5 Fictional Swear Words and Why They Work
  • 4-minute read
  • 23rd February 2021

5 Fictional Swear Words and Why They Work

There are times you might need to invent a curse word in creative writing. You might be writing a sci-fi novel and want to add flavor to your world. Or maybe you just want to make your writing more family friendly! Whatever your reason, we have picked five fictional swear words to offer some tips on coining curses.

1. P’tahk (Use Harsh Sounds)

The word “P’tahk” is used as a personal insult by the Klingons in Star Trek. It appears across the franchise, from The Next Generation to Deep Space Nine:

You filthy p’tahk!

It works as a curse because it uses the same fricative sounds as many existing swear words. This makes it sound angry and aggressive, especially when shouted.

2. Frak (Draw on an Existing Term)

An expletive from Battlestar Galactica, like “p’tahk,” this fictional curse sounds harsh. But, more specifically than that, it also sounds quite similar to a real swear word that starts with “f” and ends with “k.” And, much like the swear word it replaces, “frak” can be used in a huge number of ways:

What the frak is going on?

Frak you!

He’s frakkin’ stupid.

This was a clever way of sidestepping the censors. By slightly modifying an existing word, the writers could include it in the show, but it is still obvious what it means.

Words used in a similar way are “smeg” from Red Dwarf and “feck” from Father Ted.

3. Prawn (Focus on Appearance)

In District 9, aliens have landed on Earth. These aliens, which are forced to live in camps, are often called “prawns” by humans based on their appearance.

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This echoes the way real-life insults often:

  1. Focus on how someone looks
  2. Involve degrading comparisons to animals

Focusing on appearance is also a way to show that a character is unable to look beyond the surface. By having humans use “prawn” as a casual insult, then, District 9 shows us that the aliens have to face bigotry in their lives on our planet.

4. Nerfherder (Focus on Class or Status)

In the Star Wars universe, “nerfs” are a domesticated animal found across the galaxy. The job of herding nerfs is seen as low status, though. This makes calling someone a nerfherder an effective insult, a bit like calling someone a “bumpkin.”

And while “nerfherder” is fairly light-hearted, insults based on class or status can be more sinister. In the Harry Potter books, “mudblood” is a word for a wizard who isn’t from a “pure” wizarding lineage. The fact some characters use it to insult others therefore tells us about the prejudices of the world the stories take part in.

5. Belgium (Use an Anti-Swear)

In contrast to some of the terms above, Belgium might seem completely innocuous. However, in the original BBC radio broadcasts of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, it is the most offensive word in the galaxy to everyone but humans.

This works as a fictional swear word because it plays on the (incorrect) stereotype that Belgium is boring. It is effectively an anti-swear word: it doesn’t sound harsh, it doesn’t remind us of existing swear words, and it has nothing to do with appearance or status. This makes it an unlikely, but amusing, expletive.

If you’re writing a comic story, then, why not try using as an anti-swear?

Novel and Short Story Proofreading

If you’re currently writing your own story, we hope these fictional swear words have given you some ideas about how to create your own curses for your creative writing.

And when you’re ready to share your work, we can help again! Make sure you writing is error free by having it checked by one of our expert proofreaders.

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