@#$%&* – Literary Profanity

Lynn and Cindy: Yes, it is the season of light and goodwill to mankind.  Let’s be honest though.  It is also the season of pushy crowds, stress, and irritating relatives.  What to do when that batch of cookies you are baking at midnight turns black and crusty?  A good expletive is definitely in order but what if tender ears are in range?  We recommend stocking your verbal arsenal with some excellent literary curses.  You will feel better and no one will be offended.  Here are some of our favorites.

“Barking spiders!” – Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

“You are full of clart!” – Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

“Corpus Bones!” – Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman.

“You carking dalit!” – Black Hole Sun by David Mcinnis Gill

“Sitzpinkler” and “Fugging” *- An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

*The use of ‘fugging’ is an homage to Norman Mailer’s use of it in The Naked and the Dead–explanatory reference on page 119 in Katherines, making this a double literary profanity! 🙂

OK – your turn!  Send us your favorite literary profanities.  Happy barking holidays!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

13 Comments on "@#$%&* – Literary Profanity"

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  1. labsnbooks@aol.com' Brenda Kahn says:

    James Dashner had some pretty awesome cursing in The Maze Runner. My copies are out of the library (with a waiting list), but “shuck,” “shuck it,” and “shucking” come to mind.

    I’m listening to The Ship Breaker right now and there’s some cool colorful language in that as well. “Rust and blood,” is the only one my feeble mind can come up with now.

    Holly Short, LEP-Recon officer in the Artemis Fowl series is fond of “Darvit!”


  2. andykaiser@gmail.com' Andy Kaiser says:

    The series “Red Dwarf” has “smeg” and “smegging”. That’s a fun one!

    I also like sci-fi author Larry Niven’s take on it: He’s used the words “bleep” and “censored” – humankind started censoring so much that the actual censor itself became a curse!

    Another one Niven came up with that I like is “tanj” (an acronym for “There Ain’t No Justice”).

    Happy Smegging Holidays!


  3. nigrelli@gmail.com' joanna says:

    Philip Reeve’s excellent “Fever Crumb” has characters who curse each other by calling “you blogger!” One of the best books of 2010!

  4. akarre@lernerbooks.com' Andrew Karre says:

    M.T. Anderson’s Feed is a gold mind, unit. But Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (it’s a YA novel, if ever there was one) is the heavyweight champion of literary profanity and made-up slang.

  5. I knew we could count on our readers for additional suggestions…keep ’em coming, this is carking good fun!–Cindy

  6. lcavanaugh@ocln.org' Laurie says:

    City of Thieves by David Benioff contains lots of spectacular Russian-style cursing that combines invective, obscenity, and profanity in long and varied strings.

  7. leec@multcolib.org' lee Catalano says:

    What about the two members of the Spit and Swear Club in The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O’Connor: skinny-headed ding dong … toe-jam tattletale … bug-brained bugger-breath.

  8. labsnbooks@aol.com' Brenda Kahn says:

    I just finished listening to Alchemy and Meggy Swann. There are some fine Elizabethan/ Shakespearean curses in there. I must, must get my hands on the hardcover and jot some down. Priceless.


  9. bartlettr@ccrsb.ca' Rebecca says:

    I’m a bit late to the party here, but one of my all-time favourite literary cursewords is “Jacksmoke” from Laini Taylor’s Dreamdark books. It rolls off the tongue just perfectly!

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