January 12, 2011

Frak Me! Fictional Curse Words in Sci-Fi & Fantasy

I've unintentionally incorporated the word “frak” into my everyday language. Non nerd co-workers no longer have to ask where it comes from. Well, that or they got tired of hearing about my undying passion for Battlestar Galactica every time they did ask. It's far from the only swear word substitute I've heard. Novel writers who want their books to remain all ages and screenplay writers who want to keep off the FCC radar often make up curse words that communicate the emotion but in different letters than the standard cuss word.

Though some people frown upon it, swearing is part of most languages. I can only speak English, but I know that when speaking English and in the U.S., the act of swearing heavily depends on the surrounding environment and people. It's considered taboo in many situations, and that's when fake swear words come in handy. The thing I really like about seeing them used in novels or on television is that it makes me think about language. When I'm saying “frak” in a public place, I'm really saying something else. It could be any substitute word though. It's the feeling behind it. It's very arbitrary.

I could continue an analysis of language, but instead I'll just give you a list of my favorite fictional swear words and phrases.


Film & TV

Battlestar Galactica
Frak - I attended a BSG panel at San Diego Comic-Con a couple of years ago. Kevin Smith moderated the panel, and I specifically remember him giving Ron Moore “ups” for using it for an obvious substitute and having it be acceptable.
Example: Mother-frakking toasters!

Farscape
Frell - Substitute for the infamous f-word.
Example: I want this miracle of life the frell out of me

Firefly
Gorram
Example: Did the primary buffer panel just fall off my gorram ship?


Books & Comics

Wheel of Time
Blood and ashes
Mother's milk in a cup
Sheepswallop and bloody buttered onions
Burn me
These are all usually used as stand alone phrases.

The Sword of Truth
Bags
Example: Bags, and Double Bags!

Star Wars: Legacy
Kark
Example: Kark it!

Phoenix Guard or Vlad Taltos books
Cracks in the Orb!
Example: Cracks in the Orb, haven't the Dragon wizards proved it?

Get out there and don't offend people with the new words you've learned!
Feel free to share more fake cuss words in the comments.  I know there are lots more out there.

52 comments:

  1. The Marvel 2099 Universe - hope of its' own Spider-Man and such - also had its' own curses, with "Shock" serving as the local version of "Frak."

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  2. Frak and gorram both have found their way into my day-to-day vocabulary. Just not at school. :)

    Also, even though it's not a fictional word, reading Harry Potter inspired the non-British me to use "bloody hell!" quite frequently.

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  3. Actually, in the WoT it's 'blood and bloody ashes.' I use it a lot.. LOL

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  4. Not fictional as such, but I say Hades instead of hell - at least then if it slips out in front of the kids and they repeat it, they sound well-educated! :-P

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  5. How about the much-used 'petaQ' - a multi-purpose Klingon insult. :)

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  6. I have ended up with Frak and Gorram in my daily verbage as well. Feck comes up a lot. Don't remember where that one is from. Drek pops out occasionally, from the Shadowrun RPG universe. The never used enough "Krom," used in situations of disbelief or astonishment from Robert E. Howard's not so bright barbarian we all know and love.

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  7. I love a lot of novels from the Black Library - the books based in the universes of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 - but my favourites are Dan Abnett's 'Gaunt's Ghosts' series, which has introduced the word 'Feth' into my vocabulary. I've been using it for almost 10 years now.

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  8. @Downslide: "feck" is an Irish polite curse word. It featured heavily in Father Ted and is a generally acceptable word on our fair isle.

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  9. I like Kark from Legacy.
    I do say Ee chee wa maa! (ewok) when I'm p/o'd or shocked etc.

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  10. Love this post! I'm actually working with a YA Sci-Fi writer currently and I LOVE her fake cuss words. I don't know that I'd be the one to share but I'll definitely point her to this post. She'll get a kick out of it!

    So I'm loving anything Firefly and Elleseven's "Ee chee wa maa!" had me rolling! Random replacements (though not sci-fi) I use are "holy frick-a-mahogna" and "great googley-moogleys." Those always get a head turn. And from World of Warcraft, "Death to all who oppose us." (Though use carefully, hehe).

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  11. Firefly also gives us "ruttin'" ("You know what the chain of command is? Is the chain I go and beat you with 'till you understand who's in ruttin' command here!")...

    Some of my favorites come from the Legion of Super-Heroes (a 31st-century team of teenagers from DC Comics)-
    "sprock" (from "sprock this" to "you sprock" to "that's what happens when you sprock me off")
    "grife" (mostly used standalone, but sometimes also "thank grife")
    "nass" ("I hate this mystic nass")
    "squaj" ("handsome little squaj")

    I sometimes catch myself using "Stars and stones!" from the Dresden Files as well.

