7
$\begingroup$

I am trying to come up with insults and swears for some fictional races. Their cultures pretty well mapped out, but I am still having some trouble. I figured the best source of inspiration would be to look at different human cultures and what they considered insulting. Does anyone know of a good book that does this?

Note: This is not a repost of this because I am not asking for general advice or guidelines. I am specifically asking for a book that relates the culture and insults of several different societies in order for me to better understand how insults develop.

$\endgroup$
5
5
$\begingroup$

If instead of a book you want to invent them yourself, it should not be complicated: define what each culture values most and attack it.

  • Plutocracies obsessed with becoming rich will consider it offensive if someone tells them that they are poor.

  • Martial cultures that value success at war will become very angry if you treat them as cowards.

  • For a nomadic culture nothing would be worse that being called a farmer.

  • The impious and the heretic are the worst insults inside a theocracy...

Then you have to adapt the expression of the ideas to the general culture. A more basic culture will just erupt into "dirty" words ("coward!"), a culture centered around mithology would make an analogy ("he runs from battle as Mazor did in front of Asur")...

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

You could try Sticks and Stones by Jerome Neu.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." This schoolyard rhyme projects an invulnerability to verbal insults that sounds good but rings false. Indeed, the need for such a verse belies its own claims. For most of us, feeling insulted is a distressing-and distressingly common-experience. In Sticks and Stones, philosopher Jerome Neu probes the nature, purpose, and effects of insults, exploring how and why they humiliate, embarrass, infuriate, and wound us so deeply. What kind of injury is an insult? Is it determined by the insulter or the insulted? What does it reveal about the character of both parties as well as the character of society and its conventions? What role does insult play in social and legal life? When is telling the truth an insult? Neu draws upon a wealth of examples and anecdotes-as well as a range of views from Aristotle and Oliver Wendell Holmes to Oscar Wilde, John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn, and many others-to provide surprising answers to these questions. He shows that what we find insulting can reveal much about our ideas of character, honor, gender, the nature of speech acts, and social and legal conventions. He considers how insults, both intentional and unintentional, make themselves felt-in play, Freudian slips, insult humor, rituals, blasphemy, libel, slander, and hate speech. And he investigates the insult's extraordinary power, why it can so quickly destabilize our sense of self and threaten our moral identity, the very center of our self-respect and self-esteem. Entertaining, humorous, and deeply insightful, Sticks and Stones unpacks the fascinating dynamics of a phenomenon more often painfully experienced than clearly understood.

Personally, I think the author doesn't understand the fundamental truth underlying the rhyme, and thus proceeds from at least one false premise; but from the blurb this seems to be a promising resource for you at least in the broad strokes that lay bare humanity's broken nature regardless of specific culture.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

You could try the Harry Potter series. There are a lot of ideas that could be copied and modified there. It is much easier to use imaginary words and fill them with angst and similar rather than trying to use emotive words from our world.

A number of "bad" words are used for example Mud blood which is a derogatory term for the witches and wizards of mixed magical / non magical lineage. This word can be amplified by linking to lesser derogatory words for our world hence - filthy mudblood! is even worse

There are words that cause a great deal of offence when spoken going against the social norms such as "Voldemort" - Don't say that name! He who shall not be named.

Then there are unforgivable curses like Cruciatus and Avada Kedavra

Then are also awkward topics that are taboo like the horcrux. The secrets of which Tom Riddle eventually manages to obtain.

If you take any controversial topics from our world from racism to porn or violence you will find an abundance of material. Take the words and the context that they are used in, then replace that word with one of your own choosing. This will take the offensiveness away but leave the meaning clear.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The following books are freely available from Archive.org:

The following books can be borrowed from the same source:

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.