I am writing a new novel, which I am not allowed to talk about, but I can tell you this much: it is set about 65 years in the future, in North America. Among the many setting elements that I am creating for it, I’m trying to design some new swear words for people to use. Swearing is one of the most stable linguistic categories we have, so some of the words we use now will still be used in the future; “damn” has been a cuss word for hundreds of years, and will probably be so for hundreds more. On the other hand, swearing is also on of the most inventive linguistic categories, which is why (for example) people can use the word f*** as pretty much every part of speech. So I’m coming up with new swear words for two reasons: first, for personal reasons, I don’t want to use f*** at all, as any part of speech, and second, because I think it would happen anyway over time. And third, because I think it’s fun, but I didn’t mention that earlier.
The problem with coming up with new swear words is that it’s very, very hard to not make them silly. “Frak,” from Battlestar Galactica, is well-loved by fans of the show (I use it all the time), but people without that emotional investment often think it sounds silly, like the kids on the playground that say “fudge!” and think they’re being clever. The challenge, then, is to create swear words that still sound kind of horrible without actually being horrible. This is even harder than it sounds, but so far I’ve got two that I kind of like.
I had a friend who went to on a 3-day discount cruise to Mexico, including a stop in the tourist town of Ensenada, and when she came back she couldn’t stop talking about how cheap and crappy the whole thing was. She pulled out some photos of all the lame places she visited, and then told a long story about an hour-long taxi ride to go see some stupid attraction; when she showed us the next photo, she said “after that lon, horrible taxi ride, this is the blowhole we went to see.” It turns out the place was literally called a blowhole–a rock formation along the shore where incoming waves get funneled in such a way that they spout straight up, like a fountain. But I didn’t know that at first, and I thought she was using the word “blowhole” as an expletive, as some kind of combination of “this place is a hole” and “this place blows.” It had just the right combination of nastiness to be a real cuss word in the right situations (“blow” and “hole” are both vaguely scatalogical terms) while simultaneously being a completely innocent word (a blowhole is, of course, a whale’s nostril). I’m using the word blowhole in my novel, not applied to places but to people, ie, “that guy’s a real blowhole.” I think it’s working, but we’ll see what the readers say.
The second word I’m thinking of is borrowed from Wayne’s World. Back in the day, they had a skit about how they, too, were looking for a new word to use, because sometimes “Shyea” is just not strong enough. The word they settled on was “rectal,” which is, again, a perfection combination of gross and innocent, plus it has that wonderful “ct” consonant cluster in the middle to really make it harsh on the ear and deliciously nasty to say. I’m not as enamored with this one as I am with blowhole, but I think it can still work.
So: blowhole and rectal. They’re okay, but I need more, and that’s where you come in: what are some good fake swear words that you think would be awesome? Swear words tend to focus on bodily functions and religion, and I’m open to anything that is not actually blasphemous. Let’s see if we can come up with something that isn’t totally rectal.