mingle with those higher of their breed.

Merchants
Depending on their background and how they were raised, their language would either align with nobility (not swearing) or commoners (swearing).  Note that their use of foul language would affect their status in the noble community.

Nobility
If a noble wished to swear, they'd be far more imaginative with their words.  Instead of telling someone (or even thinking it) to get 'fucked' they would say/think things like: "A pox on you!" or "May your life be riddled with misery", which is where the whole concept of swearing was about cursing, came from.  They would speak a curse, as opposed to using foul language.

Bastard was a word that existed, but nobles were more likely to use this word correctly in conversation - as in a child born out of wedlock.


A taste of language
Be more descriptive, don't just use words today, and remember, when your character is called a fiend or a cur, they should be REALLY insulted.

Other words instead of bastard

cad, cur, fiend, heel, knave, lout, louse, maggot, rascal, rat, rogue, rotter, scoundrel

Fouling Adjectives
  awful,  base, beastly,  cheap,  contemptible,  degrading,  detestable,    dirty,  disgraceful,  disreputable,  down, ignominious,  insignificant,  loathsome,  low,  mean,   reprehensible,  shameful,  sleazy,  sordid,  vile,  worthless,  wretched,  yucky