Tag Archives: speculative fiction

Raunch Review: The Wheel of Time

Raunch Review: The Wheel of Time

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 Wheel of Time
Raunch Review: The Wheel of Time
The Author: Robert Jordan
Work in Question: The Wheel of Time (Eye of the World, specifically)
The Profanity: “Burn Me”

There is a cohesion in the faux-profanity used throughout this series, which is a positive. But, Robert Jordan falls into a common faux-profanity pattern that crops up all too often, where common words and phrases are conscripted into obscenity. (Looking at you, Stormlight Archive.) These often fall short for me; in one moment they’re ordinary words and phrases wielded by characters with standard use and then the next moment they brandished as profanity. That’s… odd.

“Burn me” is a perfect example of this. A burn is a reasonably common occurrence in our real world, just as it is in Jordan’s Westlands. The word is used as a descriptive by Jordan where one would expect. There’s even a character named Burn (a wolf). This common use affects the faux-profanity phrase, by attaching it to the everyday it draws out any suggested coarseness. It’s profanity robbed of the profane.

Throughout Eye of the World, the phrase is often wielded as an oath — but it’s implied to have the same effect as an intensifier, which is linguistically confusing. Many oaths get shortened to intensifiers over time, but no one is naming their kid (or wolf) after either of them. To that point, “burn” isn’t used on its own, although it would make sense linguistically, especially for an intensifier.

But, the consistency gives it some value. Fire and the results thereof clearly hold some place space among the population. And similar phrases crop up. Plus, this is a reduced version of a longer and more interesting oath, “the light burn me” which — while not entirely fresh as far as fantasy oaths go — reads much better. I’d argue that while it wavers on any perceived offensiveness, and although it works well enough as an oath, it’s better as an intensifier.

Score: Raunch Review FullRaunch Review FullRaunch Review EmptyRaunch Review EmptyRaunch Review Empty (2.0)

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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: Friday

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: Friday
The Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Work in Question: Friday
The Profanity: “Slitch”

Heinlein has had his share of fans and detractors, and certainly, Friday isn’t his best-loved book by either group. (A few years ago, Jo Walton wrote a great review for Tor.com, ‘The worst book I love: Robert Heinlein’s Friday,’ which is worth reading.) Within the near-future world of the novel, there a pernicious vulgarity which we’re going to examine today. The word: “slitch.” Regardless of your Heinlein hot-take—something about this vulgarity works too well.

In the novel, the titular Friday —an “Artificial Person” or “AP”— must pass in the near-future world as a human, despite being genetically engineered and possessing mental and physical abilities which far exceed a normal person. There’s a lot of hate and bigotry toward APs. And throughout Friday, we see a world where society is built upon intolerance. In an environment like this, creating a portmanteau like “slitch” fits. (I’ll let you figure out its roots.)

“Slitch” builds off history — twisting and combining a pair of vulgarities we, the reader, recognize while still creating a new word. Its score is slightly held back because understanding its roots require a working knowledge of our modern vulgarities. (We value pure originality here at Raunch Reviews.) But, it feels as icky as its history and its link to the past goes a long way toward creating an effective piece of faux-profanity.

Score:  (4.0)

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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: A Clockwork Orange

Raunch Review: A Clockwork Orange

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: A Clockwork Orange

The Author: Anthony Burgess
Work in Question: A Clockwork Orange
The Profanity: “Yarbles”

The evolution of language is a large part of profanity. What is considered obscene changes over the years, and can seem silly to following generations. One of the most famous examples of this was the word “leg” which, during the Victorian era, was considered obscene. (“Limb” became the de-facto replacement when discussing one’s extremities.) It’s strange to think about now, but that evolution influences the effectiveness of profanity. It’s very much a product of its time. That same evolution should apply to fictional swearing as well.

Enter “yarbles,” Anthony Burgess’ offering into the lexicon of faux-profanity. Uttered by the milkplus-fueled street toughs who prowl the streets of a retro-futuristic London, this word is used as a vulgarity for male genitalia. Burgess, a linguist as well as a writer, based much of the unique language in a Russian-influenced argot he called “Nadsat” (which translates to -teen). “Yarbles” is based on the Russian word аблоко (jabloko) which translates as “apple.” Within English, we often see words get anglicized as they shift and change over time. With that anglicization, a word will inherit new pronunciations and often evolve new meanings. We see that with “yarbles.”

