Raunch Review: Star Trek

Raunch Review: Star Trek

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.


The Author: Gene Roddenberry & Ronald D. Moore

Work in Question: Star Trek (Specifically, TNG and beyond)

The Profanity: “petaQ”


Universal Translators are a finicky class of technology. It seems like they’re incredibly accurate until the speaker uses faux-profanity. Suddenly, the translator ceases to work and interjects the untranslated word in the selected dialect. It’s handy from a writing perspective as a particular malfunction like this allows a writer to interject a little alien cultural spice without much effort. It’s convenient in a plot-holey sort of way. 

Generally, Star Trek has done a decent job managing to avoid this awkwardness. Most cursing in the series is mild, and easy enough to slip or shift that it doesn’t jump out. With one exception that first appears in season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation. That word? The Klingon curse of “petaQ.” The word’s spelling is as varied as is its use ranging from “Pahtak,” “Pathak,” “p’tahk,” “p’takh,” “patahk,” “pahtk,” “p’tak,” or “p’taq” allow you to choose your desired amount of vowels and apostrophes. (Though I will be using the official Klingon Dictionary spelling going forward.) So what exactly is a “petaQ,” well, according to the aforementioned Klingon Dictionary, it’s translated to something akin to “weirdo,” stemming from the verb “taQ,” which translates as “to be weird.”

It’s easy to dismiss this. “Weirdo,” even as an insult, is relatively mild in English. However, often translations lack nuance. Translations tend to be very direct, and they can ignore the significance placed on the word. They can lack the weight of cultural history. This isn’t uncommon in translation and is why a good translator doesn’t do a one-to-one translation, but instead works to carry the significance and meaning from the original work into the translated text.

As we’ve seen in real life, words can pick up extra meaning. What one generation thought of as mild could become strikingly offensive to the next. The same applies to cultures. There’s nothing unsurprising in this—language never stops evolving. It’s malleable. You can see this with “petaQ,” where the word serves as a severe cultural insult among Klingons, the sort that drives a warrior to violence. A substantial bit of faux-profanity with well-constructed history, and as a result, it scores well.

Final 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: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

Raunch Review: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

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: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

The Author: Glen A. Larson

Work in Question: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

The Profanity: “Felgercarb”


By this time, I’m sure it’s no secret I’m not a fan of Battlestar Galactica’s previous attempts at fantastical cursing. It’s lazy and really nothing more than a censor slip. And while it’ll never score high around here, it’s become kind of a mantra for the show, gracing everything from t-shirts to stickers to novelty mugs. “Frak,” whether I like it or not, is here to stay. But this wasn’t the only pseudo-off-color word in the Battlestar Galactica universe. In the 1978 series, there was another word that at least tried, and for that, I have to give the writers a little more credit.

The word “felgercarb” shows up a few times—sometimes said in the show as “feldergarb” depending on the actor—it’s an expletive whose origins are either mild or more severe depending on your wiki or discussion board of choice. The most common description is that it serves as a replacement for “crap” within the Colonial vernacular. (Funny how fictional vernacular only seems to have replacements for very specific and convenient profanity.) At its core, it’s another censor slip from a show that helped define the censor slip—but, while I do think it’s overly flamboyant and an awkward mouthful, it’s at least trying a bit harder than “frak.” A little more drift, or perhaps a simplified version, would have helped its cause. You can hide censor slips within lore. So while it scores a little better than “frak,” I don’t think “felgercarb” is going to run away with any major awards here.

There is a fun little nod to the word in the reimagined series, with “felgercarb” being a brand of toothpaste from Tauron. But, now understanding a little more about the word’s history, you have to ask the question: is Felgercarb Toothpaste actually a brand one would want to use?

Final 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 Review: Malazan Book of the Fallen

Raunch Review: Malazan Book of the Fallen

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: Malazan Book of the Fallen

The Author: Steven Erikson

Work in Question: Malazan Book of the Fallen Series

The Profanity: “Hood’s [Body Part]”


If there is one set of offensive language that has staying power, it’s oaths. Language changes far too often for slurs and expletives to have much impact after a few hundred years. Over time they tend to shift and change, losing their potency. But oaths stick around—especially blasphemous oaths. It doesn’t matter how you do it; if you insult someone’s deity or use its name in a profane way, you’re bound to spark emotion with its followers.

