Your Profanity Convinces Me Entirely

13 08 2011

What does Filtergarb, Frack, and Shazbot have in common? Well for starters there all stand-ins for things that are far more profane. Secondly they are all fictitious words, there will be absolutely no finding them in a dictionary. (Not an Oxford English one anyway.) But why I have been asked? We seem to have enough of the bloody things laying about, words I mean – why make up more? Well, the answer to that is easy. It’s all about aesthetics.

Shazbot is a word generally used as a stand in for profanities expressing disappointment. “But we have enough of those!” Fungus exclaims from beside me. (I’ll tell you more about him some other time.) “Why another?” he asks. I’m going to tell you, but first allow me to offer a bit of background to all you funguses out there. In the late 70’s and early 80’s there was a television comedy series, ‘Mork and Mindy’ starring a younger Robin Williams. (And as a side note, regardless of what you think of his silly little feel good movies, his stand up is great. Seriously, go watch it.)

Williams was an alien named Mork who was masquerading as a human. Now let’s think about this. What we are presented with, as fact, is that he is not a human, yet there are no distinguishing physical characteristics that back that story up. Take the mammoth Star Trek franchise for instance, if you see a character come on-screen who is supposed to be a member of an alien race there is no mistaking it. The make up departments on those television and movie productions always received a healthy budget and often, they rather out did themselves. But in the case of ‘Mork and Mindy’ we don’t have such a luxury. So the question became how do we make it believable? The solution? Load his character up with a plethora of mannerisms and vocabulary that hopefully will do the same job. The alien uses his own profanities.

Filtergarb and Frack are similar words which, I have on occasion, been guilty of using in every day conversation. Just ask the Vixen, she’ll tell you all about it. Or perhaps not, I’m not sure how forthcoming she is to others about the levels my occasional nerdiness reaches. But that’s another matter all together. Where was I? Right! Filtergarb and Frack hail from the recently reincarnated television series ‘Battlestar Galactica”. The function is the same but the situation is a bit different from what Robin Williams character faced.

In the Galactica series, the focus was on a humanity fighting for its very existence – hunted by a race of robotic beings. They’ve become nomadic, living in a fleet of ships capable of interstellar travel. The average person in this setting is supposed to be vastly different from people of the modern-day. So the question arises, how can we reflect that? First of all, think of how language has evolved over the centuries from its proto forms. Even in recent times! Take ‘cool’ for instance. At some point the word was only ever used to reference temperatures until one day someone had the thought to invent a new use for it. These days it could still be referring to temperatures but also, as an adjective indicating that something excites us or that the noun we are talking about is of great interest to us. And where did cool even come from in the first place? I’m positive it wasn’t included in the very first set of words ever but as I don’t have my cop of the Oxford English Dictionary with me (enjoyed by philologist and etymologists alike) I couldn’t say.

I think I had a point in there somewhere…

Oh yes, it’s the evolution of language. The creation of new profanities that better reflect that people who use them are intended to reinforce the believability that such a group may exist. One of those words seems very close to the humans of the future. Filtergarb, a technological reference. I can assure you, no matter what sort of filter you are talking about modern or otherwise, do you want to be garbed. Just saying.

But now this begs another question entirely. Does it make sense in writing? Do you ever come across someones attempt at replacing profanities or other sorts of words in an effort to immerse you a little deeper? Convince you just a taaad bit more that somewhere, these people are real? I’m guilty of it. I see nothing wrong with a writer attempting to increase the quality of their work that much more.

It’s all in the details ladies and gentlemen, all in the details.

What do you think, dear reader?

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One response

18 08 2011
Pendulum dowsing

5…

[…]Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.[…]…

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