Tough Traveling – Creative Cursing


tough guideEvery Thursday, Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn leads a group of fellow bloggers on “Tough Travels”, a trip through the tropes that populate the fantasy and sci-fi world, using Diane Wynne Jones’ hilarious The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as a guide.

This week’s subject is “Creative Cursing”:
Maybe you want to add some verisimilitude to your world. Or maybe you just don’t like using the seven words you can’t say on television. Either way, coming up with your own swear words can deal with both issues. Unfortunately it can also lead to some unintended hilarity — a simple “Fuck!” cuts to the chase nicely for me. But here are some of the best creative curses in sci-fi and fantasy:

“Belar, Mara and Nedra!” — Demon Lord of Karanda
by David Eddings

demon lordDurnik was a simple, moral man, but he could occasionally be driven to an expletive. And it turns out what drives him to swear is spicy food. After struggling with a spicy dish at a state dinner he invoked the names of the Gods and grabbed a glass of water. Perhaps he should take a cue from his wife, Polgara, who is described as being able to swear like a sailor, thanks to the lessons from her uncle Beldin.

“Rust and Ruin!” — Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

shadows of selfSanderson is the king of avoiding obscenities. And his latest Mistborn novel, the weird western adventure starring Waxillium, “Wax,” Landrian and his sidekick Wayne, is no different. This favored expletive from Wax invokes the name of the “dead” shard Ruin, the powerful God from the original Mistborn trilogy. 

“Storms!” — The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

wokAnother Sanderson swear. This is a popular expression on Rhoshar, where hurricane-force storms buffet the planet on a regular basis and Stormfather is a deity. Sometimes modified into “Storm Off!”, again, it’s a nice way to avoid saying anything untoward. Other Sanderson favorite are “Colors!”, from Warbreaker, and “Sparks!” from Steelheart, but alas, I haven’t read those series yet.

“Felgercarb” — Battlestar Galactica

 starbuckEveryone loves “frack”. And because everyone knows what it means it is an easy substitute for an f-bomb that is acceptable on prime-time TV. But Battlestar Galactica introduced another creative curse in its original series that sadly didn’t carry over into the reboots. Felgercarb is a favorite of Starbuck, which roughly translates to “bullshit”. I’d like to see it make a comeback as well.

“Belgium!”— Life, the Universe and Everything
by Douglas Adams

life the universeSilly earthlings. The most offensive word in the galaxy, far worse than jujuflop or swut, and they go and use it for the name of a country. By far the best joke in one of the weaker entries in the Hitchhiker’s series, this was a creative way to get around the censors who didn’t like a joke about the “Rory” award for “The Most Gratuitous use of the word ‘fuck’ in a serious screenplay.  

“Mrifk!” — The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis

argonYes, I’ve read it. And yes, it’s as bad as its reputation. This novella was first published in fanzines in the early ’70s and quickly gained a reputation as the worst fantasy ever. It has spawned epic readings at sci-fi conventions and elaborate drinking games as fans and authors try to stumble through its purpley awfulness. Apparently Mrifk is some sort of deity, because there is a reference to his beard at one point. Either way, take a drink whenever it is said.

“Poodoo!” — Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

subulbaTechnically it means “fodder” in Huttese. At least according to the subtitles. But when Subulba loses the pod race to young Anakin, his exclamation sounds like it carries a bit more weight than just “fodder.” And with the prequels being increasingly aimed at younger audiences, it wouldn’t be appropriate to have Subulba swearing at little Ani.

Come back next week when we take a look at “Pure Good.”

—Michael Senft

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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4 Responses to Tough Traveling – Creative Cursing

  1. Bookwraiths says:

    Difficult theme that you made look easy. Big thumbs up.


  2. I loved the reboot of Battlestar Galactica and I have the more obvious “frak!” on my own list. I had completely forgot about “Belgium!”. I think that means I’m in need of a re-read of this series 🙂


  3. proxyfish says:

    Rust and ruin! I can’t wait to read Shadows of Self! 😀


  4. Nice job! I couldn’t think of many this week even though they’re all over the books I read. Like, Shadows of Self. I just recently finished that one and couldn’t remember “Rust and Ruin”, I’m terrible.


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