Tag Archives: slang

Raunch Reviews: A Song of Ice and Fire

Raunch Reviews: A Song of Ice and Fire

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: A Song of Ice and FireThe Author: George R. R. Martin
Work in Question: A Song of Ice & Fire/Game of Thrones
The Profanity: “Seven Hells”

It’s easy to dismiss George R. R. Martin’s epic as just another fantasy. After all, it has all the trappings. But Martin likes to ground these in a grim reality that make the struggles and conflict on the page feel real—almost historical. This is especially incorporated through his in-world religions as well. From the strange faces of the old gods carved into the sides of weirwood trees, to the Drowned God of the men of the Iron Isles, and to the Andal’s Faith of the Seven—with any faith, oaths generally follow. So it’s no surprise Martin went with “seven hells” as his inworld mild-profanity replacement.

As a mild oath, it’s fine. Seven kingdoms, seven gods, seven heavens, seven hells—it makes sense. Likewise, it doesn’t stray too far from English’s own oaths, so there is a recognition factor that comes into play. The familiarity of this profanity is understandable, as in his writing Martin tends to stick reasonably close to actual real-world history and mythology in his work. That makes his bleak world feel more adjacent to our own which works in its favor. All that said, while this is recognizable, it’s not especially original. But it’s not a word to pull you out of the story. Instead, it allows you to glide right past one grim tragedy and onto the next.

Score:  (3.0)

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 Reviews: Harry Potter

Raunch Reviews: Harry Potter

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: Harry PotterThe Author: J. K. Rowling
Work in Question: The Harry Potter Series
The Profanity: “Mudblood”

One of the many duties of successful speculative fiction is to work as a mirror on reality, and ultimately, humanity. Sometimes that mirror can reflect more serious subjects. So, it’s no surprise that something like bigotry would become a topic, even in a series like Harry Potter. While there have been a great many articles written about the successes and failures of the metaphor, the goal here is to examine the word itself.

Enter “mudblood.” It is a slur for a magical person born of parents who have no magic ability of their own. Considered highly offensive, it gets slung around a lot in the series by bullies, villains, and the propaganda arm of the fascist state. Clearly coded like racial profanity, the word is designed to dehumanize (or dewizardize, in this case), and the connotations manifest throughout the series. In fact, the entire story across all seven books largely consists of the titular hero and his pals battling against a villain who believes all of wizardkind should be “pure-bloods.” (We can trace this back to Salazar Slytherin—the goth racist who founded Slytherin House and thought the school should only teach those of pure wizard-blood. Then he left when no one agreed with him. He was basically the Morrissey of Hogwarts.) It’s important to recognize the context of “mudblood” in relation to the overall struggle; it’s not just a word bandied about by meanies, it has plot connotations as well.

As a term, it’s evocative of modern racial profanity. Used within the realm of speculative fiction, it does its part to hold up the mirror, and as faux-profanity it does this effectively.

Score: Half Swear (4.5)

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.


Raunch Reviews: Battlestar Galactica

Raunch Reviews: Battlestar Galactica

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: Battlestar GalacticaThe Authors: Glen A. LarsonRonald D. MooreDavid Eick
Work in Question: Battlestar Galactica (1978 & 2003)
The Profanity: “Frak”

As far as worldbuilding goes, Battlestar Galactica is a hodgepodge. It blends all manners of stuff: Ancient Greek gods, modern mythology, faster-than-light travel, politics, fear of the internet, murderous robots, weird visions, spaceship dogfights, strange paper with missing corners, and underwear worn over tee shirts. Yet despite its silliness, the 2003 reboot remained internally consistent and for a long time and—at least for its first two seasons—it was some of the best sci-fi on television. As a result, some of the silly points become charming, but sadly, “frak” isn’t one of them.

The word first appeared in the original series (1978) where it was initially spelled “frack”  — it wasn’t until later (2003) that producers changed it to “frak” to make it a four-letter word. (Gasp!) It’s clear what it’s meant to replace, but it comes across more immature than serious. I dislike one-to-one replacement words, they’re lazy. There’s plenty of circumstances from the backstory that could have been effectively tapped for the purposes of faux-profanity. “Frak” is adolescent in tone, does little for the world, and effectively reads as an overt and clumsily minced-oath—nothing more than an attempt at sneaking naughty content past the censors. We all know what they were saying… well, except for KFC.

