Star Trek had it easy. By the 23rd century, civilization had advanced enough that we no longer expressed ourselves with base language that referred to bodily functions meant to indicate displeasure. In reality, it was the 70s and swearing like actual military personnel would have been verboten on national TV. Luckily sci-fi endured into the modern era and we realized we were still going to keep our old four-letter pals around (and TV censors would allow a fuckton more than they used to). But the challenge was how to depict natural usage of language without your show sounding like an Emergency Broadcast System test (or your comic from looking like a declassified FBI doc). Enter the fictional curseword! Here are three of my favorites.
- Slag: Transformers comics in the 80s had a very distinctive young male audience. Ones who thought that “shit” was the pinnacle of discourse. But how do you have your giant robots indicate displeasure when they have no biological functions to speak of (despite the fact that they ate, drank, and bled)? Use a word for metal that looks like it was excreted, of course! The adoption of this word was a rather unfortunate development for the Dinobot, Slag.
- Gorram: Introduced by “Firefly,” gorram is one of those special words that’s not just meant to stand in for a standard curse, but it’s also meant to be a pidgin of foreign languages. So maybe it could mean something else? Like “fluffy bunny.” It’s just you potty-mouthed nerds that keep attributing negative connotations to it. Because Mal always walks around telling people to get off his fluffy bunny ship. Right.
- Frell: I know that for many nerds “frak” holds the top spot in the fictional curseword Olympics, and it rightly should. It’s widely adopted and much better suited to stand in for Fuck than this, more antiquated, version that was coined in “Farscape.” The reason it tops my list though is because “Farscape” is the first time I encountered the F word so prominently dressed up and trotted about. It was also the first one I used in regular conversation, much to the confusion and embarrassment of those around me. It’s not as slag simple as “frak;” but it gets the gorram job done.