I am prefacing this post with a notice that it will contain references to and discussion about language that some people find offensive. This is meant to be in a purely intellectual, sociolinguistic context. I've avoided use of specific words as much as possible, but if you don't think you can read this without being offended, well... Don't read it. You have been duly warned.
Okay, now that that's out of the way...!
I've admitted to this community before that I am a huge linguistics nerd, and one of the things about languages that I find most fascinating is taboo language, or profanity. Not just because I admit I fully love the uses of the words, but also because profanity is inherently reflective of topics a culture finds taboo. It's like a little linguistic microcosm of social mores.
In English, the top three taboos are:( Cut as per above warning. )
All three topics have unpleasant associations in at least America and England (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, Brits), but in other cultures and other languages, that's not the case. For example, in Quebec, France, the top tier profanities are all Catholic Church terminology. It goes far beyond damning people: the French "tabernacle" and "sacrement," when used by Quebecois French-speaking characters in films, are often translated to the hardcore English swears, whereas on Quebec TV and radio, the hardcore English swears aren't even censored, but the Quebecois ones are. All this because of Quebec's bad history with the Catholic Church. In one of the Percy Jackson
books, Annabeth Chase uses an Ancient Greek insult that's translated to go to the crows
--innocuous-sounding at first, until you realize how big of a deal proper funerary rites were to the Ancient Greeks, and how saying "go to the crows" was like saying "I hope you die a coward's death and your body is left to fester and rot in a ditch as carrion." Really not pleasant!
SO, earlier jade_sabre_301
and I were discussing what the taboos in the Queen's Thief
cultures could be. We've heard Gen use "damn," but the context indicates it's a fairly mild oath in Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia, just like in English-speaking societies today--though for Gen, after the events of The Thief
, it's much more serious and carries much more weight because he understands how very real the threat is. Obviously this means there's some sort of tiered afterlife, at the very least in the Invaders' religion, likely in Eddis's as well: the worthy go to the good place while the unworthy go to the bad.
But what about other taboos? Jade suggested the coleus leaf, which is at least a symbolic insult (Gen soaks away the coleus-shaped dry spot on the dead soldier's uniform in The Thief
); possibly there is an insult derived from the actual word "coleus," though not being a Greek scholar nor Megan, I can't say for sure. A thought I had was that there are insults in Eddis or Sounis and Attolia or all three relating to the mercantile trade, thanks to the Merchant Empire's occupation. An equivalent to the negative English stereotype of the greedy Jew, if you will, which goes back to the Catholic Church's ban on Christians being moneylenders, which meant Jews could do it and Christians would take loans from them, though they still looked down on the moneylenders as un-Christian and greedy.
So! Thoughts? Ideas? Bonus points to anyone who can come up with possible Medean taboos, because I am at a complete loss.