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  12. From Harry Potter, "Merlin's pants!" and "Merlin's beard!" come to mind, and I'm sure there's others.

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  13. The Romulan word 'Varool' tickles my fancy. And,indeed 'feck' as mentioned above. Interestingly, Afrikaans has several alien sounding curses whilst being an actual language: 'fok jou maasa pouss' however it's spelt, and 'skaapstekker' are my favourites.

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  14. Adventure Time with Finn and Jake has some episodes using math as a profane word.

    "Hey, get outta here horse! I wanna get some sleep, but you're creeping me the math out!" (The Eyes)
    "Spin me the math around!" (Memories of Boom Boom Mountain)

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  15. "nutty as squirrel poo" (Harry Potter Deathly Hallows), tickles me every time!

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  16. You forgot 'Batman Beyond'...

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  17. Some of the earlier Star Wars novels use "stang". Always struck me as more silly than funny. In the Belgariad, they use the names of their gods as swear words: "Belar's Teeth" and "By Torak's Beard" (even though Torak didn't have a beard).

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  18. I am a fan of the curse words we use at Renaissance faire.
    "Fie", anything relating to God's body part's, swearing by your beard, (good for women--when someone says we don't have one, we shriek and say they peeked)
    "Fie upon me, God's teeth! That were a fine drought of ale!" I still say fie all the time.

    I've read "sith spawn" and "sith spit" a lot in Star Wars. Also, "By the Emperor's Black Bones".

    I used to use "gorram" all the time but now I can't in front of my mom because she finally watched Firefly, haha.

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  19. Don't forget "cracks and shards!," also from the Vlad Taltos books.

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  20. "Gorram" is actually a Mandarin curse-word. Also, I'm with Arturo in being a big fan of the Marvel 2099 slang. That's some shockin' jagged vocab for a buncha downramp bitheads.

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  21. I'm the writer Deborah Burns mentioned earlier. I have two favorite fake swear words that I'm using on my current work in progress...but it is still early, so I'm not gonna spill yet. :) It is so much fun to get all the mileage of a swear word without ANY of the angst about whether or not the language is going to upset anyone. Because...it's complete jibberish. :) Great post! And uhm, AWESOME blog. :)

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  22. Ee chee wa maa! Hooray! I cam across this blog post, because of the "Ee chee wa maa" comments. I have a google alert set up for that phrase, and one might be surprised how infrequently it is used on blog posts. As in, practically never. Thank you commenters for exclaiming your ewok delight. :-)

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  24. I like 'Crom!' and 'Erlik take you!' from Robert Jordan's Conan.

    Who doesn't like to say 'Echuta.' from Star Wars. How rude!

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  25. I've been using frack (as it was spelled in Starlog in 1979) since the original Battlestar Galactica. I don't watch the new show. I've occasionally used classic BG's felgercarb (one sees a variety of spellings on that one), and (here's one for the old-timers) batsbreath from the short-lived NBC series Voyagers. Kara mentioned the British swear phrase bloody hell, and I do use that one frequently.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, I do miss hearing Bogg spout that off!

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  26. I use frak all the time. It is my swear word of choice whenever I do something clumsy like stub my toe or drop my cellphone or whatever: "Frak me!"

    There are a bunch of words from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, e.g. joojooflop, swutting, zark, and (the worst) Belgium.

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  27. What I like about "frak" in BSG is that it's a complete substitute, not just for the curse but also in phrases like "did you frak her?".

    One interesting curse in WoT is "light". That's a good example of a cultural curse. They pray to the light and thus also curse by it.

    My favourite curses are however in the old Batman series... "Holy (whaterver), Batman!"

    Which reminds me of something completely different - "holy hand grenade", a curse or a weapon? :-)

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  28. 'Smeg' is used in numerous ways to replace anything rude all through Red Dwarf. According to IMDB the word "smeg" and its variations are used 194 times across the whole show.

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  29. Red Dwarf---

    Smeg-- Rimmer is a smeg-head

    Gimboid-- Don't be such a gimboid.

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  30. There's an obscure but awesome cartoon from the 90s called The Pirates of Dark Water; they had a few neat words. "Noy jitat!" is the one I remember (and actually use sometimes); it's an exclamation of astonishment and/or dismay.

    And there's this sequence where a tribe of monkeybirds has crowned Niddler their chief, necessitating diplomacy:
    Ioz: "I'm going to strangle that jitattan monkeybird!"
    Sub-chief: "Excuse me?"
    Ren: "That means, uh, royal and REGAL monkeybird..."

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  31. "The never used enough "Krom," used in situations of disbelief or astonishment from Robert E. Howard's not so bright barbarian we all know and love."

