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: Simon Kinberg, Dave Filoni, & Carrie Beck
Work in Question: Star Wars Rebels
The Profanity: “Karabast”
As a universe, Star Wars doesn’t have a lot of fantasy cursing. A few bits of subdued real-world swearing can be found interspersed in dialogue (mostly coming from Obi-Wan or Han Solo), but beyond that, language in Star Wars is relatively mild. Even the insults are goofier than serious, leaning on silly words and phrases like “scruffy-looking nerf herder,” “fuzzball,” “goldenrod,” and “laser brain,” among others.
To find fictional expletives, you need to move away from the core films and into the expanded universe of shows, movies, series, and books. Today’s word comes from there. The Lasat exclamation “karabast” is initially found in the animated series Star Wars Rebels but has spread to other properties. This phrase is typically used as an expletive by the Lasat crewman, Garazeb Orrelios, affectionately known as Zeb. The meaning of it is unknown, which is unfortunate. Language is a fantastic way to explore culture, and keeping the meaning a secret does more of a disservice to the civilization which invented it.
The meaning of the phrase doesn’t matter all that much. But adding definition extends a language. There’s plenty of expletives that don’t translate well. (I talked about this when reviewing Star Trek’s “petaQ.”) Understanding those can expand a culture’s identity in fiction just as it does in the real world. For example, Mandarin Chinese has a few egg-centric profanities that, while I’m sure have an impact in Chinese, do not work as well translated. One of my favorites is 滚蛋 (gǔn dàn), whose literal translation is close to “rolling egg,” but its meaning when in use is more impolite. There’s a cultural context that has turned it into something offensive. This is where “karabast” falls flat. Without the weight of meaning, what we end up with is nonsense. A word used to punctuate and nothing more. It sits in an interim spot and fills a void usually reserved for something more offensive. Even Han and Obi-Wan’s mild go-to expletives have both historical and cultural weight and meaning. That makes “karabast”—a unique sounding word—nothing more than a fancy censor slip.
Final Score: 2.0
🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews
- “Pashangwala” from Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, & Nick Farmer’s The Expanse
- “Space!” from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation
- “petaQ” from Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek
- “Felgercarb” from Glen A. Larson’s Battlestar Galactica (1978)
- “Hood’s [Body Part]” from Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen Series
- “Andreste’s Flaming Knickers” from David Gaider & BioWare’s Dragon Age Series
- “Fangbanger” from Alan Ball’s True Blood
- “Mit’ka” from Brad Wright & Jonathan Glassner’s Stargate SG-1
- “Merlin’s Beard” from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
- “Drokk” from John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra’s Judge Dredd
- “Skin Job” from Hampton Fancher & David Peoples’ Blade Runner
- “Frag” from J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5
- “Gorram” from Joss Whedon’s Firefly
- “Prawn” from Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell’s District 9
- “By the Firsts” from K. M. Alexander’s Bell Forging Cycle
- “Smurf” from Raja Gosnell & Jordan Kerner’s The Smurfs (2011)
- “Dren” from Rockne S. O’Bannon’s Farscape
- “Quiznak” from J. Dos Santos & L. Montgomery’s Voltron: Legendary Defender
- “Smeg” from Rob Grant and Doug Naylor’s Red Dwarf
- “Burn Me” from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
- “Slitch” from Robert A. Heinlein’s Friday
- “Yarbles” from Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
- “Cuss” from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox
- “Feth” from Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts from Warhammer 40k
- “Shazbot” from Garry Marshall’s Mork & Mindy and Dynamix’s Starsiege: Tribes
- “Seven Hells” from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire/Game of Thrones
- “Mudblood” from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
- “Frak” from Glen A. Larson’s, Ronald D. Moore’s, & David Eick’s Battlestar Galactica
- “Jabber” from China Miéville’s Bas-Lag series
- “Storm it”/”Storms”/”Storming” from Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archives
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.