Victoria Bitter (victoriabitter) wrote,
Victoria Bitter

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Have been thinking recently about swearing in Middle Earth, and about the difference between the use and nature of curses and that of explitives.

On the topic of explitives, while I'm sure that most of the Anglo-Saxon explitives we use today (shit, piss, cunt, cock, fuck, arse) would have existed, I'm uncertain whether it would be out of character to put them in the mouths of our heroes. On the one hand, we definitely see them in stressful situations, situations where my mouth and probably most people's would bear a shocking resemblance to an open sewer. Yet not a truly harsh word falls from their lips. On the other, Tolkien was a gentleman of his time, and probably thought such things unseemly. But...isn't Tolkien's use of language for them to be our guideline? If he doesn't have Sam say "fuck" when Frodo is stung by Shelob, shouldn't that be a clue to writing Sam's dialogue just as much as the fact that Sam doesn't use words like "disassociative" in daily conversation? But....Tolkien didn't give them any function below the waist, either, and we feel no qualms about putting that in. *scritches head* Dunno. For some reason, despite things I've said before, it heartily bugs me to see Sam Gamgee letting rip like a drunken fishwife when he slams his finger in a door, when he said naught of the sort in Cirith Ungol.

Curses, methinks, are another matter, and I've a mind that these could be utterly delightful culture-specific fun. As was said on a recent LOTR slash list, I believe that they would have had a very Shakespearean flavour to them, but also depended on what the particular race thought was a Very Bad Thing. Elvish curses, for example, are probably borderline poetic and more invocational than descriptive, (may the shadow fall ever upon your path that your steps may linger in eternal darkness) Dwarves probably slight one's skill or sense of value (you worthless dross or you clumsy hammer-fists), Maiar, if they curse at all, are probably much like the Elves, while I see Hobbits as very down-to-earth in their cursing, and I reckon a bad day at the Green Dragon sounds much like a bad day at Henry IV's Boar's Head Tavern (you starveling, you dried neat's tongue, you bull-pizzle, you stock-fish) and a rowdy night 'round the campfires of the armies of Gondor or Rohan is probably much the same, with a few varients in that such militant and geneological things as sanguine coward and whoreson might be a bit more popular in Gondor, while in Rohan you horse-back-breaker or you worthless nag would doubtless have special sting.
Well, that's enough blither for now. Off to class.

Those paper-drowned knaves, those frost-blooded bookworms...
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