F: Frak


I don’t curse very often.  Don’t get me wrong, I can let loose with an impressive string of expletives when properly provoked (like during the recent NCAA men’s championship game.) But these days I’m more likely to exclaim, “Son of a biscuit!” or “What the Smurf?”, expressing my frustration without making a contribution to the swear jar.  If you’re ever at a loss, go with Battlestar Gallactica’s diverse “frak.”  It’s the gold standard of bowdlerized curse words!

My mother was strict about language and my siblings and I couldn’t even use words or phrases that were acceptable substitutes for cursing. One day I was upset with her (yeah, that happened a lot) and said, “Man, that’s jacked up!” I was grounded from the phone for a week.

The only time I ever cursed in front of my father I was fourteen years old. We were watching Liam Neeson in some terrible movie that I can’t even remember the name of. He was playing an American but his famously floating Irish accent returned full-force with the line “Fock yew, ya focker!” It was so hilarious to me that I repeated it aloud and my father overheard. In my defense, it was Thanksgiving and my cousins and I had been sneaking sips of wine from the adults’ abandoned plastic cups all evening so I might have been a bit tipsy.

Don’t judge me.

Cursing appears in my young adult fiction. During a group writing exercise in college one of my classmates commented that my characters’ potty mouths were too distracting. Mind you, I had used words that are perfectly acceptable on network TV, “bitch”, “ass”, etc. She insisted that her teenage children did not talk that way and it was a turnoff for readers. I almost got whiplash from my subsequent eyeroll. Delusion has no place in a serious critique!

Of course most children (including my classmate’s perfect offspring) wouldn’t talk that way in front of adults and neither did my characters. I was trying to convey authentic voice and using some fluffy substitution would have done the story a grave disservice. Besides, if anyone really believes that young people don’t curse, they need to get out more or, at the very least, watch a few episodes of “Skins.”

How do you feel about cursing in young adult fiction?

22 thoughts on “F: Frak”

  1. I think that it is ludicrous to consider teen years without the realization that they want to say what they are not allowed to… that could be mild cussing, or simply disagreeing with an authority figure. It’s intriguing to them to read about a life they think is theirs, and in my opinion, if they are reading, it’s a great step toward garnering an ability to problem solve and move forward in their lives. So I am all for comfortable cussing in a book for YA, appropriate for the story though, not just a cop out for not knowing what else to say.

    I like your mind. I found you by way of the A-Z Challenge… and am now following you.

    A-Z 2012 (#49) – Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 – Poetry
    A-Z 2012 (#861) – Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 – Haiku


    1. It could be a form of rebellion or simply not having the necessary vocabulary to express feelings. Whatever the reason, I have to consider that it makes sense for the character and not simply because I can’t figure out what the character should say. Thanks for following!


  2. I think it depends on the situation and that it shouldn’t be overused. Yes, this comes from someone who curses up a storm. I try to do better but my better doesn’t come. HA! There was a time when I actually didn’t curse but that was along time ago. I just don’t think we need to encourage kids to be at their worse verbally. Just my opinion. Great post and thanks for sharing.
    Stacey AKA Coffey Brown


  3. I honestly can’t stand it. In fact, I was supposed to review a book recently that was so full of the “f” word that I emailed the publisher and told them I wasn’t going to read it. Truly, I feel like when I fill my head with it, it can come out of my mouth. I don’t want either. I have 2 teenagers that don’t curse. My mother curses like a sailor, and they don’t want to be around her because of it. Sad. I’m sure you are a wonderful writer (actually, I can tell you are!), but for me, no swearing in my reading.

    Kelly Stilwell


    1. I have to admit, my eyes would roll if cursing was every other word. Not because I’m offended but because it would appear to me that the writer was being a bit lazy, unless a character really is the “curse like a sailor” type. However, there’s no reason why everyone should be speaking that way. It doesn’t ring true.


  4. I make sure to stay away from all swearing. I believe that as a writer, I can come up with more hilarious ways of expressing opinions. It is hard some times where I have a gangsta for a main character but I have found ways around swearing. In life and my writing.

    Konstanz Silverbow
    A to Z Co-host


    1. It can be done. It just wasn’t my choice in this particular instance. “The Godfather” is a good example. It was about some pretty depraved cats and there wasn’t much swearing. “The Sopranos” on the other hand…@!$#! 🙂


  5. It is unrealistic in this day and age to believe that any kid is not cursing! Children start hearing these words early (unless they are kept in some religious bubble) and they use these words as part of their growth pattern, experimenting and such. I like YA books that are true to the reality of the world we live in, not my grandma’s delusions of what the perfect world is like. Keep doing your thing honestly!


    1. It’s all a matter of degrees. My (test subjects) teenage nieces cop to it but their usage varies widely in frequency and even the curses they choose to say. They all agree that it would be a rare day where they didn’t hear ANY curse words from their contemporaries.


  6. Well, for me, I don’t really like cursing. But like you, when the situation calls for it, I can curse. Just that I hate it and feel really bad after that! I’m stopping my friends from cursing with the F word because its just so crude, and they are girls after all! I sound real naggy, given that I’m a teenager, but its just what I have an issue with! I generally don’t like curses in books. Mild ones are fine. Strong expletives, no way. I just can’t stand it!

    Stopping by via the A-Z Challenge,

    Victoria from Always a Booklover


    1. In this situation, the curses were pretty mild. My cursing usually comes on when I’m feeling particularly ranty about something. And your comment brings up an interesting question. Is cursing more acceptable for males than females?


  7. I feel like it depends a lot on the characters you’re trying to create. It doesn’t make sense to generalize across such a diverse group as an entire generation (“Teens swear a lot!” “No, they don’t!”). So if you have a character who is very proper and more formal in speech, then yes, he/she will swear rarely. Characters with more informal speech patterns will probably swear more often. You also need to think about peer groups. Speech preferences arise not just out of personal choices but are shaped by interactions with others. I know that my language tends to be more formal when talking with my parents, less formal when talking with my best friend and college roommate.


    1. I agree, we all use different language depending on the person (or people) we’re speaking with. And I tend to pick up the speech habits of those around me, particularly accents, so if I’m around people who curse a lot I find myself doing more of it.


  8. Hi, I find your post very interesting and thought provoking, to say the least, The type of cursing that sears the ears has always been offensive to me, and it is as though the more it is used in literature, in movies, on television shows, the less it bothers the listeners and viewers, so that it becomes common and acceptable. I don’t believe that all teens use foul language. I know that it is often used for its shock value, to see if they can get a rise out of parents or other adults. Words that represent the sexual act are the most offensive to me, but then that is my opinion. Everyone is free to use whatever they choose, to express the way they feel. However, there should be enough clean words in the English language to express feelings without using the foul. If one can get others to laugh at something offensive, it becomes more accepted. JMO. I’m glad I found your very interesting post. Best regards to you. 🙂


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