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Thread: swearing in the 17th/18th century, f-bomb and variants

  1. #26
    practical experience, FTW Manat's Avatar
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    I'm telling you guys, click on this
    http://www.ealasaid.com/fan/rochester/charles.html

    or this

    http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets...ot/poems/10980

    We're talking the 1670's here and the language is worse than ganster rap, though certainly more erudite and witty.

  2. #27
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by murmel View Post
    Would a 17th C gentleman have said to his opponent he is crossing swords with, "Dear Sir, would you please kindly consider to move and to surrender your sword?" or would he have said, "you fsob..." or something in between?
    Suggested illegitimacy is always a good source of insult, e.g. "Surrender your sword, bastard!" or "Surrender your sword, you son of a whore!" I'm sure these must translate well into every language ever spoken.

    I recall Nigel Tranter, whose Scottish historical novels became very popular in the early '70s (Robert the Bruce trilogy, William Wallace, Rob Roy, et al) when Nationalism was rampant, used dastard as an insult (dastardly: cowardly & despicable) but there was little doubt which word the characters actually meant to say.

    -Derek
    Last edited by dpaterso; 05-04-2008 at 11:49 AM.
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  3. #28
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Fuck wasn't used in the imperative, or as an exclamation until fairly recently. It was used in a sexual context, but it wasn't "acceptable."

    Curses/swearing/cussing was generally of the "ods bodikins variety, even in Scots Gaelic--we know this because there are laws, in Gaelic, about penalties for cursing, and because we also have the church rolls listing offenses, and the confessional manuals, with exemplars in Gaelic for the forbidden words.

    I'm not so ready to accept that a Scotsman in 1689 would know, and use, Gaelic as a primary tongue unless he's from the Hebrides or Highlands. If he's educated, he's likely to know Lallans, Scots, a derivative of Middle Scots, better than Gaelic, and he's probably quite comfortable with French.

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  4. #29
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manat View Post
    I'm telling you guys, click on this
    http://www.ealasaid.com/fan/rochester/charles.html

    or this

    http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets...ot/poems/10980

    We're talking the 1670's here and the language is worse than ganster rap, though certainly more erudite and witty.
    Rochester was also a court poet, deliberately writing to shock. Notice that he's using fuck and cunt both in explicitly sexual contexts.

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  5. #30
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Just my opinion, penalties for swearing may be presumed to be suspended on the battlefield. Afterwards, no one's going to ask Angus, "And did ye swear when the Sassenach tried tae cut yer heid aff?"

    -Derek
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  6. #31
    Historicals and Horror rule donroc's Avatar
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    I came across this site: altacoustic.net





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  7. #32
    practical experience, FTW murmel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medievalist View Post
    I'm not so ready to accept that a Scotsman in 1689 would know, and use, Gaelic as a primary tongue unless he's from the Hebrides or Highlands. If he's educated, he's likely to know Lallans, Scots, a derivative of Middle Scots, better than Gaelic, and he's probably quite comfortable with French.
    You are correct, you need to know some specifics before you can persume what the person's mother tongue might have been.

    My hero is from the Ardgour and they spoke Gaelic as a mother tongue.

    I beg to differ between the question of the mother tongue and the ability to speak a second or even a third language. The whereabouts of Highlander clans are quite clear and so are locations of the Lowlander families. Any given Lowlander family had Scots and maybe French. The Earl of Dumbarton, for instance, stayed with King James II/VII in exile in St Germain. Chances were he spoke perfectly French.

    Even in the 18th century, most of the "commoners" of the Campbell (the most pro-Lowland Highland clan) spoke Gaelic as a mother tongue.
    When it goes to members of the upperclass of the Highland clans we find they spoke Gaelic as a mother tongue and English and/or French as second/third language. A Campbell or McKay chief had Gaelic in late 16th, but may have not have any Gaelic at all in the late 17th century, but his tacksmen and maybe even his own family would have had Gaelic.
    A Cameron, MacLean, MacDonald, MacKenzie chief (any of the branches) would have had Gaelic plus the other language(s). For instance Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel had Gaelic as a mother tongue and because he went to school in St Andrews he had, of course, Scots. As he turned away from the covenants -- I think -- his son John was educated in France.

