John Green's novel An Abundance of Katherines when one of the main characters, Lindsey, asks the very question I've been wondering for most of the book:
"Hey, why the f--- do you and Hassan say fug all the time?"
Of course, in the novel, Linday actually says the expletive. This happens more than 1/2 way through the book, when this question has been burning in the reader's mind as well. She's asking the protagonist, Colin, why he and his best friend constantly use expressions like "motherfugger" and "FUG!"
Colin's answer is brilliant, if only because John Green is obviously making a conscious commentary on the use of swear words in literature itself. (I absolutely love it when literary characters talk about literature in books. It always blows my mind - I'm always like "you're a literary character yourself, dude, don't you realize that?")
Anyhoo, to get back on point... In answer to her question, Colin tells Lindsay the story of Norman Mailer, and his book, The Naked and the Dead, which originally, according to Colin/Green, contained 'the F-word' "thirty-seven thousand times...every other word is fug, pretty much." In Colin's words,
"...he sent it to the publisher and they were like, 'This is a really excellent book you've written, Mr. Mailer. But no one here in 1948 is going to buy it because it contains even more F-bombs than it does Regular Bombs. So Norman Mailer, as a kind of fug-you to the publisher went through his 872-page book and changed every last F-word to 'fug.' "
Green's characters use other made up, or at least, non-English language curse words in the novel. Hassan, for instance, calls Colin a sitzpinkler (the German word for a man who sits down to pee, in other words, a wimp).
Green's brilliant novel, as well as this fabulous recent post on From The Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors called "Is it OK to curse in MG books?" got me thinking: what other books or TV shows do I know where made-up curses are used? And does it work? (or get silly/distracting?)
It works in Green's book, clearly. Words like "fugger," like "sitzpinkler," become a part of Hassan and Colin's characters, and their relationship. The cool kid bloggers over at Forever Young Adult throw down hilarious phrases like "Subscribe to comments, bishes" and "RSS this shizz." In my own YA WIP, I have my teenage sci-fi-watching heroine use the word "Frak" as an homage to the coinage of the term on one of my favorite sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. (Although in my novel she calls it 'Spacestar Galacticon.') How much do I love it when BSG characters say things like "frak" and "frakker" and "frak me?" A lot. Uh-huh. So say we all.
But clearly, there's different made up cursewords appropriate even for different ages. In my co-written MG WIP, my co-author Karen and I have the father of one of the protagonists, an antiquities expert, use expressions that harken to his mythologically based work. 'The Professor' uses expressions like "By Shiva's Trident!," and "On Osiris' Throne!"
Only recently, the fabulous Kristin Clark Venuti noted on FB that she wanted to bring back the use of the word "Zounds!" (which is a derivation of the Shakespearean era curse "God's Wounds" and apparently pronounced zoo-nds). I suggested that if she did, I would bring back an expression my co-author Karen and I used as children: "Gadzooks!"
Other way cool Shakespearean curses that should be brought back might be things like "by my hammer and tongs!" "Tush!" or "Fie!" (Check out this hilarious site on the Elizabethan Insult for more great words, including "whey-faced" and "Canker-blossom")
What are your favorite made up insults? Do they work or should we use the real thing? Or just avoid cursing altogether?