Tag Archives: language

Raunch Review: Babylon 5

Raunch Review: Babylon 5

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: Babylon 5
Raunch Review: Babylon 5
The Author: J. Michael Straczynski
Work in Question: Babylon 5
The Profanity: “Frag”

Look, it gives me no great pleasure in going after an incredible and beloved science fiction show for faux-profanity related gaffs. And it’s no secret that censor-slips aren’t looked at too kindly around here. But they’re familiar, and if I have to deal with them, you do as well. It’s in the rules or something. Babylon 5’s “frag” is yet one more embarrassment in a long-running tradition among television, so we all knew it’d eventually have its day.

We all know what’s implied. It’s not cute, nor is it all that clever. With one notable exception (“Shazbot”), censor-slips tend to be unimaginative and lazy, and we see that here as well. Four letter word, starts with “f,” you get the idea—nudge nudge, wink wink.

But, “Frag” is worse. Since the Vietnam War, it has become common military slang—and because this is a show with a substantial military theme, we see it used as both a censor slip and in its traditional sense. Which only makes it weirder and adds in awkwardness. It’s easy to see the ingredients that lead to it, but in the end, it does little to enhance the universe of Babylon 5—if anything, its mishmash use takes something away, and that’s the worst disservice dialog can perform within a story.

Score: Half Swear (0.5)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


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 it’ll take a little while before it ends up here. I have a lot of books to read.


Raunch Review: Firefly

Raunch Review: Firefly

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: Firefly
Raunch Review: Firefly
The Author: Joss Whedon
Work in Question: Firefly
The Profanity: “Gorram”

Joss Whedon’s much-beloved Firefly did a lot of fascinating things with language. The mixing of refined Mandarin Chinese with backcountry dialects helped layer a world with a myriad of linguistic possibilities. Throughout the series, we see this intermingling of language with many characters shifting between English and Mandarin as they talk. While many bits of “profanity” are uttered in Mandarin, the word we’re looking at today isn’t one of them.

The minced oath “gorram” crops up a lot. Unlike the interplay of language, this term happens to be more of an exploration of linguistic drift borrowing from a more blasphemous origin and becoming a bit of a minced oath. (Not unlike “by golly,” “gadzooks,” “holy moley,” and “jeepers,” before it.) From a language standpoint, drift is essential. The English we speak today would sound like a foreign language to English speakers from five hundred years ago. So it’s easy to see how five hundred years in the future common parlance has shifted and corrupted further. Language tends to drift towards ease—words are simplified and shortened; binary becoming singular is a common occurrence. We see that with “gorram”—a drifting portmanteau of “god” and “damnation.”

As it stands as both a minced oath, a curse, and an example of linguistic drift “gorram” is a fantastic example of faux profanity. While you couldn’t do it for the entire show—it’d be impossible to understand—it’s nice to see little touches like this sprinkled throughout. They help a world feel as though it’s evolved; it gives it a sense of history.

So “gorram” does Firefly justice. But, you might be interested to know while generally attributed to Firefly, that short-run series wasn’t the first use of “gorram” in the English lexicon. Its origins are actually much older.

Score: Half Swear (5.0)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


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: 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)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


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.


My Ongoing Blog Series You Can Read Today

My Ongoing Blog Series You Can Read Today

There’s plenty of writers on the internet who user their blogging platform to dish out advice on writing or focus on the craft. While that is all well and good, I’ve intentionally chosen to do something a little different with my blog. For several years, among the book updates, pleas for reviews, and general news—I’ve been writing several reoccurring series about all manner of things. Fake swearing, my books, plants, riverboats, history, the list is large and full of interesting things.

In this post, I’ve collected all my ongoing series and have provided links so you can peruse the various categories—I even offer starting suggestions. So, if you’re looking for something a bit different than your standard author-blog content, consider starting with one of these…

Wild Territories

Frequency: When they’re ready
Category: Bell Forging Cycle lore
Current Number of posts:
Three
Start with: Faiths and Creeds of Lovat

It’s always fun to explore the backstory of a series. I love extending some of the lore and legend that surrounds my novels. I’m also a fan of PBS and Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. That all came together for Wild Territories, a series about the extended lore of my books. Currently, there’s only a handful of posts, but with Gleam Upon the Waves coming soon, I’ll have many more on the way.