    A generation later, things changed drastically. MacLean of Duairt was fostered from baby days on by the Campbells and he was Presbyterian and spoke Scots... but I think he must have spoken Gaelic too, otherwise he'd not been able to personally prevent his subjects to attend the Catholic mass. But then, it says he just stood there with his cane pointing to the other church, he might have forgot his Gaelic after all. After Culloden, the chiefs and their heirs were forced out of their land and held in custody for twenty years. When they returned, they had changed and the clan system crumbled. Those 18th C chiefs spoke all Scots, and any chief born after Culloden may have had no Gaelic at all.

    I mean this is what Jacobites were all about when they started out to fight. They feared for their assets and culture. And right they were.

    With all that said, it is really important to be clear about what clan or family and what time your character is in, before one can decide what his mother tongue was. I envision many of the Highland Clan Chiefs as being bilingual as all of the Gaels are nowadays.

    So, to come back to the original question, my hero would curse in Gaelic and back then, he'd had no Presbyterian restraint upon him either. He speaks Scots and French, too. Of oucrse he does, he's my hero after all.

    murmel.
    Last edited by murmel; 05-04-2008 at 05:38 PM.
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  8. #33
    practical experience, FTW murmel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    Just my opinion, penalties for swearing may be presumed to be suspended on the battlefield. Afterwards, no one's going to ask Angus, "And did ye swear when the Sassenach tried tae cut yer heid aff?"
    lol.

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    I recall Nigel Tranter, whose Scottish historical novels became very popular in the early '70s (Robert the Bruce trilogy, William Wallace, Rob Roy, et al) when Nationalism was rampant, used dastard as an insult (dastardly: cowardly & despicable) but there was little doubt which word the characters actually meant to say.
    Yes, but here I'm inclined to assume that Nigel gave in to the pressure of his readers. I have a good friend and her mother likes to read my stories. However, for her it must be a clean version. No hard swearing, no blasphemy, and no expletive sex. And that's why I don't go near to f- and c-words although I believe they were in common use.
    Last edited by murmel; 05-04-2008 at 05:44 PM.
    Keep moving forward, because you cannot change the past.

  9. #34
    Retired and loving it! Puma's Avatar
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    Which, with Murmel's last post, comes back to the question of - who are the readers and what's appropriate for them. I sort of doubt that the people using the F word in daily conversation are the majority of who's reading historical fiction. Does Granny down the street want to see the F word in what she's reading - probably not; does the college kid reading a modern dectective story want to see it on every page - probably so. Who reads historical fiction? Puma

  10. #35
    Oponionated PastMidnight's Avatar
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    Well, I read historical fiction. I rarely swear in real life, but have no objection to characters using the occasional naughty word if it fits their personality and the situation. No matter the genre, you are going to find readers who can't stand bad words and readers who don't mind. As with everything in writing (at least in my opinion), you can't write to an audience, because that audience isn't going to be homogeneous.


  11. #36
    practical experience, FTW murmel's Avatar
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    Good question, Puma. I lurk around a lot and often I see the "I don't read historical fiction because the writing is stilted and boring" a lot. So are all historical fiction readers and writers boring and uptight?
    Keep moving forward, because you cannot change the past.

  12. #37
    practical experience, FTW funidream's Avatar
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    the good, the bad, and the ugly

    I disagree with generalizations in regards to age and tastes in reading material. My 91 year old mother-in-law was an avid reader and a big fan of historical fiction. We shared many books. The worst swear word I ever heard her utter would be "Holy Cats!" but she never let strong language or violence stop her from enjoying a good story. She passed away a few weeks ago, and I miss her.

