By : Julie
This Ain't Earth
Why cussing and slang don't fit into the Galaxy Far, Far Away
How swearing works (and doesn't work) in the GFFA.
You want your new character to be tough, fascinating, and dramatic. As haughty as Leia, tough as Chewbacca, daring as Luke, and most especially, as dangerous and wild as Han. Having said character spit out a curse every other paragraph or worse, sentence, is not necessarily going to achieve the desired effect. The same goes for Earth slang terms; they should be used sparingly at most.
The Star Wars movies themselves are limited to 'damn' and 'hell'. The purest canonist and the wildest alternate universe writers can agree that to add too much of our own culture into SW only serves to sully it and ruin the ambience and wonder of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Contemporary slang has the same problem. Not only are the rest of us unlikely to understand whatever you are writing, those who do will get an uneasy feeling that they've just been yanked out of hyperspace by an Imperial Interdictor Cruiser.
This archive in particular has chosen to emulate the Star Wars movies' approach towards language. Even those who are not submitting stories here need to be aware that to not do so will jeopardize the whole Star Wars feel of their story. Also, due to the frequency of children visiting TFN, our policy is to be as family friendly as possible and therefore heavy use of cussing cannot be archived.
Cussing is heavily reliant on insulting the beliefs and virtues of a society. The two Earth curse words in SW ('damn' and 'hell') are in reference to a belief in divine retribution and in an afterlife. They are general enough to fit into a GFFA and anyone using them can make them apply to most species.
Many of the curses we take for granted are reflections of a very particular culture that does not exist in a GFFA. For instance, in some Earth cultures, the name of the Deity is a taboo word, so it's used as a curse when something goes wrong. This doesn't exist in other cultures. I don't know about you, but I've never heard a Buddhist drop something on his toe and mutter, "Oh, Siddhartha!" The prohibition on saying the name in vain isn't there, so it doesn't become a curse.
So, what is an offensive word here is unlikely to be so in a GFFA. Unless a person's illegitimate birth is considered anathema or aggressive females are reviled and dogs are considered lowly wretches, you'd have a very hard time finding people who even know they are being insulted by the words we use to describe these conditions.
By the same token, calling someone a vegetable could be the most vile and enraging insult possible where you come from, but at the most, I'd be mildly irritated and trying to guess which mental ward you escaped from.
You can see an example of this difficulty in the Mos Eisley Cantina. You don't hear one comprehendible curse, just that ugly guy who bellowed and the even uglier one who didn't, or just couldn't, translate it literally for Luke.
Yes, SW is peppered with distinct and vibrant characters and naturally you'd like to convey that. Without the visual effects, you only have dialogue to aid you. Be careful not to go overboard. You can see that Han's personal speech pattern clearly gives you the impression of a crazy and cool guy and just about anyone else who said his lines the same way would too. It's not due so much to his words as it is his informal style and attitude. However, using your own regional terms and phrases can be disastrous.
Likewise, using someone else's regional slang, like trying to make your character sound like a flirtatious Southern Belle in an effort to make her intriguing, will also crash and burn. Don't be so quick to assume that most of the planet will not notice that you are borrowing from Earth culture. Whether they do or not, you can bet that we Southern Belles will know your character is in the wrong galaxy! Unless your story is purposely changing every character's speech patterns for the sake of humor, then it doesn't belong in your drama.
Making up slang isn't too hard, so long as you remember to make it look pronounceable. (unless it's an alien who's vocal cords or equivalent can say all of those extraneous consonants) Coming up with your own slang for your characters can even be fun when used sparingly. After all, only you know the meaning and you'd get tired of having to repetitively explain to your readers what those slang words mean.
If you seriously feel that your character's situation or personality warrants cursing, then try making it have a SW feel. Using actual SW swear words is good, so long as it's plausible that your character would know them. However, "E chuta" might be a curse on the Outer Rim, but I doubt you'd hear it much elsewhere in a GFFA. Likewise, making up your own swear words should not be done lightly. If it sounds too much like our world, it will fall flat.
Swear words are steadily losing their shock value due to their saturation in the media. It's not a universal reaction, some people love to curse up a storm, but many more are now beginning to find curses to be just dull. Anyone can say a cuss word. When I hear cussing or I see the words online, I suddenly get an image of a puny child throwing a tantrum instead of reacting with the anger and pain that the person intended. I've noticed more and more people respond to hearing cursing with a bored expression and ask, "Can't you find a more intelligent way to insult someone or uniquely express your displeasure? Do you really want to sound like a clone?"
When you mix Earth's swear words into a GFFA its not exactly tough, fascinating or dramatic, is it?
Current Rating is 7.74 in 66 total ratings.
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Author: Liz Skywalker
Date posted: 4/28/2001 8:16:16 PM
Liz Skywalker's Comments:
I agree. Making up slang and swear words to fit a character is better than "borrowing" from Earth.
