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Wizarding Idioms and Swear Words

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Sorrows, Nov 10, 2020.

  1. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    Idioms

    I was down a random Google rabbit hole when I discovered the delightful English idiom "As cold as a witches tit in a brass bra."

    This got me thinking. There would be a ton of idioms in wizarding English. They would have equally strange origins as the real ones. (Also a bunch of awkwardly low-key racist ones against muggleborns/nonhumans.)

    Fanfic tends to stick with something to with Merlin or made up-swear words. Rowling does use a couple, most are awkward takes on normal idioms. Pretty sure we can be more inventive than that.

    Random idioms I made up

    We don't have Phoenix tears - we can't just fix it.
    Blood bares out - Good breeding shows through
    Snitches not caught yet - the outcome has yet to be decided.
    Owls just left - too late to change your mind
    Sings like a spanked mandrake - awful noise
    More options than a rutting centaur - crude take on the outdated wizard misconception that centaurs have two dicks and are hypersexual during certain seasons
    Troll-thick - to be naturally stupid
    Felix leads the way - going on instinct/luck



    Swear Words and profanity

    In English swear words derive mainly from religion, bodily functions, taboos and sociological abuse. By and large religious, bodily function and taboo words (Goddamn, shit, bastard) have become less offensive as time has gone on, where as sociological based insults (retard, fag, Jew) have become more offensive.

    The bodily functions part would probably stay largely the same, maybe with some magical twists, "troll-wanking" "dragonshit."

    Religion, however, seems to play little role in HP, which is why Rowling used Merlin as a stand in for when using exclamations like God or Jesus Christ made sense. It doesn't really make sense unless Merlin is such a religious figure that using his name in vain is transgressive but readers get the connection. I'm not sure what could be used to perform the same function except maybe some form of Voldemort since that is a name you are not supposed to say (may be a bit soon for that to have caught on.)

    Derogatory language and swearing usually exposes the prejudices and anxieties of a society. If race and sexuality are largely non-issues it would probably be more to do with contact/relationships with muggles "mugglefucker" maybe, and being 'like' stereotypes about non humans "Don't be such a goblin" "Hag-faced" and blood/class status and magic potency/skill.

    Or it would expose what used to be highly taboo in a society. Just like bastard or whoreson used to have a lot more bite than they do now that society largely dgf if you are legitimate. Or what was not taboo to say which has become so over time, like retard or tranny, maybe warewolf was a slur and full mood jokes used to be schoolyard humour.

    There would probably also be some blood-ist dog whistles that toed the line of acceptable. Some allusions to mudblood, squib, stolen magic etc what doesn't outright say it. For example calling muggleborns dirty or unclean has antiheritage undertones. Or using terms like an acquired wand or utilised a spell only for muggleborns implying that their magic does not belong to them.


    Anyway can you think of any or have you written any interesting wizard-culture based language into your fics?
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2020
  2. Jeram

    Jeram Elder of Zion ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Yeah, although often it's when I'd write an idiom that is way too Muggle to be referenced by a pureblood so I modify it. Just the other day I was looking at a replacement for "the birds and the bees" with both wands ‘n holsters and the flitterbys and jobberknolls. I should probably start keeping track because I've done it a lot, but I'd have to go back and reread old chapters to remember what I did. I know I used "off the broom" to mean unbalanced or crazy.
     
  3. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    A couple of idioms that come to mind:

    Its not my cauldron - not my problem
    His cauldron's boiling over - he's lost his mind
    His wand is a bit on the short side - he's got a terrible personality (this ties to what JK has said about wand length, short wands reveal personality defects)
    Riding a splintered broom - unpleasant task
    In a swish - in a moment/shortly

    There's probably also a lot of comparisons to the more sentient magical creatures, as you'd indicated regarding trolls. Other ones that come to mind might be hippogriffs (prideful and stubborn), sphinxes (clever or tricksy), giant (even dumber than a troll) etc.

    So to combine with one that you mentioned, a magical insult might be "You hippogriff headed mugglefucker".
     
  4. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    You can probably bring back/modify a few really old English insults/ swear words as well.

    Harradin - old woman
    Lickspittle - suck-up
    Rantallion - little dick
    Scard - fuck
    What in thunderation - what the hell
    Trollop, polecat - whore
    Churl, coistril, varlet, nithing - coward
    Flapdoodle - bullshit
    Knave/rogue
    Bescumber - throw shit on someone
    Beardsplitter - dick

    I could see something like troll-trollop or rogueblooded

    You are more constrained than would be normal since your readers have the same understanding as muggleborns. They might catch a idiom/insult based on Hogwarts or blood status or quidditch. However some equivalent of 'down the rabbit hole,' which makes no sense without the cultural osmosis of Alice in Wonderland, Isn't really going to work unless you have also written in the context or explained what it means in story. Unless that is your point of course.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2020
  5. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Minister of Magic DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    I used '17 sickles go further than a galleon' in an old story, for 'walk before you run', and I enjoyed that.

    I've had 'your ball is as full as mine' in mind for a long time, as a divination reference for your guess is as good as mine, but one that muggleborns can have their eyebrow raise at.

    I like Mordecai's better, but: grab the twig end, or riding the twig end, for the same meaning as his.
     
  6. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Oh...interesting. I hadn't thought of divination references!

    Your leaves are muddled - you're doing the wrong thing/your guess is as good as mine
    A blank palm - completely useless
    His cards need shuffled - he's predictable
     
  7. Nevermind

    Nevermind Order Member

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    This is delightful. I’ve got a couple from my recent exploits in fanfiction:

    He’s as crazy as a Cleansweep – A play on an infamous defect in some of the company’s brooms in the 1950s that inverted rider input under certain conditions – most famously to the detriment of the Irish seeker at the 1954 World Cup. Contemporary use is mostly restricted to professional quidditch players.

