Realistic language is a must in historical fiction and my most used resource for my novel A White Room was The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s by Marc McCutcheon. So to celebrate this must-have resource, I have used it to compile what I think are the ten most awesome Victorian swear words.
One of my readers asked whether this is American or English, which is a very important difference for research, so I just want to point out that this book is focused on America in the 19th Century.
WARNING: This blog post contains SWEAR WORDS!!! Probably not suitable for children.
|photo credit: brizzle born and bred via photopin cc|
Just so you know, I'm going for historically unique, but for clarification purposes let me say that words fuck bitch, cunt, and shit were all used back then too. There are many derogatory and other swear words that were used then that we still use now. Only problem is I don't know if readers will believe it because it seems too modern, like calling a virgin girl a cherry.
Top Ten Swear Words
1. Balls - shortened from ballocks
2. Bootlicker - same as ass-licker
3. Cherry - vulgar term for a young woman
4. Quim - female genitalia
5. Strumpet - a whore
6. Blazes - hell or the devil
7. Cussed - cursed or mean
8. Dratted - expletive or used for damned
9. Lickfinger/Lick-spittle - kiss-ass
10. Tarnation/Nation - used for damnation
BONUS: Top Five Surprisingly Naughty Words
1. Bull - taboo word because it was associated with sexual potency so polite people said cow brute, a gentleman cow, a top cow, or a seed ox.
2. Dad - euphemism for God as in dad-blame it.
3. Dickens - devil as in what the Dickens are you doing?
4. Inexpressibles - a euphemism for pants or trousers. This was due to the fact that the legs were considered extremely private. People usually said limb instead of the word leg. Also very awkward to use in your writing without explaining and even more awkward for your character to stop and explain it. Have to admit I tried to avoid it in my novel.
5. Mary - homosexual.
Want to know more commonly used words or see some real examples of how these words were used? Check out The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s by Marc McCutcheon. He's also written another one The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life from Prohibition to World War II by Marc McCutcheon.
Someone asked for the British equivalent of these books. I think What Jane Austen Ate and What Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool might be of use but keep in mind that I haven't personally read it so I can't guarantee anything.
Show me you're out there and leave a comment! Anyone know any other interesting naughty historical words they can share? Or good books for such research? Feel free to shoot me some questions too!