Date posted: 4/28/2001 11:09:27 PM
I've run into the problem of words and situations sounding too much like "21st Century Earth", in fics and it pro-fics. I have never thought it added to the story, and instead brought me out of it... I agree that in the GFFA, Earth Slang does not belong. :)
Date posted: 4/29/2001 7:41:08 AM
I agree that making up your own curse words should not be take lightly, but I think that if you do it right it really works. Look at mIchael A. Stackpole's X-Wing books. He uses curese like "Sithspit" and "by the Emperor's black heart" instead of an earth word. If you consider the type of person who is using the curses, then make up one that wokrs for them.(like "emperor's black heart" works for someone in the rebellion)
Date posted: 4/29/2001 11:12:40 AM
Date posted: 4/29/2001 12:03:59 PM
I agree the "earth" swearing should be kept to a minimum in SW. But terms like "Sithspit", "Sithspawn", and "by the Emperor's black heart" aren't very good alternatives. In fact, they sound corny and ridiculous and for me actually lighten the feel of the story to a more comical one. There have been some other good alternatives, however.
The classic, often-used Alderaanian curse, "Stang!".
"Kriff" or "Kriffing", a curse introduced in "Rogue Planet".
Or you can use your own custom words as long as they flow well with the story, like "frilling".
Author: Jane Jinn
Date posted: 4/29/2001 12:17:54 PM
Jane Jinn's Comments:
I read a lot of JA stories, but nothing makes me cringe more than seeing Obi-Wan (or any other character for that matter) say something in American slang.
"I am so dead."
"No way in Sith!"
I can't think of any more examples, but I'm sure there are thousands of them out there.
I suppose that a lot of writers use these expressions so much in their daily lives that they don't even notice them anymore. But they should become aware of them, and then try to avoid slang altogether, or else, as you say, try to make up something that fits in the SW universe and doesn't sound silly.
Author: The Magician
Date posted: 4/29/2001 12:24:10 PM
The Magician's Comments:
Not bad, but very much a "don't" article, like the only concern is keeping the SWU "clean". A more constructive effort would have been nice, like suggesting some linguistic traits that do work and add character. There's a big difference between Watto's speech patterns and that of an Imperial Officer.
Date posted: 4/29/2001 1:13:30 PM
I agree. [nitpick]BTW: Sauron, kriff and kriffing showed up earlier than RP, just to let you know. The HoT duology has it.[/nitpick]
Some stories use "Holy Force!" "Bright Force!" or similar terms when working with Force-sensitive characters, and that works (sort of the equivalent of "Mother of God!" or "God d*mnit)
Author: Angel of Iego
Date posted: 4/29/2001 6:23:08 PM
Angel of Iego's Comments:
I agree with you completely. Most references to recent Earth pop culture, especially language, are very jarring in a serious SW fanfic. And besides, I've had a lot of fun making up slang terms for the GFFA. Shows how much of a life I have.
Date posted: 4/30/2001 1:47:17 PM
Not to sound even more ignorant than I already am, but what the heck is "GFFA"?
(Am I correct in assuming that heck is ok? :P
Editor's Note : "GFFA" stands for "Galaxy Far Far Away."
Date posted: 5/10/2001 11:56:47 PM
It's nice to know that someone else has noticed that they don't really swear in a GFFA but instead say things like: "Oh Force..." or "Holy Sith..." and stuff. Those are the only 'swear' words that i use.
Author: Lord Bane
Date posted: 5/20/2001 5:47:50 PM
Lord Bane's Comments:
I cannot picture an adult saying, "Oh, fodder!" and expect to be taken seriously. I use curse words in my writing, all save the Big F.
I feel to limit our dialogue to childish, odd sounding words demeans the audience and makes them feel coddled and small.
A tough guy's going to say, "Hey, you son of a b*tch, get back here!"
Not, "Hey, you son of a bantha, get back here!" It's silly.
Then again, I am not a sci-fi/fantasy fan, so perhaps the silliness and odd sounding words and phrases just annoy me more than the average.
Decent article, nevertheless.
Date posted: 5/21/2001 9:15:58 PM
I'm not sure what a tough-guy would say in the SW universe, though. Earth-curses are Earth-based, and don't seem to be used. While I'd agree that a tough guy wouldn't say "Oh, drat," I don't think that the reasonable conclusion to draw from that is that he must swear like a sailor and use Earth terms to do it. That just doesn't seem to be the way the dialogue in the movies worked.
Author: Jedi Master Nejaa Halcyon
Date posted: 6/8/2001 4:40:58 PM
Jedi Master Nejaa Halcyon's Comments:
Sometimes, SW authors don't actually mentioned the actual word the character is saying. They just describe it as 'colorful language' or 'curses that wouldn't have sounded out of place in a cantina on Nar Shadda.'
