A discussion with P.E. and Mari
As teenagers we swear, a lot sometimes. However, in teenage literature swearing is quite uncommon. How do you feel about swearing?
I fucking love it. Some people may be surprised because I honestly don't swear that much in person (outside of any competitive activity, often sports) but I'm not deaf and I know a lot of people do. I know some people are bothered by swearing, but for me it's about intent. If you intend to say something harmful and harsh and filter yourself to saying something more euphemistic than an f-bomb, that doesn't change anything. The intent was still to curse, so I think if you want that there, go ahead and say it. What do you think?
The best way to capture/explain swearing is probably Hank Green's video. Swear words are more than words, they're words that convey expression and emotions without us going into deep self study in order to find the exact term. When I'm frustrated, scared or angry, I will swear. No I'm not thinking about the original meaning of the word. I don't think any of us do when we say "Fuck you!" Instead it conveys quite clearly, that we wish for the opposing person to zip it and get out. Seeing as swearing seems to be quite inherent and common in life, why do you think it's so uncommon in YA?
Maybe because there's still this misguided idea that teens need to be sheltered? Or authors generally are more creative in their methods of communication, so they don't write f-bombs when they can think of something more clever. I honestly don't know. If something surprising happens, I know that I'll swear, maybe even under my breath. It's a part of reality (maybe I'm just around pottymouths?) but it doesn't translate to books. There's also the annoying people who will censor books based on language. Why do you think it's uncommon?
I would relate it also to censorship. It's a lot like how many people are banning some very powerful dark YA novels because they feel that "teens shouldn't be exposed to them". Similarly curse words are frowned upon. We have a friend who actively ignores them and tends to call out people (usually me) who are saying them. I think it all comes down to society and what we teach our children. We are told from the get go that swearing is bad; don't do it. So that ends up translating to our everyday lives. I don't swear in front of people I don't know or people of authority. Similarly authors might contain themselves while writing because they know that publishers and readers will be reading what they are writing. There is also the idea of "fine/proper language" which doesn't include vulgar curse words. I also found it interesting that you mentioned authors making their own creative methods to convey messages. How do you feel about fake swearing or substitute swear words?
I hate it, especially if the story is paranormal. If an author wants to have that sentiment expressed by the characters who exist in the modern world, do it. I know Paranormalcy by Kiersten White had Evie saying "bleep" a lot which I didn't like. On the other hand, I applaud authors who create their own swear terms in fantasies. The origins of swear words are really cool. English ones tend to be about sex, but I know in Quebec all their swear words seem to revolve around church items. So, if done reasonably, I think it's another way to immerse a reader into the story. That being said, I do sympathize with authors a little. Even I feel uncomfortable swearing on the blog. I think it's because when I swear, it's usually in a fit of intense emotion that doesn't last very long. It's all about the moment, and so later when I look back, it doesn't fit anymore. It just looks weird. Does that make sense at all?
That's exactly what swearing is. It's a random outburst of emotion and I think it gets the message across quite well. However, it seems as though it's much easier to hear swearing than read it. As for fake swearing... I have one word:
(House of Night by P.C. and Kristin Cast)
(House of Night by P.C. and Kristin Cast)
That could definitely be a part of it, but maybe it's just me but I don't think there are that many new swear words. Also, I feel like a book will never be dated if the storyline is universal, you know?
That's true. Keep it real and honest and your story will live forever.