There’s a lot of fun to be had writing historical fantasy.
For instance – in my Aculeo and Amunet stories, Amunet tends to be pretty sharp-tongued.
She’s nasty, arrogant, and swears a lot – especially in the earlier stories.
Now, I’m no fan of gratuitous profanity, and yet as everything else in a story, profanity too can be used to define a character, to underscore a scene or situation.
It’s a tool, just like any other.
And because Amunet is a lady – and as somebody said, I fancy her a lot – I like to use this tool in a somewhat elegant, classy, lady-like fashion.
So, how does one go about making his female character say “F*ck!” a lot, but with class and elegance?
Now, the Aculeo & Amunet stories take place at the tail end of the Classic Era – my characters are probably talking to each other in Greek, sometimes switching to Latin*.
I actually can imagine them starting a discussion in Greek, and then shifting to Latin for emphasis, or in an aside, and spicing their speech with Aramaic, Egyptian, maybe some strange Mediterranean pidgin.
This is where the fun part begins.
But my stories of course are written in English.
So, back when I was writing Bride of the Swamp God I said to myself, what if Amunet curses in Greek or in Latin?
It would not be different from what Joss Whedon did in Firefly – his character cursing and swearing in Chinese.
Classy, and it fits with the background.
Therefore I started collecting ancient Greek and Latin profanities.
And boy is there a terrific catalog!
As usual, the web is our friend.
And it’s actually easier to find Latin swear-words and phrases than Greek ones.
Wikipedia has a nice selection of Latin bad words…
And then there’s Barry Baldwin‘s Classical Swearing: A Vade-Mecum, that certainly provides food for thought – and also provides English equivalents of pretty baroque Latin and Greek insults.
And when everything else fails, there’s always youswear.com.
Spicing up Amunet’s verbal armoury helps me define her character a lot, and shifting from some expressions to others also helps in tracing her evolution – she’ll never become a goody-two-shoes, but some of Aculeo’s Roman gravitas will probably rub on her.
She’ll still say “F*ck!” a lot, but in more complicated, “Classical” ways.
- a side-effect of writing Aculeo & Amunet ha been the decision to brush up my Latin – using a well-thumbed copy of Teach Yourself Latin.