I must admit one of my favorite parts about writing God Cursed was researching and using naughty cant.
Brother starling. Green girl. To give a green gown. Having a buttered bun. Cupid’s kettledrums. Crinkum-crankum. Wife in water colours. Tip the velvet.
And my personal favorite: putting Nebuchadneezer to grass.
Would you believe that this isn’t in my spell-checker?
These words were originally used as a sort of code. If a man referred to any of these to a woman and she was a good, moral woman (by Victorian standards), she wouldn’t know what he was talking about. Scandal (and fainting) averted. But if she was a woman not of high morals — then she would understand and respond.
Plus, they’re far less banal than modern day slang like ‘doing it’ or ‘scoring.’
In all my favorite dark stories, the authors and mangaka mix those dark, angst-ridden, and bloody scenes with light-hearted comedy. Cain in Godchild had Oscar’s failing seduction of Cain’s half-sister Merry Weather. Black Butler has the three servants who bumble between jobs, causing hilarity to ensue — and a gravekeeper who’s only payment option is a comedic joke. (As the first two examples that come to mind.)
The interspersion of comedy helps keep readers from falling into the pits of hell (like in the Tanith Lee that I’ve read), and make the black spots even darker. The brighter the light, the blacker the darkness. You can even start to hope that things might be all right.
I won’t claim that brilliance in my own writing — only that every time I use Victorian cant for sexual words, it immediately makes whatever Seraphin is saying completely ridiculous. Especially when he’s saying it like it’s the most shocking words ever spoken… to his own mother (if he wasn’t an orphan).
“It’s — it’s…” I tried to remember all of the ghastly words that Alexis had used. “Putting Nebuchadnezzar to grass.”
I can just imagine him whispering it, and then checking over his shoulder to see if Le Chasseur had overheard.
Looking back, I can’t help but think that I haven’t used these awesome terms enough! What do you think?