Tag Archives: faux-profanity

Raunch Review: District 9

Raunch Review: District 9

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Review: District 9
Raunch Review: District 9
The Author: Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell
Work in Question: District 9
The Profanity: “Prawn”

Often when standard words are used as faux-profanity, they tend to rate poorly. But, today we’ll see where those common words can become an exception.

In the world of Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, alien refugees arrived on earth above Johannesburg, South Africa circa 1982. Thirty years later, the aliens live in an enormous slum outside of the city. The lessons in the story are immediately apparent; this is a movie about xenophobia, bigotry, classism, and segregation. Even the title, District 9, is a not-so-subtle reference to the notorious District Six that existed in Cape Town during South Africa’s apartheid. These themes are an undercurrent to the plot. It’s evident in the way aliens are treated, and we see it in the language surrounding them. The word “prawn” is used as a slur to refer to the bug-like aliens— “prawn” also happens to be the name for a large African cricket. One that’s considered a pest. The symbolism is easy to see.

Racist slurs and bigoted epithets are designed to dehumanize. The moment one can think of someone else as an “other” is the moment you no longer have to care about their well being. It removes empathy. It dissuades guilt. The victim ceases to be a person. We see that at work here. This is why the use of “prawn” in this context is so pernicious. By calling the aliens “prawns,” the humans in the story don’t have to see them as people. They’re just big bugs. Why do they deserve respect? Why do they deserve a voice? After all, they’re just a bunch of stupid criminals draining the resources of the state—they’re only pests.

One of the jobs of fiction is to shine a mirror on society, to force us to reflect on our successes and ponder our failures. Faux-profanity can do that as well, building a world and giving it a bite, and in the case of District 9, it does so with aplomb.

Score: Half Swear (5.0)

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Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made-up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


Raunch Review: The Bell Forging Cycle

Raunch Review: The Bell Forging Cycle

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Review: The Bell Forging Cycle
Raunch Review: The Bell Forging Cycle
The Author: K. M. Alexander
Work in Question: The Bell Forging Cycle
The Profanity: “By the Firsts”

Sometimes you need to taste your own medicine, and here I am tasting mine. I’m proud of the strange and wonderful world of the Territories. I think it’s different and unique and yet in exploring those differences, it remains approachable. Although I believe my worldbuilding is excellent, I sometimes find myself wishing I had pushed it a bit further.

I feel this particularly in regards to language, and especially with the declarative: “By the Firsts.” It’s a fairly standard pseudo-oath and is used throughout the series. But it lacks the punch it should have—the Firsts, within the context of the story, have faded into myth and legend. The few who have transcended into deity status aren’t considered Firsts by the time the book rolls around. The word itself is also quite common, “firsts” holds no sacred place in the lexicon. So, it fails at being faux-blasphemous. (I’m not doing so well.)

If anything, the phrase ranks as a minced oath. This isn’t uncommon in language drift—we see it all the time as language evolves. Take “by Jove”—“pro Iovem,” in Latin—it means “By Jupiter,” but by the time it caught on Jupiter was myth. The phrase had long ceased being blasphemous. For minced oaths to truly work, the original intent needs to be hidden, often by layers. While “by the First,” is intended to follow a similar cadence, it lacks the obscurity that makes minced oaths so prevalent.

So, I earn some points with the minced roots. But overall it’s a low score for me. It’s always fun and enlightening to look at your own work, and being able to discuss successes and failures is essential for any growth. I would have done much better had I picked “Carter’s cross.” A lot more to unpack there. Perhaps for another time.

Score: Half Swear (2.5)

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Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made-up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


Raunch Review: The Smurfs

Raunch Review: The Smurfs

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Review: The Smurfs
Raunch Review: The Smurfs
The Author: Raja Gosnell & Jordan Kerner
Work in Question: The Smurfs (2011)
The Profanity: “Smurf”

I grew up watching and loving Peyo’s The Smurfs. I had Smurf bed sheets, pajamas, and more. The series holds a special place in my heart, which means it’s hard for me to tackle this one. There are moments in the original when the modified “smurf” is cute. It adds an air of whimsy which works for a species of tiny Belgian pixies. Things can be described as “smurftastic” or “just smurfy.” Or it can get more complex and verbs and nouns can be replaced; when you’re “going to the woods” you could be “smurfing to the smurf.” (All of this is detailed on the Wikipedia page.)

But, the 2011 movie The Smurfs decided to dispense with the charm. “Smurf” ceased replacing nouns and verbs and instead, the word mutated into a faux-profanity. “Smurf” as vulgarity is stupid. (“You smurfed with the wrong girl!”) As an oath, it’s even worse. (“Oh… my… smurf.”) And don’t get me started seeing its use as an intensifier. (“Up the smurfin’ creek without a paddle…”) Yet, that didn’t stop the movie from using “smurf” over and over and over in these contexts. Why remains a mystery. It tears away the whimsical and innocent goofiness from the original use and replaces it with a puerile gag that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s not even offensive in its crudeness—it’s just lazy writing.

