Monday, 22 December 2014

22nd Lexember Word

(warning: the following discusses profanity and swear words without censuring them)

tneban /tne̞ban/, interjection: “damn, damn it”

Even when I double check, these stupid autocorrect typos keep getting through :(.

So, OK, technically I’m breaking the rules of Lexember, since this is not really a different word from yesterday. But since my 10th Lexember word was actually two words, I feel like I’m allowed a little leeway here :P. And I also felt this specific use of tneban was worth a separate post. It’s different enough that it can nearly be considered a separate word after all.

So, while many people seem uncomfortable discussing this subject, it’s still a fact that all languages have profanity and swear words. They may vary in their propensity to use them (Japanese seems to be rather mild in that regard, while Spoken French seems to have elevated swearing to an art form), but they all have them. As for what is used for swearing, well, the usual suspects seem to be bodily functions, especially those related to sex and excretions, with blasphemy as a close second. Some languages also have their own idiosyncratic swear words (Dutch, for instance, seems to have a fondness for diseases, especially cancer, typhoid and cholera).

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that if you’re developing a naturalistic conlang, you will, at some point, have to think about profanity. And that’s something that’s kept me busy in Moten. Fortunately, with yesterday’s word, I finally have a basic Moten swear word.

Basically, since Moten speakers seem to elevate peace (|la) to a high level of virtue, it simply makes sense that its opposite will be seen as pejorative, making it a prime candidate to turn into a swear word. And indeed, for Moten speakers conflict and war are seen as vulgar and undesirable, and swearing by calling them out brings in the shock value a swear word should have.

So tneban can be used as an interjection. When used that way, it’s a generic swear word. Although I translate it as “damn” or “damn it”, it’s actually a bit stronger than that. I’d say it’s between “damn it” and “shit” in terms of profanity.

Tneban can also be used as an adjective, in which case it corresponds to “(god)damn + noun” in English. And then there’s the expression tneban ba, which I’d say is between “damn you” and “fuck you” in terms of strength, depending on context.

In all cases, tneban as a swear word is used when people feel angry at something. That makes it somewhat different from its usual translation “damn”, which in English can also mark surprise rather than anger.


from Tumblr

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