Enter Hood, God of Death and King of High House Death, from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. He becomes just one punching bag for various and extensive oaths throughout the series that mimic their cousins of the real-world Middle Ages. And I do mean extensive. “Hood’s bones” get discussed, “Hood’s fists” and “Hood’s feet” are evoked, “Hood’s breath” is mentioned. Of course, it wouldn’t be period-authentic oath-craft without mentioning “Hood’s [your reproductive organ of choice.]” But Hood is used in other places as well; there are Hood-centric curses like “Hood drag you down,” and a few Hood-focused expletives as well. (If you want to see the list, the Malazan Wiki goes into exhaustive detail.) The poor fellow can’t catch a break. Occasionally there are a few instances where the name is used oddly: “Shut the Hood up” or “Get(ting) the Hood out of here” are a few examples where the context doesn’t work. But those instances are fleeting and feel more like a character’s mistake rather than something inherent to standard use. In fact, there are so many other uses that it’s hard not to be impressed.

While I’d love to see more minced varieties of Hood-centric oaths in Malazan, this sort of language was prevalent in the Middle Ages. That makes these oaths and exclamations a solid example of period-authentic faux-profanity.

Final 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: Dragon Age

Raunch Review: Dragon Age

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: Dragon Age
Raunch Review: Dragon Age

The Author: David Gaider & BioWare
Work in Question: The Dragon Age Series
The Profanity: “Andreste’s Flaming Knickers”

Oaths have a long and sordid history. Often they emerge as a response to blasphemy laws/rules handed down by church leaders or, in many cases, the state. They’re a bit of rebellion by the laity, and they come in many forms. During the middle ages (especially 14th and 15th centuries), swearing by a deity’s body parts, excrement, or secretions were in fashion. And, as often happens with profanity, we see the minced variants show up later.

So, while it might sound silly, there’s a bit of “historical” accuracy at play here. Much of the faux-profanity in Dragon Age fits within a 15th-century theme. Andreste, in this case, is a prophet who has risen to deity status. Some consider her the bride of The Maker—the lone deity of Thedas—and according to the lore, she was burned alive by the Imperial Archon.

It’s from that “historical” event which the world pulls the oath, “Andreste’s Flaming Knickers.” It’s occasionally said by the mage Anders as the player moves around. It’s a bit morbid, but it works rather well in an in-game historical context, and it fits within a period-specific styling for faux-profanity. (It could be argued that “knickers” isn’t period-accurate since that term didn’t come into vogue until the 18th century, but this is fantasy, and I won’t ride them too hard.) “Flaming Knickers” is a bit of a mouthful. It doesn’t exactly roll smoothly off the tongue. In a thousand years, I’d assume there would be some linguistic drift or at least a simplified version. As it stands, the oath comes across as more of a silly colloquialism than anything a normal Thedaian would use in everyday speech. Plausible, but not common.

Score: Half Swear (3.5)

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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: True Blood

Raunch Review: True Blood

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: True Blood
Raunch Review: True Blood

The Author: Charlaine Harris (Books), Alan Ball (HBO Show)
Work in Question: True Blood
The Profanity: “Fangbanger”

True Blood is the HBO series born from the pages of Charlene Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries. The series follows the adventures and romances of Sookie Stackhouse. The story takes place in a Louisiana where, thanks to the invention of synthetic blood, everyone has recently discovered that vampires (among other things) are real, and they move freely among humans. As a result, awkward and sometimes violent situations arise from these two formerly adversarial communities now interacting.

In the novels, the term “fangbanger” comes across as a self-prescribed moniker, not unlike headbanger or hippie. Cult-like followers of people who allow vampires to drink from them. In the HBO series—which we’re focused on today—the term often used as a sort of derogatory expression calling out one’s proclivities regarding vampires. If you have sex with a vampire, you get called a “fangbanger” by those with an anti-vampire prejudice.

And look, I understand the intent here, but the term is just so downright ridiculous I can’t get behind it—especially in the intended use of the television series. I could see it being much stronger if “fang” was used as a slur, but it’s not. As a result, the phrase comes across as goofy and unintentionally injects odd comedic moments into dialog. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but it ain’t great.

Score: Half Swear (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.