I Swear Not To Swear or How I Created The World’s Cleanest Dirty Words

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

The Challenge

How do you write a foul-mouthed character without any foul words coming out of her mouth?

That was my challenge when I made swearing one of Lucy’s key traits. She’s someone who would use every blue word that exists. But the series is all-ages and I didn’t want to discount a significant portion of my readership with words that, while they add to Lucy’s character, didn’t add much more than that.

Equally, I didn’t want to self-censor just because some of my potential audience might find the swearing offensive. Would the Lucy Knight we first meet sneaking out of her window at night to scrawl offensive graffiti over school lockers censor herself? Hell no!

I studied how other all-ages media handled this. Their solutions fell into two camps: (a) push the envelope as far as possible, usually relying on blasphemy to do the heavy lifting, or (b) invent some substitute swear words.

The B-Words

I chose option (b) but with a twist, I’d have one of my characters create them. More precisely, girl-genius Amber Kim would do the deed. Instead of being frustrated at not being able to insert expletives, I’d make it a defining moment for both her and Lucy. It would demonstrate Amber’s primness and inventiveness. Equally, it would show that Lucy wasn’t as hard-hearted as she led everyone to believe – deep down she respected her best friend’s feelings.

Coming up with these words was far harder than I thought it would be – remind me never to invent a language. Some of them already exist as English words but had the look and feel I wanted. Using them myself, it was immediately clear which ones Lucy would gravitate towards – especially ‘skeg’ which is my favourite of the bunch. There’s something about the hard consonants that makes it feel dirty.

I adore how Amber introduces the words. On display is her empathy – even if it’s coming more from her brain rather than her heart – and her norg-ness. Her utter, utter norg-ness.



The words I have created or adopted here are based around the fact that when you are upset you should be able to express your annoyance, but not necessarily with a swear word or something derogatory towards minority groups. Using these words instead of your usual expletives will not constitute swearing because if a word has no meaning, or a meaning other than a dirty one, then logically it can’t be offensive. You will notice I have avoided words that end with a ‘ck’ or ‘it’ sound. They are clearly just F and S-word substitutes. And if you don’t like any of these I can easily make up more.

DESPO – noun, a pathetic person or object. My first creation!
NORG – noun that also means a pathetic person. It feels kinder than ‘despo’ so perhaps used in place of ‘nerd’.
GROM – noun, another ‘nerd’ alternative although this sounds harder than the two words above.
KLIM – general utterance for when you are annoyed, to avoid blasphemy. So ‘For Klim’s sake!’
SKEG – verb that can used in place of a certain F-word.
FREAP – verb that can also be used to replace icky F-word.
Also here are some miscellaneous words I made up that might catch your fancy: BLOOR, DROR, GRIB, KLIX, LERTY, QUANTH, WERN, ZOX.

Amber Kim