This adds nothing to the world, and you could even go as far as saying it takes something away. Detraction is distraction, and that is always bad news on Raunch Reviews. “Smurf” in this instances does nothing to build the lore. There is no connection to the worldbuilding outside a shoddy mimicry of times past. It’s a clumsy intensifier at best, and one of the worst faux-profanities I’ve reviewed. Shame, boo, and… I mean, what did you expect?

Score: Half Swear (0.0)

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Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


Raunch Reviews: Farscape

Raunch Review: Farscape

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Reviews: Farscape
Raunch Reviews: Farscape
The Author: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Work in Question: Farscape
The Profanity: “Dren”

If there is one series that gets requested for Raunch Reviews all the time, it’s Farscape. For the uninitiated, it’s a cult Australian-American sci-fi show filled with great story, fully realized characters, incredible muppets, and not-so-incredible faux profanities. Which leads us to today’s word of choice: “dren.”

Ha! I bet you thought I was going to focus on “frell!” But no! I pulled a fast one on you and switched it up. Why? Well, because “frell” is bad—it’s used in confusing ways and is born from the same onus as “frak” nothing more than a slip around censors. Those don’t rank highly on Raunch Reviews. In comparison, the word “dren” is much more elegant, if not stinkier.

First, its use is not original (we have to be honest it’s another censor-slip/replacer-word), and, similar to its real-world comparisons, it’s idiomatic. “Dren” is used as a vulgarity, meaning essentially an “unwanted substance or act.” It’s easy to pick up on its English counterpart when it’s used in phrases like “piece of dren.” But, unlike “frak” and “frell” it doesn’t follow similar patterns in pronunciation and it spelled nothing like its real-world counterpart. I think that’s important. For these sorts of faux-vulgarities, you want them to be punchy—longer words drift and shrink, becoming manageable enough to work as modifiers. “Dren” does that—and it does it pretty well.

If you’re going to make poop jokes, at least get creative with it and the writers of Farscape did exactly that in this case. Creativity goes a long way and while this is still a censor-slip, it’s a more creative censor-slip. The uniqueness and originality set it apart from others, so “dren” gains some points for that.

Score: Half Swear (3.0)

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Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


Raunch Reviews: Voltron: Legendary Defender

Raunch Review: Voltron: Legendary Defender

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Review: Voltron: Legendary Defender
Raunch Review: Voltron: Legendary Defender
The Author: Joaquim Dos Santos & Lauren Montgomery
Work in Question: Voltron: Legendary Defender
The Profanity: “Quiznak”

Overall, the Netflix exclusive Voltron Legendary Defender was well received by fans — and the writers took the time in this reboot to deeply explore various aspects of the lore. And among that lore, its language. Within the show are a number of unique Altean words. For example, I’m a big fan of “tick”—as a unit of measurement. But there’s one word that gets used as an obscenity over and over and the thing is… well, to be honest, I’m not sure it is a profanity. That word: “quiznak.” In fact, it uses are so varied and confusing that it seems to mean nothing at all. Here’s video proof so you can see what I mean.

More than anything “quiznak” wants to be profanity, but it’s not. It’s hard to understand where it falls within the language. It’s used as an interjection. (“Quiznak!”) It’s used as a noun. (“Shut your quiznak!”) It’s used as an intensifier. (“I will not have some quiznak-ing Galra soldier on the bridge of my ship!”) Its use is so broad that “quiznak” has lost any direction on the show. What is a quiznak exactly? What does it mean? How does it translate? Why is it so long—I assume the Altean language has drift. Even our most vile profanities are rooted somewhere—and they all have rules with their use. What we have here is a word without meaning—a formless censor-slip that serves as lazy worldbuilding. It is certainly unique. So, point-and-a-half for trying, I suppose.

Score: Half Swear (1.5)

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Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


 

Raunch Review: Red Dwarf

Raunch Review: Red Dwarf

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Review: Red Dwarf
Raunch Review: Red Dwarf
The Author: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor
Work in Question: Red Dwarf
The Profanity: “Smeg”

In the annals of science fiction and fantasy, it’s hard to think of a faux-profanity more beloved than “smeg.” There isn’t any other fanbase I can think of that has adopted a series-specific faux-profanity as a moniker. But the “smegheads” who adore the BBC science fiction comedy Red Dwarf use the term unabashedly.

Controversy surrounds “smeg,” with some questioning its faux-status, and it is difficult to pin down answers. Some of the cast (Robert Llewellyn) claims it’s rooted in the real world whereas others say the opposite (creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor). In fact, on the interview CD from the Six of the Best box set, the creators are quoted as saying, “we wanted to invent a futuristic curse word which had the right sort of consonant and vowel arrangement to make it sound like a genuine… curse word.”

Whether you believe it to be real or fake, it’s easy to appreciate its simplicity and it works in plenty of uses throughout the show’s run. I wish there were some hints to its meaning within the writing or at least nod toward its orthographic or semantic drift. As a vulgarity, it captures the right tone, and it doesn’t feel like a skip around censors (looking at you, Battlestar). So, “smeg” on smegheads.

Score: Half Swear (3.5)

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Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.