Need a Curse Word from the Past

Let’s say it’s 1890 or so (plenty of wiggle room). You’re a young man from a wealthy family, but you’ve been disowned. Good schools, but since then you’ve run with a pretty coarse crowd. Now you are under extreme duress at the hands of some guy who is totally beneath you.

“You ______!” you cry out in anger and frustration. If there were ladies present they would drop their porcelain teacups and faint dead away. Men would take umbrage, while servants scurried about hoping not to be noticed.

Please help me fill in the blank. If there’s a particularly choice word from an earlier time, that’s fine, too. 1900 is about the latest, but even as early as 1700 would be cool.


14 thoughts on “Need a Curse Word from the Past

  1. The one that I could think of is “bastard.” Nowadays, we hear it a lot, but in the Victorian era, it was a word that would induce the reactions you describe — it had the same sort of punch that “M—–F—–” has nowadays. As recently as 1975, there was controversy over it — my 8th-grade history teacher had to get permission from parents before playing a passage from the movie “Patton” in which the main character used the word repeatedly. That part of the movie also had quite a few “damn”s, but it was the “bastard”s that the parents objected to.

    Now, if you’re writing for a modern audience who is accustomed to “bastard” and not particularly alarmed by it, you’re going to have to do something to show that the word was seriously unacceptable back then.

    • I was considering ‘dastard’, since it has an older ring and comes off toothless and comical these days, but ideally it would be something that even a modern reader knew really was a vile thing to say, back in the day.

      The word is being used in modern times, but the person using it learned his cursing a long time ago, and reverts to older speech under stress.

  2. Some excellent suggestions there. I was playing with knave and blackguard (leaning knave for sentence cadence), but lick-finger might top the charts.

    Thanks for all your help!

  3. I asked a couple friends and one (Mike Ruane) came back with this.

    “You liquid waste from your mother’s womb!!!”

    They had wombs back then, right? :-) I can imagine horrified looks from the highly proper crowd sipping their tea. Good luck.

  4. Pardon the intrusion, but surely a young rake who’s run with such a flash crowd could manage something more verbally pungent, that is to say, something rather a bit more acerbic or perhaps even redolent of the unsavory places where persons of unredeemably adulterated character and dubious probity or vicious temperament might be encountered in that habitat to which they are native?.

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