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
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 the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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