Pardon My Klingon

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Tarara: Lalabalele talala! Callabale lalabalica falahle!

Calynx (horrified): Stop--stop, I beg! (All the ladies close their ears.)

The Science Fiction cousin of the Unusual Euphemism. Much like the frelling Foreign Cuss Word, even though everything else aliens say is translated perfectly, profanity will remain in the speaker's native language.

If this results from the Translation Convention, it's purely a smegging transparent attempt to appear edgy without bringing down the wrath of the zarking censors.

If Translator Microbes are at work, we are left with the sense that there are gorram Media Watchdogs even in the future. Blitznak! Then again, would you want your Belgium translator-microbes to tell the alien precisely what the zentraidon you've just slipped up and called its flurking mother? D'Arvit!

One common literary subversion involves common words from Earth languages misheard by aliens as swear words in their own languages—oh, shef'th! -- much as the English "foot" resembles a French vulgarity.

Curiously, Aliens Speaking English seems to be the least intrusive mechanism for this trope, as we can easily imagine a non-native speaker lapsing back into his native frakking tongue for a expletive. E chu ta! You bosh'tet!

See also: Translation Convention, Translator Microbes, Aliens Speaking English, Informed Obscenity, These Tropes Should Watch Their Language.

Examples of Pardon My Klingon include:


Card Games[edit | hide | hide all]


Comics[edit | hide]

  • For many years, Comic Books and Newspaper Comics would indicate swears with punctuation symbols: #@!$%&* being the most popular choices, in just about any order. It can still occassionaly be seen, and has the advantage of being generic enough for any swearword the reader wants to insert.
  • Marvel Comics: The Kree tend to say "das't" a lot. Guess what it means.
    • In Marvel's 2099 universe (which takes place in the titular year), "shock" is the general all-purpose swear word.
    • Mojoverse natives Longshot and Shatterstar use the word "fekt", which from its usage appears to be the equivalent of "fuck" or "shit".
  • 2000 AD is rather fond of this trope:
    • The Mighty Tharg, the magazine's alien editor, regularly drops Betelgeusan terms into his editorials, such as 'grexnix' (idiot) and 'squaxx dek Thargo' (friend of Tharg).
    • ABC Warriors had some slightly bizarre examples in its early days. Two instances that stick in mind are "I started this... and by zrokk I'll finish it!" and "You krogging old ape! Why won't you listen to reason, drang it?"
    • Shakara uses 'frukk' on occasion, in exactly the way it sounds like it should.
    • Kingdom, on the other hand, averts this, with the dogs freely using curses up to shit (though the F-word seems to be off-limits).
  • Inverted in PS238, with a Restraining Bolt. Zodon curses like a sailor, so the resident engineer implanted a chip that translates curses as innocuous verbs and nouns, with longer tirades replaced by showtunes.

Herschel: "How do you feel?
Zodon: Like a 'Minty' bee sank its 'Croissant' into my face. What the 'Fluoride' did I just say? What the 'Gumball' did you do to me, you 'Windshield'?!

Nick: Those motorfingers put some kind of shucking censor software in me. Said they were tired of my language. Buncha pineapples.

  • Jim Shooter introduced this to the Legion of Super-Heroes during the Silver Age.
    • When he came on as writer to the Modern Age version, which didn't use it, he brought it with him; suddenly, everyone was peppering their dialogue with "florg"s and "zork"s and "scrag"s.
      • Lampshaded when a later writer did a Clip Show issue of interviews of the legion's extensive Supporting Cast. One of them observed that those kids had some of the foulest mouths ... !
  • Green Lantern Kilowog of Bolivax Vik uses "Poozer" as an all purpose swear word.
  • And still in the DC Universe, Lobo uses the words and phrases "frag", "Feetal's Gizz" (foetal's gizzard maybe?) and "bastich" - mixture of bastard and (son of a) bitch - as generic swearwords.
    • Word of God says 'Feetal's Gizz" has a soft 'G'.
      • Lobo - The Last Czarnian has a section (10 Things To Know If You Ever Encounter Lobo) that states "Lobo's most used exclamation is FEETAL'S GIZZ, the diminutive of Feetal's Gizzard (or stomach)." Considering that the book was written by Giffen Himself, we could be looking at a Flip-Flop of God.
  • In Paperinik New Adventures, Donald's alter ego encounters and assists an alien bounty hunter who keeps repeating the words "Syrza!" and "grabbaga putz!", which Donald takes for battle cries, but when he finally learns (through a whisper) what they really mean, the shock of the reveal is strong enough to make his cap fly off. And break the fourth wall.

Donald: You can't say that in a Paperinik story!
Alien (smugly): No? But I've been saying it all the time!


Films[edit | hide]

