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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Raunch Review: Stargate SG-1

Raunch Review: Stargate SG-1

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: Stargate SG-1
Raunch Review: Stargate SG-1

The Author: Brad Wright & Jonathan Glassner
Work in Question: Stargate SG-1
The Profanity: “Mit’ka”

Science fiction television has always struggled with representing alien languages. Often times, we see the challenge of creating them subverted by a universal translator trope allowing the actors to speak so the audience can understand. It saves time and prevents every episode from becoming a rehash of Arrival. (And let’s face it, few shows can achieve a Darmok.) As a plot device, it’s handy. But the introduction of a translator always means there’s a bit of a plot hole, and it usually comes in the form of a faux-profanity.


Aris Boch: The System Lords think that you are a pain in the mit’ka.

Col. Jack O’Neill: Neck?

Teal’c: No.

Season 3, Episode 7, Dead Man’s Switch


Even played for laughs, it’s reasonably clear what “mit’ka” is replacing. As far as an alien language goes—in this case, Goa’uld—it’s a sufficiently decent direction feeling unique and obscure enough to come across as natural. But it’s not really accentuating parlance in any unique way—it’s a one-to-one replacement. And, since Goa’uld is supposed to be a precursor to Demotic/Coptic/Egyptian, that’s fine. It works even if it’s not doing something unique. Funny enough, Stargate SG-1 never thoroughly explains how all the aliens or ancient humans speak English, even taking this into account, I do find it interesting that the “universal translator” of SG-1 can transpose everything butt (👀) “mit’ka.”

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 Review: Judge Dredd

Raunch Review: Judge Dredd

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: Judge Dredd
Raunch Review: Judge Dredd

The Author: John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra
Work in Question: Judge Dredd
The Profanity: “Drokk”

With instances of censor-slips, we usually see creators go the easy route. Spellings or pronunciations are changed just enough to trigger a memory in the audience, so they connect the slip with the profanity it’s replacing. Generally, these sorts of faux-profanity don’t score very high around here. They’re lazy, typically unoriginal, and often hold back worldbuilding rather than enhance it. At first glance, it’s easy to see Judge Dredd’s “drokk” as a slip, but one must view the word in the context of the world it inhabits.

Raunch Review: Judge Dredd
A sample of Dredd’s linguistic drift as applied to faux-profanity

On the streets of Mega-City One, there are plenty of faux-profanities. In most cases, they’re excellent examples of linguistic and cultural drift. That is to be expected in a future setting, since language changes continuously, and Wagner took this into account when writing the series. There are plenty of fantastic examples of plausible drift within a language: “God” becomes “Grud,” “Jesus” becomes “Jovus,” “Elders” are “Eldsters,” “Gasolene” is “Guzzalene,” and “Scavengers” are called “Scavvers.” So it’d make sense to see other words develop as well. While the usage is familiar, there’s a pedigree that points to this being more than just a simple censor-slip. “Drokk” emerges as something wholly its own blending in with the semantic argot of Mega-City One. A solid bit of fictional profanity.

Score: Half 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.


Raunch Review: Blade Runner

Raunch Review: Blade Runner

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: Blade Runner
Raunch Review: Blade Runner

The Author: Hampton Fancher & David Peoples
Work in Question: Blade Runner
The Profanity: “Skin job”

Dehumanizing or bigoted slurs have been prevalent throughout history. And they’re still with us today. Even in recent dialog, we’ve seen the powerful employing precise language in a manner to strip away someone’s value. It’s not a new phenomenon. I believe the best fiction serves as a mirror forcing those engaging with it to confront some of the uglier sides of humankind.

Blade Runner’s existential questions surrounding life and humanity and its fundamental question of “what makes us human” is why the faux-profanity “skin job” works so well. In concept, it combines that existentialist question with the bigoted language and aims it at the android replicants in the story.

Like “prawn” from District 9, “skin job” is born from fear and designed to dehumanize. This is why we see it wielded by the powerful to imply that replicants are less than human. Language is a powerful factor in creating “the other.” It allows our brains to trigger differently. It’s why we nickname enemies; it’s easier to kill a nickname than it is to kill a human with thoughts, dreams, and desires. By calling replicants “skin jobs,” one can logically make the leap that they’re disposable and easily replaceable.

Abusive language quickly leads to dehumanization, and dehumanization leads to atrocities. We see that in Blade Runner as much as we do in the world at large. It’s why “skin job” works so well, and it’s why it stings to hear it spoken out loud.

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 Review: Babylon 5

Raunch Review: Babylon 5

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: Babylon 5
Raunch Review: Babylon 5

The Author: J. Michael Straczynski
Work in Question: Babylon 5
The Profanity: “Frag”

Look, it gives me no great pleasure in going after an incredible and beloved science fiction show for faux-profanity related gaffs. And it’s no secret that censor-slips aren’t looked at too kindly around here. But they’re familiar, and if I have to deal with them, you do as well. It’s in the rules or something. Babylon 5’s “frag” is yet one more embarrassment in a long-running tradition among television, so we all knew it’d eventually have its day.

We all know what’s implied. It’s not cute, nor is it all that clever. With one notable exception (“Shazbot”), censor-slips tend to be unimaginative and lazy, and we see that here as well. Four letter word, starts with “f,” you get the idea—nudge nudge, wink wink.

But, “Frag” is worse. Since the Vietnam War, it has become common military slang—and because this is a show with a substantial military theme, we see it used as both a censor slip and in its traditional sense. Which only makes it weirder and adds in awkwardness. It’s easy to see the ingredients that lead to it, but in the end, it does little to enhance the universe of Babylon 5—if anything, its mishmash use takes something away, and that’s the worst disservice dialog can perform within a story.

Score: Half Swear (0.5)

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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 it’ll take a little while before it ends up here. I have a lot of books to read.


Raunch Review: Firefly

Raunch Review: Firefly

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: Firefly
Raunch Review: Firefly

The Author: Joss Whedon
Work in Question: Firefly
The Profanity: “Gorram”

Joss Whedon’s much-beloved Firefly did a lot of fascinating things with language. The mixing of refined Mandarin Chinese with backcountry dialects helped layer a world with a myriad of linguistic possibilities. Throughout the series, we see this intermingling of language with many characters shifting between English and Mandarin as they talk. While many bits of “profanity” are uttered in Mandarin, the word we’re looking at today isn’t one of them.

The minced oath “gorram” crops up a lot. Unlike the interplay of language, this term happens to be more of an exploration of linguistic drift borrowing from a more blasphemous origin and becoming a bit of a minced oath. (Not unlike “by golly,” “gadzooks,” “holy moley,” and “jeepers,” before it.) From a language standpoint, drift is essential. The English we speak today would sound like a foreign language to English speakers from five hundred years ago. So it’s easy to see how five hundred years in the future common parlance has shifted and corrupted further. Language tends to drift towards ease—words are simplified and shortened; binary becoming singular is a common occurrence. We see that with “gorram”—a drifting portmanteau of “god” and “damnation.”

As it stands as both a minced oath, a curse, and an example of linguistic drift “gorram” is a fantastic example of faux profanity. While you couldn’t do it for the entire show—it’d be impossible to understand—it’s nice to see little touches like this sprinkled throughout. They help a world feel as though it’s evolved; it gives it a sense of history.

So “gorram” does Firefly justice. But, you might be interested to know while generally attributed to Firefly, that short-run series wasn’t the first use of “gorram” in the English lexicon. Its origins are actually much older.

Score: Half Swear (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.