Tag Archives: speculative fiction

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.


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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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.