Swearwords/swearing in conlangs

Swearwords/swearing in conlangs

Hullo, long time no see!

The other day I was musing on how I might translate a random sentence in English into Beldreni, when I realized I didn’t know how to translate “damn” (in this case “so damn difficult”) or indeed any other swearword.

Which got me to thinking. First, should Beldreni have swearwords in the same way that English or Swedish does? I’ve heard that Japanese doesn’t quite have them, that the rudeness expressed by swearing is conveyed in other ways in Japanese, like having impolite pronouns for instance. But I don’t know too much about that.

In the case of Beldreni, one way of being rude is to use familiar forms of the verb and some other parts of speech, like 1st and 2nd person pronouns, to someone who you don’t know that well and it’s not a situation where familiar forms could still be justified. Another way could be to use a pejorative infix on a central noun in the sentence, since Beldreni likes its infixes. And actually I think I *did* invent a pejorative infix once upon a time, might find it again if I go digging… though they would probably have more than one.

Then there’s the way that of course, not all swearing is aggressive, angry swearing — we often use swearwords just as a mark of emphasis, to underline how strongly we feel about something. Pejorative infixes could well be used for that, but rude pronouns wouldn’t do the trick…

So I might also decide to bring in a more standard way of swearing in the way we’re used to, using words with a strong meaning, perhaps seen as taboo. But if I do, I wonder which semantic area should I use for swearing? Sexual, familial, scatological, religious, other…? I know full well that English and Swedish differ a lot in what their most common swearwords stand for, for instance. What I know about the culture of the Beldreni speakers could give me clues, but the common swearwords of the language may well have been coined in an earlier era when the culture was different from now.

So now I wonder to all of you who might still read this: are there swearwords in any of your conlangs? If so, what are they like, semantically, grammatically etc? If there aren’t any swearwords yet, are you thinking of adding them? Or does swearing maybe not even play any role among the speakers of your conlangs?



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