Author: The Great Yoda
Date posted: 6/10/2001 12:55:54 AM
The Great Yoda's Comments:
Acepptable swearing is. But only if enhances the character it does.
Date posted: 6/28/2001 10:24:44 AM
Above all else, we should keep in mind that this universe was not created by the fans. We are playing in George Lucas's sandbox, and should follow his example. SW is meant to be an adventure for everyone to enjoy without alienating anyone. Cursing and slang takes away from the enjoyment for many people. I curse and use slang in my normal life, but I read fanfic and EU to get away from the normal world, and would be offended to be pulled back to reality because something is not right for the universe.
Date posted: 7/11/2001 9:04:29 PM
This is a very good article, and I agree with pretty much all of it.
The fact is that you CAN'T get 'our galaxy' swear words into the SW galaxy without some crazy situation for the word habits to form.
For example, I can't see Han reaching out, tearing a hole between our galaxies, sticking his head through and saying "Hello, I'm a fictional charecter from another galaxy. I just wanted to borrow some swear words. I've run out."
On the other hand, if Leia were in a bad mood and cried out something like "oh, Shards of Alderaan" it would be much more appropriate, and would show how whatever the circumstances were upset her, since Alderaan would be close at heart for her.
Anyway, good article. Keep it up
Author: The Cynical Pirate
Date posted: 7/11/2001 9:41:36 PM
The Cynical Pirate's Comments:
I must say, I agree. I find it idiotic when there are "American" swear words used in fanfiction. Star Wars is a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It doesn't revolve around swearing every few paragraphs. The reason Lucas put swearing in ANH was to keep the movie from getting a G rating, and to keep the auidience to hooked. Just because you swear openly at home, does not mean you do it in your novels. It is a insult to Star Wars, and an insult to the art of telling a vision.
Author: Mcily Nochi
Date posted: 8/2/2001 7:40:37 AM
Mcily Nochi's Comments:
Very good article, though I agree it needed some "do"s in addition to the "don't"s.
I think "Sithspit" and "Sithspawn" (which seem to be the most addressed swear words) sometimes sound silly. In fact, most made-up swear words do. If you think about it, all of our Earth swear words sound pretty silly. Perhaps the cool thing about SW is that your character can be tough without swearing. I definitely think swearing should be kept to a bare minumum.
Author: The Rogue
Date posted: 8/7/2001 12:21:45 AM
The Rogue's Comments:
I've heard adult characters in some RPG's say "Son of an Imp" or "imperial" which are very derogatory term in the Republic.
Date posted: 8/13/2001 10:27:17 AM
Emperor's Black Bones!
I don't give a bucket of Hutt spit for profanity,
and I'd just as soon kiss a Wookie as use slang.
nice article, though a little too much detail on cussing.
Author: Rori Firehawk
Date posted: 1/14/2002 9:33:26 PM
Rori Firehawk's Comments:
Son of a bantha's rear end, you have a point! ;) I think I'm one of those who probably uses a bit too much slang, LOL... I guess I better kriffing stop it!
Date posted: 2/20/2002 12:01:10 PM
Personally i say 'sithspit' when i drop all the stuff I'm carrying and can't help but whisper 'nerfherder' when someone cuts me off.
I think Star Wars has never been very focused on some stuff like cussing, words are normally mild(unless you hang out with hutts). Sure they have drugs and it's violent as anything but to cuss a ton just doesn't feel right in the Force.
Date posted: 2/21/2002 8:51:20 AM
Too much swearing is always a turnoff, regardless of media, genre and setting. I'd certainly agree that plunking thoroughly Earthly terms into the GFFA also ruins the suspension of disbelief for the reader. Making up terms can be very effective, always remembering that 'less is more' and the impact is greater if the author applies the words sparingly and with care.
One example that comes to mind of a pro author who has come up with several oaths and curses that fit excellently into their setting is Anne McCaffrey, in her 'Pern' books- and they are indeed heavily culture-dependant. I suspect that unless a fanfic writer is going to put a lot of detail into one particular culture then invective is best kept to a minimum.
Date posted: 3/12/2002 8:20:38 PM
Personally, I'm rather fond of "sithspit". Go figure.
Date posted: 4/27/2002 11:14:02 PM
I agree about too much Earth swearing being a bad thing. However, since I mostly write Obi-Wan, I don't have to worry about the swearing so much. When my characters do swear, they really only use "Sithspawn". That's the only real curse from Star Wars that I like. "Emperor's Black Bones" is a good one, too, but I write in the prequel era so he's not burnt yet. Hmm... guess if I want some swearing (which I really don't) I'll be making it up myself.