Garden of Horrors

Frequency: Monthly/Bi-monthly
Category: The natural world is gross
Current Number of posts: Nine
Start with: The Clathrus Archeri

Nature is a wild and weird place, in this series, I take a look at the more unusual bits of the earth’s flora. Generally, it’s pretty gross, sometimes it’s disturbing, but it’s always fascinating to see what sort of bizarre adaptations exist. Sometimes that feeling of disgust can come from the most unexpected places.


Raunch Reviews

Frequency: Monthly
Category: Language
Current Number of posts: Sixteen
Start with: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

The English language is a stupid language. It evolves, steals, shifts and absorbs, and it never looks the same across centuries. Slang is often the driver of this drift. Raunch Reviews is a series about slang, particularly, 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.


Riverboats! Revolution! Magic!

Frequency: Occasional
Category: History
Current Number of posts: Ten
Start with: A Riverboat’s Menu

Researching history for my big ol’ project Coal Belly has given me insight into bits and bobs of history and the details surrounding riverboats—stuff I never learned in school. In these posts, I share my findings, focusing in on the people or technology that made these vessels so unique and sharing a plethora of photos from dusty old archives.


#NoBadMaps

Frequency: Monthly (for 2019, at least)
Category: Cartography/History
Current Number of posts: Nineteen
Start with: #NoBadMaps

This started as a project to help fantasy indie authors develop their own maps for their books and has grown into something much more. Now, eleven brush sets and several tutorials later #NoBadMaps has become something greater, and it’s exciting to see people using these in their work.


Visual Inspiration

Visual Inspiration

Frequency: Occasional
Category: Art
Current Number of posts: Eleven
Start with: Yuri Shwedoff

I’ve been a graphic designer for nearly two decades now; I’m drawn to visual mediums. Often, I come across an artist’s work, be it paintings, concept art, or digital drawings that enliven me creatively. In this series, I share the work of artists who’s work I have found inspiring, perhaps they’ll inspire you as well.


Watching History

Frequency: Occasional
Category: History
Current Number of posts: One
Start with: Watching History 1

When I was a kid, my favorite TV channel was the History Channel. But in recent year, the History Channel has eschewed history in favor of scripted and reality programming. It’s a bummer. Thankfully, the internet has stepped in. There are all sorts of amazing creatives who run YouTube channels with a focus on making history come alive. In here, I share my favorites.


Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

Frequency: Yearly
Category: Cosmic Horror Gifts
Current Number of posts: Five
Start with: The 2019 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

For the last six years, I’ve been assembling a highly-curated list of cosmic horror goodies that are perfect for yourself or the cosmic horror fan in your life. Books, Games, Music, Apparel, Housewares and a whole lot more! Loads of goodies worth checking out around the holidays or… at any time of the year, really.


I’m really proud of the work I’ve been doing. It’s been nice to work on blog posts in between writing sessions. Keeps me on my toes, lets me explore different concepts, and I think it makes my books better. Hopefully, you’ll find something entertaining or eye-opening among this list.

Have a question, comment, or want to drop me a line? Leave a comment below, or visit the Contact K. M. Alexander page for a list of handy ways you can reach out.


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

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)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


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.


The Faux-Language of Piracy

The Faux-Language of Piracy

Ahoy, matey! I know we’re still a few months away from International Talk Like A Pirate Day, but I came across this great video from Cheddar examining the dialect of the foul-mouthed buccaneers from the Golden Age of Piracy.

While we have all heard of walkin’ the plank and dead men tellin’ no tales, the stereotypical language we often associate with those scurvy sea dogs is more myth than reality and heavily influenced by popular culture. You can find out more by watching the video below.