Ya Shank: The Made-Up Swear Words of 'The Maze Runner'

Insults, swear words, and world-building for young adults: In an interview with James Dashner, I got the inside scoop on the language of The Maze Runner.

Mignon Fogarty
4-minute read
Episode #434

In his book The Rithmatist, which has been described as both a children’s book and a young adult book, the characters use magic that comes from drawing symbols with chalk, and they use the word dusts as a mild oath (as in chalk dust). Sanderson wrote, “There's really a line to walk.  Dusts was chosen for The Rithmatist partially to have a 'safe' curse, but also because it is something sacred in their world, so using it as they do would sound worse to them than it does to us.”

Sanderson’s assistant, Peter Ahlstrom, also pointed me to other examples of swear words that come from the fictional culture’s religion. He wrote that Tad Williams has characters in his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series curse using the name of his world's Christian analog's deity, Usires Aedon; and that Brian Staveley's characters in The Emperor's Blades use  Kent-kissing, Kent being a shortened name of one of the gods.

Finally, as anyone who has tried to create a world knows, it’s gratifying when people embrace your creation. Dashner ended,

“I just love it when my readers use the slang when they talk to each other or to me.”

So if you ever get a chance to meet James Dashner in person, be sure to call him shuckface! I swear he will love it.



About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.