Monday, December 5, 2016

The Devil's In the Details

When I first started writing Grandpa Anarchy stories, I would have him swear however I chose to whenever it seemed appropriate.  I wasn't too concerned about it -- I mean, I don't recall ever using the 'F' word, but most other things seemed fair game.

Later when I considered that I would one day publish these stories (something I need to work on, I know!) and that my family might read them, I decided to go back and try to clean things up a bit.  But then it became more of a question of what kind of swearing is okay, and what kind isn't?  Damn sounds worse than Hell to my ears, in general, and it was easy to have Grandpa say Danged instead.  But saying Hell, that's somewhat shocking but that appears in movies a lot right?  In particular I'm thinking of John Wayne in McLintock! (which I don't think I've ever actually watched -- but I know about this scene):

I'm sure the phrase was somewhat shocking back in the day, but probably not quite like Rhett Butler's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."  Although that might just be my perception... putting "Like Hell I won't" in a 1939 movie (when Gone With the Wind was released) would have been more shocking than in 1963 (when McLintock! came out).

But the actual thing is, in order to avoid using words like Hell and Damn, you have to get more creative -- and naturally there's a long history of more creative ways to swear.  At several points I've done research in order to come up with things Grandpa can say instead of the obvious swear word, and I almost always find something  more archaic and satisfying.  Grandpa Anarchy is over 100 years old -- he should swear like a man from 1915 or 1925.  (Mind you, he was a Sargent in World War II, so swearing up a blue streak would not necessarily be out of place, but...)

So we come to today's story that I just posted, A Bug's Life.  In this story I deliberately borrowed from the McLintock! scene for the ending, with Grandpa saying, "Sure, we'll help them -- Like Hell we will!"  Except when I wrote it, I decided to insert the word Hades for Hell.  But that -- Like Hades we will! -- just doesn't sound very forceful.  I was about to switch back to the original phrase Like Hell (because really, saying hell in this manner isn't all that shocking these days) when I decided to do some research on the phrase itself.  And I came across a bit on the Straight Dope message boards here: where the poster reminds us that a similar English phrase is the Devil I will!

I liked that much better.  Once again, more forceful than the obvious word-swapped Hades for Hell, but less shocking to sensitive ears, and also a somewhat more archaic way to put it, which is right in Grandpa's wheelhouse.