Raunch Review: The Expanse

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: Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, & Nick Farmer

Work in Question: The Expanse (TV Series)

The Profanity: “Pashangwala”


I can’t think of a better conlang in recent memory than the Belter Creole or “Lang Belta” in its own words. It’s the fictional language spoken by the Belters of The Expanse series, the frontier folk who dwell in the asteroid belt or among the outer planets. Created by Nick Farmer specifically for the series, this pidgin language is a mish-mash of words and gestures haphazardly assembled by a society coming from disparate backgrounds, who spend a great deal of time living and working in the vacuum of space. It’s a brilliant fictional language with a ton of detail paid to everything from the language’s drift to the shift of emphasis depending on use.

As you’d expect, we see that same attention to detail in its vulgarities. For a series on swearing, I do tend to avoid dropping f-bombs, so I’ll let you Google and discover the true meaning of “pashangwala.” It’s as salacious as you’d expect. Vulgarity aside, this is solid faux-swearing.

Typically, I don’t rank one-to-one replacer words or phrases as high as others. So it might surprise you to see me score “pashangwala” so high. Why? Well, it makes sense. Lower scoring one-to-ones often are found in the language of fictional societies, which have developed on their own and away from English. But, in the near-future world of The Expanse, Lang Belta is primarily rooted in English. The culture that came before the Belter’s is our culture. So to see words, phrases, and vulgarities like ours meld into a fictional future lingua franca would be expected. It’d be more shocking if words and phrases like this were absent altogether and would speak of a much different society than we’re shown with the Belter culture—a solid five.

Xídawang da wowt da ultim. (I think I did that right.)

Final Score: 5.0


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Raunch Review: Foundation

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: Isaac Asimov

Work in Question: Foundation

The Profanity: “Space!”


Look, I realize that Isaac Asimov wrote the first Foundation stories in the nineteen-forties, and the first book didn’t arrive until the nineteen-fifties. I also recognize that white Americans, in particular, like to pretend that this was some glorious era of American history where the nuclear family was the norm, everyone washed their hands before dinner, and children always called adults “mister” and “ma’am.” But, I also know this is an era where terms like FUBAR and SNAFU were invented, and a glance through the Green’s Dictionary of Slang records plenty of new vulgarities emerging. So, it’s important to acknowledge that the wholesome mystique of the fifties is mostly myth wrapped up in attractive propaganda. Foul language was common even then, despite what folksy feel-good television programming would like to tell us.

All that said, there’s a reason why that propaganda is effective. Much of the content from that era seems clean—but, publishing was operating under different rules in the middle of the twentieth century, and censorship was in full swing. Publishing something even mildly vulgar was difficult—J. D. Salinger notwithstanding. But that’s not an excuse when it comes to fictional profanity, which makes Asimov’s choice of “space” for a futuristic oath a bit silly, even for its era.

Throughout Foundation, it’s common for characters in the book to shout out a “No, by Black Space, no!” or “Great Space!” and every time it stands out a little more than it should—coming across more cute than effective. I’ve talked about the impact of oaths in the past, especially oaths that are blasphemous, and how they tend to extend beyond the standard lifespan of your typical run-of-the-mill profanity. That’s not what’s happening here. The concept of “space”—at least within the first book—is never treated with a particularly deific reverence. The titular Foundation’s faith is based on knowledge and nuclear energy/power. So when the “space” oath gets referenced, it feels out of place and awkward. Even swearing by “nuclear” or the “atom” would make more sense within the story’s context, and neither would have come across so twee.

Final Score: 2.5


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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: 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: 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.