Score:  (1.0)

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 Reviews: Bas-Lag

Raunch Reviews: Bas-Lag

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: Bas-Lag

The Author: China Miéville
Work in Question: The Bas-Lag Cycle
The Profanity: “Jabber”/ “By Jabber”/ “Jabber &^%!”

I’m going to be honest, I really like “Jabber.” The word comes from the Bas-Lagian pietist Saint Jabber who is apparently some sort of deity within the world. That makes this term a straightforward oath and easily accessible to most English speaking populations (where blasphemous oaths like this are commonplace). Plus there’s something that rolls off the tongue with “Jabber.” It’s easy to say, doesn’t need to be shortened, and feels natural when read. Likewise, it can be coupled with other vulgarities, therefore expanding its use. One slight mark against it, however, is the lack of any worshipers. Most of the characters in Miéville’s book aren’t the church-going type, but even among the background we don’t see much in the way of a Church of St. Jabber. There’s an area of slums in the city-state of New Crobuzon named St. Jabber’s Mound but otherwise, it’s fairly quiet. So while “Jabber” is grounded within in-world history—any real offense is lost on the reader.

Score: Empty Swear (4.0)

🤬 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 Reviews: The Stormlight Archive

Raunch Reviews: The Stormlight Archive

If you think about it, profanity is a strange invention. Much of its context depends entirely on the listener. What is considered vulgar or offensive in one culture may not be offensive in another. When the complexities from a person’s country, region, language, or religion are added, things can get even more perplexing. As long as there has been language, there has been profanity. There has also been stories. One of fiction’s responsibilities is to be a reflection of our reality—so, when worldbuilding, us speculative-fiction writers are often tasked with inventing creative curse words for our narratives. It adds a level of authenticity and—if done well—can help ground a world. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not.

The evolution of language—slang, in particular—has long been an interest of mine. From its history, to its usage, and to the subtle shifts resulting from generations building upon (or outright ignoring) the language of the previous generations. Language continually changes, and so does slang and profanity.

I thought it would be fun to explore some of the faux-profanity writers have created for their stories—to examine them and issue judgments on how effective they are within the context of the work. For this, I want to welcome you to Raunch Reviews, a series wherein I will review and rate the faux-profanity from science fiction and fantasy properties.


Raunch Review: The Stormlight ArchiveThe Author: Brandon Sanderson
Work in Question: The Stormlight Archive
The “Profanity”: “Storm it”/”Storms”/”Storming”

In large part, I don’t think “storm” works as an expletive. On the surface, it certainly makes thematic sense within the source material: Roshar, the world of the series, is plagued by destructive “highstorms” that are part of everyday life. However, in usage, its weight as profanity starts to give. It feels derivative, almost modern, and the replacement of “storms” as a stand-in for something more offensive feels silly.

I classify foul language into three major categories—race/identity-based, vulgarities, and oaths. Race/identity-based terms are obvious, they’re slang focusing on a person’s race or identity, with the intention to dehumanize and belittle. Vulgarities reference reproductive organs, body parts, and sexual acts. Oaths are rooted in blasphemous speech, exclamations, or curses. Those are generally drawn from religious beliefs.

“Storms” and its variations don’t fall into any of these categories. “Storm” is a common enough word in the book, so it cannot be a vulgarity, nor is it a personal or racial insult. Likewise, it’s not a direct reference to a particular deity, so it fails as an impactful oath. It attempts to sit somewhere between vulgarity and oath and ends up doing neither successfully. Were Sanderson seeking a vulgarity, he could have easily drawn from his “safehand” lore (the covered left-hand of Alethi women, considered inappropriate to expose.) If he was attempting an oath, “by the Storms” or something similar would have made more logical sense. To his credit, he does occasionally use “Stormfather” (an oath referencing a former deity) and it fits the more traditional form of an oath.

But “storms” isn’t “Stormfather.” As a result, “storms” gets the distinction of being internally consistent, but is ultimately nowhere near as faux-offensive as it aspires.

Score:  (2.5)

There will be more to come. In the meantime, do you 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.