“Yarbles,” as a result, is subversive—so perfect that they slapped it on the first edition cover! It carries that hint of naughtiness which sharpens its use as a vulgarity. It has a history and an evolution. Its visceral nature fits within the context of the novel, and it’s wielded perfectly by the book’s protagonist, Alex. In almost every way, it can be viewed as a gold standard for faux-profanity.

Score:  (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: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Raunch Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

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: Fantastic Mr. FoxThe Author: Wes Anderson
Work in Question: Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Profanity: “cuss”

Okay, before we get into this one, I think it’s helpful to see it in use.

It’s hard to look at Fantastic Mr. Fox and not address the aesthetic aspects. It’s a technical masterpiece which tells a simple story based on a Roald Dahl novel from 1974. “Cuss” never appears in the original source material—this is a product of the screenplay. Like most Wes Anderson films, there is as much style as there is substance, and there are layers that shouldn’t be ignored.

“Cuss,” in this case, is fascinating. It’s used as a profanity; it assuredly runs the gamut and replaces other much more offensive words—but never of the same type. At one point it’s an oath, a vulgarity in other moments, and it can even be licentious: it doesn’t matter, and that’s the point. “Cuss” replaces everything. But it does this in a way that is more amusing than offensive. Where “frak” was a clear attempt to get around censors, and “shazbot” was goofy foolishness played for laughs, “cuss” ends up being a subtle (and effective) commentary (that also happens to be played for laughs).

“Cuss” by itself means nothing outside of its recognized definition. But when it describes nonsense, it becomes nonsense. It becomes a parody; it pokes fun and recognizes the absurdity and duality inherent in language, and in this way it transcends faux-profanity.

So, where does that leave me in a series in which I rate the effectiveness of faux-profanity? “Cuss” is effective as commentary, but as profanity, it falls short. And I think that’s the point.

Score: No Score, you sly fox 😒

 


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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: Warhammer 40k

Raunch Review: Warhammer 40k

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: Warhammer 40kThe Author: Dan Abnett
Work in Question: Warhammer 40k – Gaunt’s Ghosts
The Profanity: “feth”/“fething”/“fether”

Warhammer 40k’s backstory is complicated. So, let’s set the scene. The word “feth” comes from the planet Tanith, a now-dead world in the Warhammer 40k universe. Taken from the name of a forest spirit said to inhabit Tanith’s now-deceased Nalwood trees, “feth” is generally uttered as a vulgarity by Tanith’s survivors. That usage is interesting: typically, within language, the names of deities (or names in general) tend to be uttered as oaths. Yet, that isn’t the case here, to further complicate the usage, the term is mainly used by the survivors from that dead world: a military regiment known as the Tanith First-and-Only. They’re observed combining the word with others the way one would with vulgarities, epithets such as: “fething gakhead” and “tread fethers.”

While I like the added aspect of history, that doesn’t work. It’s inconsistent with language’s evolution. The fact that a grieving unit of survivors exclusively use the word further muddies things. It’s odd that the whole group would choose the name of a forest spirit from a beloved homeland and adopt it as a vulgarity. As a vulgarity, it has no impact. If anything, it’d make more sense to be generally accepted by survivors as a compliment. The name itself doesn’t mean anything offensive. If it were used as an oath, however, “feth” would have scored much higher.

Score:  (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: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

Raunch Review: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

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: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

The Author: Garry Marshall and Dynamix
Work in Question: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes
The Profanity: “Shazbot”

It’s rare for a fictional profanity to transcend its original source material and find new life in other properties. But that’s what we find with 1978’s Mork & Mindy’s “shazbot.” The word serves as a stand-in for a vulgarity; first uttered in the show’s opening credits but used occasionally throughout the series. Like “frak,” its generational cousin, “shazbot” first reads as a wink to the audience and a slip around the censors. But it has a silly quality—”frak” is intended to sound like the word it’s replacing. “Shazbot” isn’t. It’s nonsense for nonsense sake. A joke. With his performance as Mork, Robin Williams did a phenomenal job playing up the silliness and as a result, “shazbot” never resonates as profanity.

Decades later, the word would be revived making an appearance in Dynamix’s Starsiege: Tribes game series. Either emoted by the player or uttered automatically when a player’s character is killed, the word was so beloved by the fanbase it quickly became a meme. But, like on Mork & Mindy, the word remained a gag; it was a punchline, and largely unoffensive.

As a faux-profanity, “shazbot” is lacking. It has no bite and lacks any weighty resonance. While “shazbot” has been found charming by multiple generations, it’s certainly not offensive nor does it feign as being offensive, as a result, it works much better as a goofy joke.

Score:  (2.0)

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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.