    You mean the "not so bright" barbarian who was a patron of the arts, spoke many languages, listened in on philosophical lectures, updated his kingdom's maps, and even appreciated poetry? Don't confuse the simpleton from Conan the Destroyer with Howard's creation.

    (Also, it's Crom.)

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  32. Firefly uses language creatively, but I think the only one word that is 'made up' is actually a Linguistic drift, "Gorram" (of godd*mn, obviously). Though in mixed Chinese, it could be 'dog testicles', it wouldn't make sense in-context of how its used in the show.

    Most of Firefly's creative curses come from actual regional colloquialisms.

    "Ruttin" is just a lazyism of 'Rutting', which in many parts of the US is the same as f*cking.

    And many of the phrases used are Chinese:

    Examples:

    Se-niou! "Cow Sucking"

    Ta ma de "Dammit"

    Tah mah duh hwoon dahn "Mother humping son of a b*tch."

    Hun Dan "Bastard"

    Ta Ma Duh "Dammed / F*cking" (used as an intensifier)

    Ta Ma "Dammit"

    go tsao de "Dog Humping"

    Kao! "Goddammit!"

    Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng "Frog-humping son of a b*tch"

    Enjoy your Firefly/Mandarin lesson for the day ;)

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  33. Frak is a little more mainstream, I know you are a geek if I hear you say Frell though. Veronica Mars used to say frak.

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  34. The trolls in The Tenth Kingdom had some oddly useful ones, like "Suck an elf!"

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  35. @Joseph: Seconding "smeg" from Red Dwarf. No curses from HHGTG? There has to be something...

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  36. Judge Dredd / 2000AD Comic had some awesome swearwords that you could just about get away with using in school when I was a whippersnapper.

    "Grud" as in "For Grud's Sake don't shoot me"
    "Drokk" as a substitute for the F-Word.

    Other strips had some tasty morsels too like "Snut" from Strontium Dog (as in "Shut your Snuttin' mouth pal or I'll shut it for you!)

    Personal favourite though was all the incredible lingo used in Ace Trucking Co.

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  37. In a recent issue of Green Lantern Corps, Natu used "Sprocking"

    ex: "Don't Sprocking Move."

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  38. There are some great ones listed....

    But My all time favorite is Qi'Ya. According to Startrek Lexicon, this is a klingond curse that is so foul it defies all translation. I use it in place of the ever expressive F**K - You know...when the car has rolled over your toe, or the dog just ate your report...sometimes, you gotta go with it!

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  39. Kyle Katarn utters "Spast!" in Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.

    I thought it was deeply silly when I first heard it, but years later, do you think I can stop saying it?

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  40. Totally loving this post! I use a number of these, especially Frak, gorram, pe'TaQ. But my favorites come from Shadowrun. Especially "makkanagee"= Willfully or maliciously stupid and "morkhan"= fornicator of swine. Use 'em together as "makkanagee morkhan" for that special idiot you know! Along with other non-elvish cursing words like drek and fragging.

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  41. I use frak and frell interchangeably... frack is more satisfying to say, but I like frell better for various reasons... it's pretty and nice to say. As for Gorram... Gorramit I named my son Malcolm! What do you think? lololol

    Just found ya, lovin' it.

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  42. FWIW, Veronica Mars used "frak" after learning it from a geek. He used it, and she liked it and started using it.

    I like "slag," which I think originates from (or at least I first heard it in) Transformers fiction, particularly starting with Beast Wars. "Scrap" goes further back to the original series. "What the slag?" or "What the slaggin' scrap are you talkin' about?" "The Pit" is sometimes used in conjunction with more generic cursing: "Slag it to the pit!"

    "Frag" is also used as a similar generic term. "Fraggin' kids!" One could argue whether this term is more closely related to "fragmentation" or "frell," and it may depend on usage.

    And of course, there are generic substitutes, "poop" being common one. "Well, poop. That went well."

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  43. In Margaret Weis' Serenity RPG, there is a whole dictionary in the back.

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  44. @Jo Ann:

    I don't think even in jest Belgium should be used.

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  45. I love all these additions to my fake cuss word vocabulary. In my opinion there should really be a printed dictionary of all these.

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  46. "The act of swearing heavily depends on the surrounding environment and people."

    George Carlin liked to say that someone on TV was an ASSHOLE, someone about a half a block from you was an asshole!, and someone standing next to you. . . {whispered} "This guy's an asshole. . ."

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  47. LoganBruin - Ha, that sounds like George Carlin. It is utterly true!

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  48. Maybe Belgium was the untranslatable Klingon word they just didn't have a clue because THHGTTG stated it was the worse curse in the universe

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  49. Maybe Belgium was the untranslatable Klingon word they just didn't have a clue because THHGTTG stated it was the worse curse in the universe

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