Friday Link Pack 09/04/2015

Friday Link Pack 09/04/2015

Hellllloooo Friday! It’s time for the Friday Link Pack. Some of these links I’ve mentioned on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…

WRITING:

Letting Go
I absolutely loved this post from Hugh Howey about the death of characters we love, the impact on readers, and how death is often cheapened by return after return after return. I’ve always struggled with media that treats death like that. (Looking at you comic books.)

How Podium Publishing Discovered The Martian Before Hollywood
A lot of folks aren’t aware that The Martian (soon to be a major motion picture) was initially an independently published novel. This article from Becky Robertson looks into the sci-fi novels rise though its audio book and a well-timed deal. [Thanks to Lola for sharing this with me.]

3 Million Judgements Of Books By Their Covers
Judgey allows users to judge books by only their covers and then compares those judgments to the Goodreads score. (It’s fun. Try it.) Anyway, this article reveals some interesting data collected after 3 million judgments. [Thanks to Ben for submitting this.]

Omby for iOS
Take one part Moby Dick, and one part word jumble and you have an addicting little puzzle game for iOS. Omby takes the entire text of Melville’s classic and turns it into a fun puzzler. It’s a lot more challenging than I expected. [Thanks to Steve for this submission]

On October 6th, It’s Time To Return To Lovat
Yesterday I announced the release date for my next novel, Red Litten World. I also released a sample chapter, which you can read here, and you can already preorder it on Amazon. Really looking forward to getting this out in the hands of my readers. I think you’ll love it.

ART:

Kari-Lise Alexander Paints Nordic Beauties In “A Lovelorn Theft”
Kari-Lise’s latest solo show opens next weekend at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. The show runs September 12th through October 3rd. (We’ll, be there opening night. If you live in the area come on by and say hello.) In this post, High Fructose highlights many of the pieces from the upcoming show. After watching this series develop over the last six months, I’m excited to see it out in the wild. I’m really proud of her. I’m sure you’ll agree, this recent series is absolutely gorgeous.

What If Edward Gorey Illustrated Lovecraft?
John Kenn Mortensen is a Danish illustrator and children’s television producer whose illustrative style is reminiscent of Edward Gorey. Lovecraft eZine editor-in-chief Mike Davis looks at some of Mortensen’s more Lovecraftian illustrations.

Japanese Artist Places A Modern Spin On Old Woodblock Prints
I thought these animated gifs were pretty charming. Artist Segawa thirty-seven takes old woodblock prints and with the use of technology adds a bit of animation. They’re fun. You can see more work here.

RANDOM:

HD Civil War Maps
I am an enormous fan of Ken Burns. (Seriously. Ask Kari-Lise. It’s a problem.) Recently PBS has released an HD version of his The Civil War documentary series. (If you haven’t seen it, watch it, it’s incredible. I’ve watched it at least ten times.) Included with the HD update was an update to the wonderful maps used through the series, some of which you can view here.

What This Cruel War Was Over
I’ve been reflecting and researching the American Civil War a lot over the last few months. I thought this write-up from The Atlantic explaining the Confederate cause with their own words was poignant. Next time someone tries to tell you the war wasn’t about slavery, send them this.

Japan Just Created A Google Street View For Cats
Yep. Japan. Yep. Cats. I mean, are we really surprised anymore? [Thanks to Kayetlin for sending this my way.]

12 Lost American Slangisms From The 1800s
I’m not going to tell you a thumper and I hope this post isn’t too high for anyone’s nut, but the bottom fact is these old slang terms are some pumpkins. Heck, you could say the whole post is a lally-cooler.

WEIRD WIKIPEDIA:

Sedlec Ossuary
“The Sedlec Ossuary (Czech: Kostnice v Sedlci) is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints (Czech: Hřbitovní kostel Všech Svatých) in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. It is one of twelve World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have in many cases been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. The ossuary is among the most visited tourist attractions of the Czech Republic, attracting over 200,000 visitors annually.”

H.P. LOVECRAFT STORY OF THE WEEK:

The Music of Erich Zann
A student befriends a strange old musician who plays a viola da gamba and discovers that his otherworldly rhythms and melodies are more than they seem and could lead to some terrifying places.

GIF OF THE WEEK:

you say tomato...