Thursday, October 19, 2006

Frakkin’ Frellin’ Goram Felgercarb!

There. I said it. All the intergalactic cussin’ I can think of off the cuff. Today’s post is a tribute to ‘bad words’ – the good kind of bad word though, the ones that some creative writer came up with in order to get past the television sensors.

This is one of the things that makes science fiction so great. Not only can you invent your own worlds and whole universes to play in, you can make up your own swear words and use them with impunity.

I’m not sure, but I think the original Battlestar Galactica started this. It was probably Starbuck [way back when Starbuck was actually, you know, a GUY] that first said Frak! And we all knew what he meant. Being a pre-teen at the time [can you believe that’s how old Battlestar Galactica is?] I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Of course I didn’t have a potty mouth back then. I didn’t need one. After fourteen years of marriage and two kids, I need one.

That being said, I embraced Farscape’s version of frak. They use frell. It means the same thing, but without that hard K at the end it has a little less impact. You can slip it into ordinary conversation and some people don’t even notice it. [If they’re muggles, of course.] Unless you pair it with another Farscape gem, mivvocks. If you tell someone to frell until thier mivvocks fall off, you'd better have a finger on the trigger of your blaster or be able to run really fast.

Joss Whedon found a new way to avoid censors. He taught his Firefly cast to swear in Mandarin. Got to hand it to him for that. Of course some of the phrases he used, inventive as they are, are hard to pronounce and spell, so they don’t get a lot of air time in sci-friendly households like mine.

To further feed my need for largely non-offensive expletives, I decided to make up a few of my own for use in the spacefaring world of the Istrians that I created for my novel Ravenstar’s Bride. The Istrian merchants are nomadic; they live on spaceships and they travel from world to world trading goods with ‘land-bound’ people. They need a salty vocabulary because they have a lot of goram frak to deal with. Since I couldn’t use goram [from Firefly] or frak, I gave the Istrians ‘fark’ which utilizes that hard K sound so there’s no mistaking what it means. If you really think about it, frell sort of sounds like something you do to a ruffle – “Frell that ruffle up before you put that dress on!” Fark leaves no room for ambiguity.

I also let the Istrians use ‘vech’ to describe a person they don’t particularly like. Only a real vech would frell a ruffle, by the way. The rest of us would just say ‘Fark that ruffle. I’m wearing pants.’

What are some pointers for creating your own epithets?

1) Go with short words, four letters preferably, that way they’re easily recognized.

2) Utilize hard sounds if you can. The best earthly expletives end in t, or k or p for emphasis.

3) Italicize your words and put them in context so no one has to wonder what your character is really saying.

4) Don’t overuse them. Like those well known four-letter words ending in k or t or p, once you’ve seen them a few times you begin to become immune and or bored with them. Save them for emphasis, even if you have a character with an intergalactic sized potty mouth.

Follow those guidelines and you should have a frakkin’ good time. Just don’t frell with anyone’s mivvocks and you’ll be fine.


MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott said...

Oh God...that's damn funny. And a keeper!!!

Have you ever read the Swordsinger series by Jennifer Roberson? She has some word in there that Tiger says all the time that's a made up curse word, and it's waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy overused. Good series though.


Jodie said...

I love the inventive way characters swear, although I haven't done that - most of my characters are human so F is used if their character calls for it.

Annalee Blysse said...

When I ran into "fark" in Ravenstar's Bride, I was smiling at the usage.

I had fun with using colorful language in Starlit Destiny. The hero and his partner are cowboys in space, and their language matches the Old West. The heroine's language is flavored by Alaska that is the model for her planet. Just a few words here and there. But fun to play with. One word that took me a long time to invent showed up 1 time! LOL.

Skylar Masey said...

Lol! Yesterday I was watching my bf play Fire Emblem on the GameCube and one of the characters said he's "a dastard". I said were's the rest of the sentence. Joey said they'd meant the B version, but had used D to keep the games PG rating.

I made up my own swear for Zara in TIES OF VALOR called, "Stars bars!"

Angela Verdenius said...

I never thought of making up swear words. I rewrote the swear word dictionary the other day gardening, digging up frakkin' rose bushes, but that doesn't count, right?

Good suggestions!


Lynda K. Scott said...

Great post! And great tips on creating swear words. I'm definitely going to keep this on hand since my current wip is set in the far future and the characters just might need a little creative swearing :D