Tag Archives: speculative fiction

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)

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: 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)

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.