    I try to write the kind of story I love to read - of course I love and want the historical detail and setting, but more important, I need and want to see the human qualities of those long ago people - all of it - the good, the bad and the ugly.

    Within the bounds of culture, social status and time period, I never tire of learning that people still laughed when happy, cried when they were sad and swore when angry. And though I generally believe that throughout time we humans have strived for goodness, we also sometimes succumbed to baser natures - good and evil go hand in hand - and it is the stuff of great fiction.

    I can't fathom trying to create a sanitized story based on the requirements of a perceived audience. (Probably why I'll never write YA)
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  13. #38
    Oponionated PastMidnight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by funidream View Post

    Within the bounds of culture, social status and time period, I never tire of learning that people still laughed when happy, cried when they were sad and swore when angry. And though I generally believe that throughout time we humans have strived for goodness, we also sometimes succumbed to baser natures - good and evil go hand in hand - and it is the stuff of great fiction.
    Yes! This is why I read historical fiction.


  14. #39
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    I have to say...

    that you are all getting your knickers in a twist about something which is really quite simple.

    Most people swear now, most people swore back then (whenever your then is!) and it's your character who is swearing.
    What would s/he say? And that depends on you knowing their education, religious devotion, and their concern about popular opinion.

    If s/he's educated and devout then what s/he says will be quite mild and amusing to modern ears.
    If s/he's a peasant it will probably be very earthy and fundamental.

    If you like to be a 'modern' historical writer appealling to the modern reader you will use the old words - and fuck is old - in a modern way.

    If you prefer to stick to the period for your character then you'll use different ways and words.

    Terry Prachett always amuses me when his characters swear. They are not Christian in the Disc World but use familiar expressions with a twist: "Oh, gods." I think your Romans could do that nicely, Doogs. You can also write round swearing and indicate that a character swore without using the words.

    Pup has made a very clear point which is backed up in the 17thC by Rochester's poetry. Fuck and cunt were used in sexual contexts not in ordinary swearing. The words were men's words for men talking to men about women and sex, to brag, boast or demean.

    If you want your reader happy you'll go stark staring bonkers trying to please everyone. You can't. All you can do is write the way you feel is right.

    It's like the crits in SYW, you always smile and say thank you, but you listen to your writer's instinct and if a crit and the instinct coincide you'll do something. If it doesn't you mark it down to personal preference and note it as an interesting highlight on readers' minds.

  15. #40
    practical experience, FTW Doogs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdr View Post
    Terry Prachett always amuses me when his characters swear. They are not Christian in the Disc World but use familiar expressions with a twist: "Oh, gods." I think your Romans could do that nicely, Doogs.
    They do the same on Battlestar Galactica ("gods damnit!"). They also invented their own expletive to get around the censors ("frak!"), which seems very analagous with our f-bomb.

    And my Romans often invoke the gods in their swearing. Apart from "by the gods", there's also "Jupiter's balls!", "Neptune and his horses!", "Venus' vulva!", "I'll be a suckling wolf", and several more.

    Sometimes, though, it's nice to have one word. One syllable. So much more impactful that way.
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  16. #41
    practical experience, FTW murmel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdr View Post
    that you are all getting your knickers in a twist about something which is really quite simple.
    To make that clear: my knickers don't twist.
    Keep moving forward, because you cannot change the past.

  17. #42
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    ???

    Are you sure, murmel?

  18. #43
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doogs View Post
    Also - and I haven't done any research specifically on this point - but I wonder what role Christianity played in the "tabooization" of swearing. It's rise influenced just about everything else, after all...
    There are laws from the Augustan era about appropriate langauge.

    Caesar borrows rude Germanic words in Gallic Wars.

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  19. #44
    practical experience, FTW murmel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdr View Post
    Are you sure, murmel?
    no.
    Keep moving forward, because you cannot change the past.

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