Raunch Review: Star Wars Rebels

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


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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: 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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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: 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: 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.