Curses, Insults & Blasphemies

The simplest way to be rude using an iconic language is to draw a graphic picture of something that your reader would rather not be looking at, such as genitalia, bodily extrusions or crude ethnic stereotype.

You killed Ted, you medieval dickweed!

Or we can draw rude gestures.

Just because the f[ellow]'s got a library card doesn't make himYoda!

Unfortunately, if individual glyphs are considered obscene all by themselves, then they just won't be placed on typewriter keyboards, or included in packages of stencils, or programmed into computer fonts. We will then be forced to curse by combining otherwise harmless glyphs (such as [Yahweh] and [lightning]) into insulting combos:

We're gonna kill us some goddam Australians!


One thing to remember about language is that if a person doesn't like saying a particular word, they'll find a way around it. They'll refer to a pain "down there". They'll give the etymology of SNAFU as situation normal - all fouled up, or demand that somebody get this "freaking" duck away from me.

When designing glyphs and words, we need to weigh all varieties of users. For example, we might hate banks and consider ourselves quite clever indicating a banker with the glyphs for [baby][eater]...

But as much fun as this would be, it's obvious that no bank would ever call itself this. We need to be realistic right from the start and design glyphs that a bank itself would be willing to use in its advertising.

Language is a collaborative effort. People use words they like, and drop the ones they don't. Although there's a lot of philosophical literature that suggests that the availability or lack of specific words can determine whether a person can formulate the associated concepts, it goes both ways. We can invent all the words we want, but if no one wants or needs to use them, they'll fade into oblivion.

Blasphemy and Evil

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Last updated January 2004

Copyright © 2003 Matthew White