The Ubiquity of Sacred Curses.

World Arts Me

Are you ever stuck for a suitable expletive to place in the mouths of your characters? I’m currently writing a science fiction novel set in the near future on Mars. I’ve imagined a new world where, amongst other things, the society is effectively agnostic. In devising dialogue, I suddenly became aware of just how pervasive is the use of expletives based on religious foundations. With apologies, and a warning, to those who may find these offensive, I list some here:

By damn! By the blood of Christ! Christ! Damn! Damnation! For Christ’s sake! For God’s Sake! For the Lord’s Sake! For the love of Christ! For the love of God! God Almighty! God help us! God! God’s Blood! Good God! Good heavens! Good Lord! Great heavens! Hell and damnation! Hell! Holy Christ! Holy mother of God! Holy Smoke!   Jeez! Jesus Christ! Jesus! Lord have mercy! Lord help us! Mein gott! Mon dieu!  Mother of God! My God! Oh God! Oh my God! Oh my gosh! Oh, my Heavens! Thank God! What the devil was that all about? What the Devil? What the hell?

But I’m looking for appropriate expressions of shock/surprise that could logically escape the lips of atheist/agnostic characters. And I have to confess I found that difficult. I could revert to those swear words that find sexual matters a good source for the expression of shock, but that wouldn’t fit in with my new world either, since sex there is accepted as a great but normal and natural aspect of life by both genders and not considered a topic for insult or surprise. So, where do I go?

I’d love your opinions on the following list and, if you’re feeling creative, your suggestions to add to it, please. Bear in mind these are intended as replacements for occasions where religious expletives would be considered normal and appropriate:

Shit! What on Earth? By the dust of Mars! Of all the downloads! Exploding stars! Black holes and dark matter! Science save us! Beta, blast and binary! By Einstein’s Constant! Oh, Einstein! Newton’s apple!

My thanks to the following two sites for their contribution to the God-based list. What Christians Want to Know. Choose Your Beliefs.

And my thanks to the website that provided the graphic that heads this post:

10 thoughts on “The Ubiquity of Sacred Curses.

  1. Expletives tend to express frustration/anger by challenging what it is acceptable to say in whichever society one is in. An expletive such as ‘By Christ!’ is used precisely because it will offend. ‘F**k!’ will also offend those of a more prim sensibility. What takes the place of something that is either sacred or is too rude for polite society to mention in your created world, Stuart? Relationships? Money?

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    1. Thanks, Roger. Added to the collection for possible future use.
      Mick, I’m looking more for the sort of expletive that acts as an exclamation of surprise/shock, the way people will say, ‘Oh, my God!’ when presented with a surprising or difficult situation. The things that will most matter to my characters are science, rationality, the dangers of living on an alien planet etc. They deliberately exclude both sexual and religious references as they are determined to ensure their offspring won’t be exposed to such doubts and concerns.

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      1. Or might you perhaps have a developing mythology about the planet/space as a sort of dark side of the rational mind, with a character from that mythology becoming a bogeyman and used in that way? Okay, perhaps it’s time I came off of the computer tonight!!!

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  2. glenavailable

    Here goes with a list of Martian expletives & put-downs –

    * “Put that in your Endzone and smoke it”.
    * “Go orbit some other moon why don’t you?”
    * “For the love of iron oxide!”
    * “Sacred solar systems!”
    * “Go get crated!”

    Delivered in the right tone, chances are you’d no longer be on speaking terms if you were on the receiving end of one of these ‘Mars barbs’,

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    1. Thanks, Glen. Your list added to my possibles for when I start the edit – probably late next week, as I have the outside of the house to paint and the weather looks promising!


  3. I’ve found that there’s never a really better alternative than the first one you chose. The word is full, rich and capable of being said in so many different ways.Although not near my wife because she’d hurt me – again.

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