Alternatives to damn

MemoryTale

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Long story short I've written myself into a bit of a corner. In the WIP I'm currently perpetrating, the characters have absolutely no concept of religion. As a result I'm really trying to avoid any religious words into the prose. My problem is this includes the word "damn" and I've just done a bit of dialogue that could really use a good damn - the character in question isn't really coarse enough to use anything stronger.

So does anyone know a good alternative to damn that is still PG rated?
 

thaddeus6th

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Fiddlesticks! Rats!
 

Ursa major

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According to Wiktionary, damn's etymology is:
"Middle English dampnen, from Old French dampner, from Latin damnare (“to condemn, inflict loss upon”), from damnum (“loss”)"
which doesn't sound specific to religion. Unfortunately, most readers will probably assume that damn does have a religious origin.


You could use darn, I suppose. While that may have become a "hidden expletive" alternative for damn (in the same way as, say, sugar is for s**t), it could equally have derived from the anger one feels when, on putting on a sock, one finds a hole in it. (An undarned hole, that is....)
 

The Judge

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Yep, the word came first, and the Christian theological usage came after -- per the Online Etymology Dictionary
late 13c., "to condemn," from Old French damner "damn, condemn; convict, blame; injure," derivative of Latin damnare "to adjudge guilty; to doom; to condemn, blame, reject," from noun damnum "damage, hurt, harm; loss, injury; a fine, penalty," possibly from an ancient religious term from PIE *dap- "to apportion in exchange" [see Watkins]. The Latin word evolved a legal meaning of "pronounce judgment upon." Theological sense is first recorded early 14c.; the optative expletive use likely is as old.
But I'd doubt it was used as an oath before the theological sense took over.

Most oaths are either religious in origin (or substitutes like darn, as Ursa says) or to do with bodily functions -- ie taboo words. Drat is a corruption of God rot, blimey probably God blind me etc.

Do your characters have any sense of the supernatural at all, MT? Witchcraft and the like, I mean. If so, how about "Curse me" or "Curses" (though that sounds a bit Victorian melodrama-ish!)? If someone is talking of someone else, you might have "A pest on him" (cf Mercutio's "A plague on both your houses") which might have got corrupted to "Pest!" as a swear word.


EDIT: had a root through the etymology site and I found "Deuce" which again is very old-fashioned, but probably isn't religious in origin:
late 15c., "the 2 in dice or cards," also "a roll of 2 in dice" (1510s), from Middle French deus (Modern French deux), from Latin duos (nominative duo) "two".

Became a mild oath by 1710, about 50 years after it was first attested in the sense of "bad luck, the devil, etc.," perhaps because two was the lowest score, and probably by similarity to Latin deus and related words meaning "god." Low German had der daus! in same sense 16c., which perhaps influenced the English form.
 

MemoryTale

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Some good ideas, some of which I've already used. The line of dialogue in question is "That damn saying". Darn just doesn't quite cut it for me, since the character is talking about something her father used to say while beating the crap out of her.

Interesting notes on the origin of damn Ursa and Judge - although I think I'll still avoid it - I'm sure most readers would assume the religious connotation to be correct.
 

The Judge

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How about moving away from a swear word into another adjective? eg That accursed/hateful/loathsome/vile/repulsive/lousy** saying?


** lousy comes from the obvious, ie infested with lice, but it was apparently a term of abuse from the late 14th century (though to me it has a distinctly American feel to it nowadays)
 

Parson

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Take it from a Parson who does not swear or even use bodily functions as adjectives, my go to expletive is "Blast!" which I cannot think of any way that it is related to a theological term.

I've also used "thunderation" but that is mostly a term of surprise, rather than frustration. But.... Why not invent your own? At a first try I came up with Jasnick! which sounds suitably frustrated enough.
 

Glisterspeck

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Take it from a Parson who does not swear or even use bodily functions as adjectives, my go to expletive is "Blast!" which I cannot think of any way that it is related to a theological term.

I've also used "thunderation" but that is mostly a term of surprise, rather than frustration. But.... Why not invent your own? At a first try I came up with Jasnick! which sounds suitably frustrated enough.

I like jasnick. Do you say is jazz-nik or jass-nik?
 

wulfsbane

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If you want you can make up an equivalent to damn that seems like it fits with your character's culture. Or you can do something like "By the gods!" or "by the (insertsomething here)"
 

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