Archaic Speech for Dummies II - Oaths and Curses

Archaic Speech for Dummies II - Oaths and Curses

A Lesson by Anthony Hart-Jones

In which you learn how to construct a good curse or oath.


Last time, we started learning about archaic speech. It was a very patronising lesson, but you seem to have come back…

Today, we will learn about oaths and curses. We will touch on religion, some slightly vulgar words and imagery that might border on violence involving sexual acts and anatomical impossibilities.

When modern people swear, we have some very unimaginative curses, but fantasy heroes (and villains) need more panache. Instead of ‘heck’ or ‘darn’, these larger than life characters needs to say things like ‘Moradin’s hairy arse’ or ‘Torm’s justice’.

HBO’s ‘Rome’ contained a large number of inventive curses, most far less clean that the aims of this article. Mostly, they drew on the symbolisms and mythologies of the pagan Roman society, like ‘gods below us!’ to denote something bad. Christians used to say “Od’s Bodkins” (God’s body) and “s’teeth” (God’s teeth) - even modern society retains one or two, such as the British ‘blimey’ (God blind me) and the Australian ‘strewth’ (God’s truth) years after their original meanings have faded.

So how do you make a good curse? Start off with the context. It is not worth using a exclamation like ‘Gruumsh One-Eye’s rage’ when you taste the most exquisite Elven wine in creation. It may even get you lynched. Let’s start with a simple formula - [god or hero]’s [optional adjective] [heroic or notable feature / trait].

In noble battle, you want to evoke images of mighty warriors; when you win, you talk about ‘Tyr’s holy fist’ or ‘beard of Tempus’. If you lose at cards, you think ‘Tyche’s fickle favour’ and ‘Fortuna’s bald bonce’.

When angry, your character might lose their respect for certain gods, especially ones whose traits are acting against you; ‘Odin’s saggy man-b***s!’ or ”Sehanine’s damnable bow”. (or even Great Neptune’s Man-N*****s)

Hopefully this is enough to get you well on your way to sounding archaic.

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Added on September 4, 2012
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Anthony Hart-Jones
Anthony Hart-Jones

United Kingdom