I’ve always absorbed ideas and words organically. We all do, really, without realizing it. For example, when watching an old concert video not too awfully long ago, I was surprised to realize how much of my daily dialogue and useful catch phrases were stolen from Richard Pryor. No, not that I drop profanity all over the place. I mean those little phrases we all use to reference things in our lives (“I ain’t seen nothin’. Thought I was blind ’til I seen you walk through the door!”). We pick up stuff without realizing it. If enough time passes, we eventually forget where it came from. It’s just part of who we are.
Well, I stubbed my toe on a brick in our backyard a few days ago, and found myself exclaiming in pain;
Now. I’m not from Belgium. As far as I know my family history has no, or little, relation to Belgium. The country isn’t something a reference on a frequent basis. So where did that come from? Even though I didn’t remember where it came from, it still struck me as funny. “Belgium!” That seem appropriate. And since I dredged it up, I’m sure I’ll be using it more often.
If you must know, I did look it up, and was reminded that according to Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the word “Belgium”, when used as profanity, embodies a concept that is so revolting that the publication or broadcast of the word is utterly forbidden in all parts of the galaxy – except one, where they don’t know what it means.
That word, or the use of it in that context, wormed its way into my brain a long, long time ago and has been lying there in wait all these years for the perfect opportunity to pop out. Luckily, I was alone at the time, and didn’t have to explain it. At the time, I couldn’t have explained it, even as it gave me the giggles and I clenched my eyes to ride out the pain of stubbing a toe on a concrete block.
But this got me to thinking. How many other words have I picked up from science fiction and television shows? Quite a bit, actually, though I’d never really thought of it. “Frak” is uttered around our home all the time. “Gorram”, as well. “Dren”. There’s a list. Not an extensive list, of course. But I’ve picked up an embarrassingly wide-ranging vocabulary of science fiction profanity. So much so that I’m sure that at some point in the future my daughter will call her mom, complaining that my granddaughter has called her mother “a frelling toaster”. It’s a point of humor around here.
It all got started when I tried to cut down on my cursing. I’ve always cursed a lot. “Motherfucker” is an effective and poetic word to me. But it’s not something you can use in polite company. Unfortunately, I used to drive a truck. So I literally curse like a truck driver. I can’t help myself. While my Mama certainly tried to weed out certain impulses, I’ve always felt that certain words should have no power in and of their own. After all, if you had never heard the word “fuck”, would it still offend you to hear it? If you didn’t know what “cock” meant in the sexual sense, would you be offended to be called a cock-sucker? Of course not. But you can substitute the word “cock” for any other word (“mivonks”, for example), and if it’s clear that when you say “mivonks” you mean a penis, then the phrase is just as offensive – mivonks-sucker. Point being, the words themselves, stripped of their associated meaning, are not inherently profane. But you can take the meaning and attach it to nearly any word to make the concept profane. Sheep-shagger. See what I mean?
Anyway, it’s unlikely I’ll ever let go of certain concepts, or feel a need to express them. So what I’ve tried to do is substitute other words which aren’t inherently offensive to the general public. It’s like being proud of being Southern, but ditching the Confederate battle flag in favor of the less familiar Confederate national flag. It can still be a symbol of regional pride and express an idea, but stripped of the knee-jerk reaction many people have to the more familiar terminology.
I posted something to my dear Victoria on a private Facebook message as we talked about curse words from television shows, and she teased me into posting it to my Facebook profile.
Frell and frak those gorram fahrbot driblocks. Dren on them, cack their mivonks, loomas and nikda staight to Hezmana. We’re humped, you thoddos and tralks. So drop the borderwarks, hazmots and driblocks and let’s grapple these toasters.
If you know what any of those words mean, there’s plenty in there to be offended by. In fact, that entire paragraph is one long stream of profanity. But without the words themselves attached to specific ideas and concepts, it’s just a bunch of jibberish. Still, it’s useful gibberish.
Anyway, I got to think about how many such words I use on a relatively frequent basis. The list below is what I came up with. I won’t associate individual words with the television shows they came from, but I’ll leave explanations in place.
Belgium – from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “The concept it embodies is so revolting that the publication or broadcast of the word is utterly forbidden in all parts of the galaxy except one, where they don’t know what it means.” The word first appeared in the radio series, and later replaced “fuck” in the censored American edition of the novel Life, the Universe and Everything.
- borderwarks – tears, waterworks.
- cacking – slang analogous to “croaking” or “kicking the bucket”.
- crank – expletive, as in: “They blasted the crank out of me!”
- drek – same meaning as “shit”.
- dren – same meaning as “shit”.
- driblocks – a derogatory term, roughly equivalent to slut.
- fahrbot – meaning insane or mentally deficient.
- felgercarb – usage context appears to be similar to ” bullshit”.
- frag – same meaning as “fuck”.
- frak – seems to establish same meaning as ” fuck”.
- frell – same meaning as “fuck”
- frelnik – from Farscape
- godsdamn – a polytheistic version of the expletive “goddamn”.
- gorram – same meaning as “goddamn”
- grapple – same meaning as the “fuck”, as in sexual intercourse
- greebol – same meaning as “idiot”
- hazmot – equivalent to bitch
- Hezmana – same meaning as “Hell”
- humped – same meaning as “screwed”
- loomas – same meaning as “tits”
- mivonks – same meaning as “testicles”
- nikda – same meaning as “ass”
- nugget – a pilot trainee.
- skin job – term used by humans to describe the human-form Cylons.
- thoddo – same meaning as “idiot”
- toaster – term for the Cylons. Its use is often disparaging, the Cylons themselves taking the use of the word as a racist slur.
- tralk – same meaning as “slut”. Usually describes females, but can be used against any gender.
This list was certainly not meant as a definitive list of made-up profanity from science fiction. It’s just a bunch of words I’m familiar with. My only reason for listing them is that I was surprised to discover that there were so many I was familiar with, and that I used so many of them. Language is a pliable, ever-changing thing. Who knows how many of these words might make their way into the popular lexicon and become a part of our everyday culture?
In the meantime, I’ll just have fun exploring how many creative ways I can curse without pissing people off. They can’t say I curse like a truck driver or a sailor when I’m using words like “dren” and “gorram”. Well, at least not until they learn what those words mean. In the meantime, I can be just as profane as I wanna be. And let’s face it, there are times when a stream of profanity is definitely called for.
Like when you find yourself in your backyard, having stubbed your toe on a concrete block. Maybe the neighbors won’t be as upset if their little children here you shout “Belgium!”. But I guarantee shouting it out will make you feel a whole lot better.