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Swearing

"Cusswords, I was to discover, were very different from Earth... In a world where no one had to poop or pee externally, you might say, to do it deliberately--or even refer to it--was ten times worse than the sex cussing at home, which, by the way, they didn't have here. Same went for spitting, I was to find out. In some countries, even making the motion of spitting could get you into real trouble." ~Cherene Jennet Sherwood [1]

The above is the kid's eye view.

Swearing certainly covers the usual vulgarities, intensified because human waste is seldom seen, so its appearance is a deliberate insult.

Probably the single worse thing you can say, in any culture, is 'soulripper' or 'souleater' both of which refer to something that actually can happen. We would probably call it mindrape, only it can be permanent--identity devoured. And consequently, someone in Norsunder is said to be damned. "Damn you" means "I want you to go to Norsunder." There is no complete consistency here, as people seldom exclaim "Norsunder!" the way humans here exclaim "Hell!" but then there is the very real possibility that someone there might actually hear it, and take an interest. It's been done, and for malicious fun, by bored Norsundrians. "Damn!" or "Damnation!" however are heard, probably as artifacts of human origins.

Sexual swearing is minimal: though private or intimate boundaries exist, and vary from person to person, culture to culture, time to time, the sense of shame (and its equally intense fixation) and the concept of virginity (especially female) as a commodity vanishing drained sexual matters of the freight of meaning that swear words must convey in order to work. Thus, spitting is considered shockingly rude. The Sartorans lay a finger alongside their lips to indicate spitting; in Colend a forefinger touching the lips means "silence" ( and there are variations), but a forefinger at the lips with the pad turned outward indicated spitting.

Swear words thus tend either toward the above (Norsunder or spitting, sometimes excrement), or derive out of the culture. "Blued" or "Blue-shoed" for example meant traitors due to a political brangle, in which a certain faction showed their partisanship by the wearing of blue shoes. There is also a general tendency for especially hated names to become verbs for destruction. In Chwahirsland, for example, once Shnit Sonscarna was gone, for many generations after his name was used as an expletive of the nastiest kind.

As indicated above, Colendi, have the most subtle forms of verbal insult, very often conveyed only in intonation. These can completely bypass foreigners, even those determined to learn the language; the Universal language spell will translate the words directly, leaving the auditor to either observe signs that meaning is other than it seems, or not. But the general belief that the Colendi talk in a singsong voice, that they drawl a lot, has to do with these layers of meaning, and degrees of intensity, conveyed just by intonation. This also goes for the fluid, always-reinveted fan language.

References

  1. CJ1, Ch.4

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Page last modified on November 06, 2013, at 09:44 AM