Can Middle Grade fiction writers use swear words in their novels? No, but…
Well, it is all a question of respect for your audience. Some swearing expressions are plain funny and will do; some are not acceptable. As a rule, swearing is reserved for Young Adult novels. Yes, you heard YA! That’s the border line. Although a lot of people would prefer a clean YA too. After all, teens are still kids.
MG books with swear words in it are most always shelved with YA. It makes perfect sense. See how many kids get in trouble for using swear words and you’ll understand why parent and educators want them eradicated. “It’s hard enough to find content that’s appropriate without curse words” they say, and they’re right. However, the same parents would say that “shiitake mushrooms” from the movie Spy Kids 2, is funny. They also like Harry Potter and find Captain Underpants hilarious.
Of course, there are also a number of Middle Grade novels that use profanity and get away with it like The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (although banned for using the word ‘Scrotum’ ); Diary of the Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney includes "moron," "idiot," "tool," "stupid" and "freakin” as well as "Spooky stork!", "Squishy slime stick!", "Raspberry plastic tickle bear!" swear words that keep them out of trouble; Bridge to Terabithia and Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (flagged by several school districts for profanity).
To be on the safe side, I would say using profanity in MG novelsis a no no. You could always do what the Fantastic Mr. Fox do and say the word cuss instead of cussing. You could also say, “She cussed” without using the words.
What about using profanity in YA novels? There’s a debate going on.
TV shows are full of profanities and they are more famous than any novel. Think Happy Days and their teen expressions “Sit on it,” “Welcome back Kotter” or “Up your nose with a rubber hose”; The Simpsons (full of expressions like ‘Son of a …’ or ‘what the hell’); South Park (uses ‘shit’ or ‘fuck’, ‘cock, ‘bitch’, ‘donĸey raping shit eater’,’boner biting bastard’, shit faced cockmaster’, etc.)
If they’re allowed, why not novel too?
The fact is many parents frown upon the use of realistic language in YA novels. And it’s true that swear words are louder on paper than in real life.
Because of that, many YA novels are trying to use substitutions instead of plain ugly swear words.
In An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, English cuss word are replaced by full foreign cuss words like “sitzpinkler” (German for wimp), “kafir” (Arabic for non believer), “merde” (French for poo), and English ones like ‘fug’).
In House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast, which is relatively clean, the authors use the word “bull poopie”.
In The Legacy of Tril: Soulbound by Heather Brewer, she includes the words ‘fak’,’ terked off’ and ‘dek’.
In The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, you can read a mass of swear words, slang and insults like “bloody”, “flaming”, “blasted”, “bilge stone”or “sheepswallop.”
In Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, everything is ‘bubbly’ or ‘bogus’.
In Glitch by Heather Anastasiu, the author uses a lot of made up swear words like “"cracking" and "shunting" that are annoying to many readers.
In Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover, one of the characters says “Butterfly you” in substitution for profanity.
In Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs uses cute swear words like “Damselfish!”, “Blowfish” or “oh lord love a lobster.”
In Hollows series by Kim Harrison, they say “Turn take you” or “Get turned!” in place of “F… off and die.”
Before you decide to include a swear word or expression in your novel, rethink. Is it really necessary or just an easy way around? Use them sparingly because they tend to be much stronger on a page and they can be really annoying to the reader. And I’m not talking about the swear words authors use that are passed away. Use swears only for life and death events. Does swearing help character development? If not, remove them.
However, if you are looking for fun and new ways to insult people and wish them ill, to slur, derogate, disparage, depreciate, curse, blaspheme, cuss , you’ve come to the right place. That is if you don’t seem to do just fine without even trying, like most of us.
Here’s the list:
Crummidy Dum Dum!
Frak! (from Battlestar Galactica)
Frex! Brilly! (from Across the Universe series by Beth Revis)
Shunt in’, porkin’ (from The Glitch series by Heather Anastasiu)
Frexin’ shuntin’ mcdarnit!
Stub my toe!
Give me a break!
Hmph! Humph! Humph!
Razzafraggin a rizz a ruck!
Jimminy Hee Ha!
Shut the front door!
Dippy Slap Nut!
Fazul! (bean in Italian)
What the frick!
Cop on! (meaning have some sense)
Peanut Butter and Jelly!
I hate you!
Toilet head! Poopoo head!
Six! ... and two is eight!
That's a load of stuff!
Fie! Fie on it!
Go fly a kite
Take a hike
I can't find my (mmph) shoe.
What the … beep!
What the duck!
Are you freaking kidding me!
What the hedge!
For fake sake!
Pho Q! Pho Q Two!
Son of a biscuit!
Golly gee willikers
For Pete's sake!
Goodness gracious me oh my!
Cuss long expressions:
Stunned, shocked, disappointed, upset, frustrated, angry and totally gutted. It's all out of my hands!
Give someone an inch, they take a yard... That's when you give them a foot.
How many times do I have to flush before you go away?
I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but that was yesterday.
Whoever says words can't hurt has never got hit in the face with a dictionary!
I really want to say some bad words that I have been holding in, but I'll continue to bite my tongue for as long as I can... I may soon need a new tongue!
Can go from zero to psycho in one text message flat.
Don't test my patience...if I lose my patience you will become a patient.
Everything is cool unti I go aggro.
Okay... Just need to get this out. I'm angry, upset, frustrated, and irritated. No reason.. Just am. Don't ask why... Cuz i don't know. Pffft.
Some people need to wear a diaper on their face for all the poop that's coming from their mouths.
Is in a slippery mood. Proceed with extreme caution.
Gadzooks to boot! Cheese and crackers! Jiminy Crickets! Jeez-o-Peet! Sitzpinkler! (John Green)
I mind my own business, but mess with mine and you are my business--and you won't like it.
You assume you've made me angry. I assume you think I care.
No, I don't have a license to kill. I do, however, have a learner's permit.
Blast and damnation!
Ten thousand thundering typhoons of blue blistering barnacles
“Curse Words and Other Exclamations” by Darkoshi’s Enchantment
“Ye Olde Official Shakespearean Insult Kit” by Pete Levin
Swearing, Insults, and Slang in the Wheel of Time by Kytheria al’Shea