Date posted: 4/28/2002 1:37:11 PM
Interesting and very useful article, Julie! :)
I try to avoid curses in my writing, but when I need to, I use the Star Wars-ish curses - either "classics", or I make them up. Like "Blast it!", "Sith!", "Sithspawn", "What in the name of thousand Korriban hells was that?" (I had Obi-Wan say this. But it was a humor fic, so it was a big exaggerated. ;) ), "Blazes of Korriban!" "Holy Force/Sith/Sithspawn!", etc. :P
Date posted: 5/31/2002 7:57:31 AM
"Kriff" is a classic. Best SW swear ever. I use it all the time. In real life, even. Anyone know what it means?
Author: Brodie Kenobi
Date posted: 7/29/2002 8:08:15 PM
Brodie Kenobi's Comments:
I also agree with all this. I think that cussing and slang are mostly just signs of ignorance anyway. We don't need that polluting the wonderful world of Star Wars. Sure, you can tell that someone like Jango Fett is a dangerous man without having him cuss out everyone. I mean he doesn't even talk much anyway. People that use a lot of cuss words and slang are people with a very limited vocabulary, in my opinion.
Date posted: 3/16/2003 8:57:50 PM
I really enjoyed this article, Julie.
I think the bottom line isn't a question of slang versus no slang - ultimately, keeping your characters "in character" is the important thing.
Personally, I'm really impressed by the creativity of authors that find ways to engage their characters in "colorful conversations" without forcibly ejecting us from that "galaxy far, far away."
I guess now I'm going to have to engage in some creative-slang-constructing of my own. Sith...
Author: A-Wings Rule
Date posted: 3/22/2003 7:43:50 AM
A-Wings Rule's Comments:
Great article! In my latest (and ironically first) fanfic (that is yet to be accepted/rejected, emphasis on the latter) I've limited myself to curses I've already seen used in the GFFA.
And one I made up all myself (aren't I big :) )
"Feel the wrath, sand worm!"
Date posted: 6/26/2003 4:42:19 PM
I do not agree with this article.
The one big problem I had with the NJO stories was the constant usage of "Emperor's Black Bones!" I thought it sounded silly and kind of goes contrary to the point of cussing. When you cuss it's a quick way for you to express a feeling. Not only does EBB take forever to say, but it is way over used.
If you are going to make up your own phrases make up roughly 8 of them and use variations on each one through your story so it doesn't sound so cliche like EBB did in that series.
Date posted: 11/6/2003 3:27:27 AM
Personally, a few Earth curses could conceiveably be used. In the Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, one of the stories takes a couple of paragraphs comparing human curses and Devornian curses. Considering what was described as a huuman curse, they could use our curses. Though, it should be used sparingly.
Author: The Stormtrooper Shrink
Date posted: 2/11/2004 5:42:04 PM
The Stormtrooper Shrink's Comments:
Thanks for this article. Man, I have had a *lot* of trouble convincing my lesser friends (the ones who don't like Star Wars that much) that you simply don't use "Earth" swearing in Star Wars. I mean, even damn doesn't work for me. There isn't a hell in a GFFA. Or is there? Someone help me out.
However, I do agree with the people who say that some of the "swearing" in Star Wars is absolutely ridiculous. "Emperor's Black Bones" sure, that was a shocker. It almost reconciled me to Anakin's death because he was the main offender. (Not really, but it gives you a picture of what I'm getting at.) But there are some that really give you a kick - "shavit", "sithspit", "kriffing"...there are a lot out there. I love them, and have been caught using them myself, and not only in my private fanfics and online.
Anyway, I am glad that someone has pointed this out. Thanks.
Date posted: 6/21/2004 6:55:53 AM
I agree, but what about words such as a$$ and the sh-you know the rest- word? They don't relate to a deity. What would be an aquivalent to something like 'The Emperor's perfect my a$$' if the speaker is human and has an a$$?
Date posted: 10/30/2005 5:24:24 PM
Useful article, I guess I'll keep these points in mind when I get round to writing.
'Tho it reminds me of the time when Anakin's mate said something like "This is so wizard Ani!", just before the podrace.
Author: Mistress of the Jedi
Date posted: 5/18/2006 2:54:52 PM
Mistress of the Jedi's Comments:
I remember that line with the 'Wizard' I think that has to do with Jedi or something. But the kid talking to Anakin was saying how cool it was to be racing, he wasn't cursing, but that's a different story. *lol*
When it comes down to cursing, for me, I use it where it feels natural. If it doesn't fit, than I don't use it.
I like 'sithspit' 'sithspawn' and so on! I also like 'Kriff' and 'Kriffing'. I also like to use 'bloody' when I write, I don't know if that would work, but sometimes it might.
Date posted: 1/8/2007 6:21:31 PM
Ummm..one problem. Han swears in a New Hope.
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