    His wand’s too shiny. – Describes someone who tries too hard to hide something.

    Don’t get your wand in a twist. – Same as the muggle expression.

    Don’t try to sell me a gold cauldron. – Don’t take me for an idiot.

    He tried to sell me a knut for a galleon. – He tried to rip me off.

    He’s like a chicken hatching a dragon’s egg. – He’s in way over his head.
     
  8. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    I love this kind of thing! I've spent way too much time trying to come up with clever magical phrases to use while writing, but quite a few have ended up rather clumsy.

    I've definitely used kneazle amongst the pigeons, speaking of trolls (instead of speak of the devil, and as an aside using troll in this phrase is what's done in Scandinavian languages), to see someone through amortentia-smelling fumes (instead of rose-tinted glasses) and "with all the subtelty of a bludger" and "hippogriff in a china shop". I think I've used "seeing thestrals" as a phrase to mean that you're imagining things.

    For swearwords, I've had "go fuck yourself with a broken crystal ball" to be the standard insult for your angsty teenager, and in a similar vein lots of jokes about getting splinters in bad places from vigorous use of one or both ends of a broomstick. Mugglefucker I've used as well, it ended up being a minor plotpoint rather than just a pun, same with lots of derivations from mudblood, like I imagine with the way Mrs Black's portrait keeps screaming filth and dirt and scum, these words could have an even more offensive meaning in the wizarding world.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2020
  9. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Third Year DLP Supporter

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    "Burn the witch" — Uttered (with the same inflection as "I'll be damned") when someone does some surprisingly impressive magic
     
  10. manatee-vs-walrus

    manatee-vs-walrus Muggle

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    Fun thread! I’ve used a bunch in my fic, although Muggle-borns and some half-bloods still use standard idioms. I also make up wizarding idioms to avoid using Americanisms.

    The ones I can remember off the top of my head:
    • Get your wand polished (get laid)
    • Alchemy (as opposed to sexual chemistry). E.g., “She’s pretty, I guess, but the alchemy’s not there”
    • Flash in the cauldron
    • Looking like something the Kneazle brought in
    • He’s not the quickest broom in the shed (not very bright)
     
  11. darklordmike

    darklordmike Order Member

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    Some possibilities:

    'Not the fastest wand on the draw' - slow-witted
    'Hag Breath' - foul breath
    'Hung Like a House Elf' - self-explanatory

    And, of course, from the gold standard fic for wizarding slang, which hopefully needs no introduction:

    'Azkabait'
    'I'd stick my bludger so far up her quaffle...'
    'She's smoking like Fiendfyre'

    and so many more
     
  12. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    How about a wizarding language similar to the smurf language?

    In this case the words wizarding would replace adjectives and to wizard would replace verbs if the speaker is male, female speakers would use the word witching and to witch.

    It's funny imagining Ron trying to teach Hermione and Harry to speak it, and them just utterly failing to use the words correctly.
     
  13. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I'm confused, smurfs as in the cartoon smurfs (your link doesn't lead to anything)?

    I'm just struggling to imagine how you would communicate if all adjectives are replaced with "wizarding/witching" and all verbs with "to wizard/to witch" - and how your reader understands any of the dialogue?
     
  14. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    Yes
    Weird I just opened a picture on a page and linked it.
    The thing about Smurfs is that they pretty much randomly replace any word with Smurf, but without any real consistentcy, which word is replaced, somehow they can still understand each other fine, but it's completely beyond normal people.
    Here is the smurf wiki talking about it
    https://smurfs.fandom.com/wiki/Smurf_(language)

    Here's two examples from it
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Obviously the first one is an exaggeration of the way they usually talk, it's usually clearer what they mean from context. Overall this nonsensical language quirk seems like something that could fit quite well in into Harry Potter.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2020 at 7:39 PM
  15. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I'm just not seeing how that works in Harry Potter, except maybe in a crack fic?
     
  16. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    Harry Potter already has a tendency to put words like magical or wizarding in situations where theyre entirely unneccesary in a society that are wizards by nature, this would just be taking it a step further. The way its usually in the books it's muggles would refer to their history specifically as human histoy, their banks as human banks, their families as human families or their Exams as human exams. What I am proposing would be to just have the implication be that the usage of the word in those instances actually represents something else.
     
  17. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    ...no its not.

    Its used like muggles would say "Black history" or "Swiss Bank".
     
  18. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    Gringotts is called Wizard's bank.
    Joke Shops are called wizarding Joke Shops
    They refer to their version of GCSE as Ordinary Wizarding Levels and their vesion of A-levels as Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test
    Their Chess is called Wizard chess
    Their law as Wizarding law.

    All of that would make sense if they were talking to muggles, or talked about by third parties, but amongst wizards themselves the usage of the word wizard in the context they are used is entirely unnecessary.
     
  19. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    First of all I'm pretty sure on a couple of those exams are actually from canon. And secondly, its because they recognise that they exist alongside a much larger culture, one which a lot of wizards have some level of interaction with, so their naming conventions have evolved to identify when they're talking about something specific to the wizarding world.

    Going from "Ordinary Wizarding Levels" to "all adjectives could be replaced with wizarding, and all verbs with to wizard" is a crazy leap and personally sounds ludicrous to me. It'd work in a short crack fic, where your goal is be utterly bizarre and do things that make no sense. I can't see it working in any other context.
     
  20. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    Well personally I think that everything getting a Wizard/wizarding qualifier is terribly sexist. Which isn't it witching chess and witching world I ask you?

    I actually googled this and apparently fanon decided that the gender neutral term for wizard/witch is 'wix/wixen,' which isn't the worst thing I've ever heard.
     
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