This is Faith in Play #75: Tourette’s, for February 2024.
Late in the twentieth century there was a fair amount of publicity given to a neurological disorder known as Tourette’s Syndrome. Sufferers cursed and swore uncontrollably and seemingly randomly, usually with a physical tic as they did. It was embarrassing and awkward.
I have a pastor friend who had a deacon who suffered from Tourette’s–and that’s interesting.
What made it interesting is that the man never actually swore, at least, not in the ordinary sense. Rather, his speech was peppered with “Thank you Jesus”, “Praise God”, “Hallelujah”, “Bless the Lord”, and the like. What made it Tourette’s was the uncontrolled spontaneity of these outbursts.
I have never met anyone who manifested symptoms of Tourette’s. I have known people whose language is laced with vulgarities at an offensive level. On the other hand, I’ve also known a few people who were constantly dropping in those positive Christian phrases, sometimes rather randomly, sometimes meaningfully. What came to me today is I don’t recall encountering a fictional character with this habit–and since I create fictional characters in my games and novels, and quite a few (but not all) of them are religious, I have had ample opportunity. I’ve simply not ever done it.
One reason is that in real life such dialogue is at least distracting if not annoying. In print it becomes more so. It is repetitious, and in general the outbursts are not relevant to the point. Yet three things commend the idea to me at this moment.
The first is that there are people who really do speak that way. I will often forgive an author for writing vulgar dialogue because it fits the personality and background of the characters, and I think a reasonable reader, or gamer, should similarly forgive the character whose language is excessively, shall we call it, pious, for the same reason. It is particularly fitting for clerics and paladins and similar strongly faith-oriented characters, but one need not be a professional holy man to be strongly religious.
The second point that commends the idea to me recalls the discussion of an article in this series’ sister series, RPG-ology #56: Voices (the first sixty articles in the RPG-ology series are available in book form), which suggested distinguishing non-player characters at the table through accents, variations in pitch or timbre or tempo, and other speech styles. This would be another, that when the character begins, “Well, praise the King,” everyone would know which character is speaking.
But the third commendation is that this character puts God front-and-center in the conversation. He isn’t necessarily saying that we have to trust God and rely on Him; he’s simply doing it. It brings god into focus. And even for those referees who would be uncomfortable with the obvious forms of those expressions in a polytheistic or pagan setting, there are alternate forms, such as “thank the Creator”, which become generic. After all, God’s name isn’t “God”; that’s only what we call Him.
So I’ll give some thought to including such a character in my fictional efforts, and maybe you can do the same. It doesn’t even matter if the players think the character comical–as we noted long ago in this series, Clowns are important to the story, too, and often save the day. I’m still considering how, when, and where to do this, but it’s a notion worth consideration.
Previous article: Preparation.
Next article: Lineage.