  • On Lilo and Stitch, Captain Gantu is fond of using the oath "Oh, blitznak!" Stitch himself, when brought before the Galactic Council and asked to prove his intelligence, utters a string of words that is left untranslated from "alien" gibberish, although its profane content is clear from the shocked gasps of the hearers. Stitch's statement is so vulgar, a robot vomits. This trope probably was used to leave what Stitch said deliberately to the imagination, as there isn't much in the way of utterances left that would inspire such reactions from contemporary 21st century viewers.
    • Weirdly enough, Stitch's 'vulgar' phrase "Meega nala kweesta/kreesta" is used later in the TV show and theme park ride and translates as simply "I will destroy". (I think a TV show episode made a big deal out of "I will destroy" and "I won't destroy", switching "nala", will, with "naga", a negative.) The aliens' strong reaction is odd, since much of the franchise's alien language is relatively easy to translate for those who want to. Stitch later does, however, say something untranslated along the lines of "Hmpua manchiki", to which Jumba replies "You leave my mother out of this!"
      • Then again, words like "balls" or "rod" are not inherently dirty words, but both can be used as euphemisms for male genitalia. This troper assumes that like the previous examples, "Meega Nala Kweesta" most likely does translate into "I will destroy", but in the phrase's native language, it could also be interpreted as some sort of vulgar euphemism, hence the council's reaction.
  • Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland features Underlandish curse words. At one point the White Rabbit expresses his disgust at the actions of "real" animals who do their "shukum" in public.
  • Reversed in the live-action Transformers movie. Frenzy spends the whole movie scurrying and skulking around muttering to himself in an alien language, until, as one of his shots fatally ricochets back towards him, his last words are "Oh shi--".
    • The rest of Transformers plays this pretty straight, though.
      • "Oh Slag..." "That bot's got bearings of chrome steel." And so on....
  • Star Wars, mainly the Expanded Universe, has "stang", "kriff", "burn", and either "Sithspawn", "Sithspit", or just "Sith-", Depending on the Writer.
    • Don't forget "schutta." My favorite kind - the kind that aurally resembles its real-world equivalent.
      • It's actually closer in meaning to "bitch," though.
    • And "Emperor's Black Bones!"
    • And "karking" -- really offensive to non-humans.
    • It got rather silly in Death Star, in which milking was used as a curse word.
    • This trope actually used in The Empire Strikes Back, in which a droid says "E chu ta!" and C-3PO merely remarks, "How rude!" rather than translating or replying.
      • This has hilarious implications because the same phrase is said in Knights of the Old Republic all the freaking time.
      • Though to be fair, the phrase in Knights of the Old Republic is "A chu ta" and as you are pointed out later on in an example, a simple change in tone when saying a word may turn it into a grave insult.
      • They are also not all from the same language, in Knights it seems to show up in everything but Basic.
    • Here's the complete list of Galaxy Far Far Away curses. More than a few are from languages other than Basic, the language that is rendered as the reader or viewer's language.
    • Still misses out Fierfek. Which although used by Mandos a lot one of the tells of a jedi when she uses it.
    • Episode 4 features R2-D2 whistle something to C-3PO in one scene, to which he is told "Watch your language!"
    • Jabba the Hutt occasionally uses "poodoo" in conversation, which is translated as "fodder" in the subtitles. Apparently the actual meaning has something to do with feces.
      • Sebulba in Episode I is also fond of using "poodoo" as a curse word.
    • And that's not even going into Mando'a. That language would probably lend itself to a GREAT Cluster F-Bomb attack.
    • And that doesn't count the five minute cuss-out that that Zsinj gives Han at the end of Solo Command. Zsinj could apparent curse fluently in a dozen languages, and Han was glad that call was recorded, as he wanted it translated.
    • The Devaronian Kardue'sai'malloc (the horned, toothy guy from the cantina in A New Hope) is a fugitive who goes by the pseudonym Labria. As explained in his entry in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, "labria" is a very rude word in Devaronian that translates to "cold food" (something of the meaning is Lost in Translation). He thinks humans are weird for using religion, sex, and excrement as curses.
  • "What the flagnar!?"
  • Subverted in District 9 - the aliens, due to their insect-like physiology, can't even pronounce human syllables, but when one of them swears at Wikus it is baldly subtitled as "Fuck off!"
  • In the original Angels in the Outfield (shown fairly often on Turner Classic Movies), a foul-mouthed baseball manager lets fly several times in the first few minutes of the film. Actor Paul Douglas was told to yell out anything he wanted (no problem there), then his words were cut, mixed, spliced together and run backwards, so that we don't really know what he's saying. The "swearing" sounds like gibberish even on a backwards play!
  • In the 2008 adaptation of the Strugatsky Brothers' Prisoners of Power the protagonist's Translator Microbes fail to translate the expletive "Massaraksh". In the original novel there were no Translator Microbes, so there was a good reason why it took some time for him to find out what it means, but in the movie he should have known from the very beginning that it literally means "the World inside-out.
  • In the film version of My Favorite Martian, Martin frequently says "Blotz!" which translates pretty literally to "Shit" (including one instance where he asks, "Does a wild bear blotz in the woods?").
  • In Road To Zanzibar, the natives of Darkest Africa have their lines subtitled in English, but one line produces a [CENSORED] stamp instead of a subtitle.
  • Per Word of God, in the Na'vi language, it is quite possible to be rude or insulting, but not profane as such; the Na'vi don't have the concept of words that it's bad to say.
  • In the animated movie Fantastic Mr. Fox all the characters cuss by saying, well, cuss.
  • The Soviet Cult Classic, Kin-dza-dza!, features the Universal Swearword Acceptable In Civilized Speech, "Kju" (used to replace any contextually applicable swearword you can think of), as well as the Universal Word "Koo" (yes, there's a reason they sound similar), covering all other things the authors couldn't make up alien words for. It probably helps that all the Human Aliens are partially telepathic (and thus communicate with the protagonists by learning Russian from their minds, and only use the alien words for swearing or naming alien devices.

"But Fiddler, even you must realize that this is the most elementary kju!"

  • Rio gives us this line courtesy of Linda:

Linda: "Squawk squawk squawkity squawk squawk! Beat] I'm sorry, I didn't mean to curse!"

  • Patrick Winslow in The Smurfs, who doesn't know a lick of how to speak in Smurf, ends up letting out a stream of words in Smurf that make the other Smurfs react as if he had a bad case of potty mouth.
  • When the team all quit the Bureau at the end of Hellboy II, Johann Krauss (the ghost in the suit, apparently brought in because he's completely by the book) has this line:

Suck my ectoplasmic Schwanzstücker!

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Watership Down: Silflay hraka, u embleer rah.
    • Literally, 'eat shit, you lord of stench!'
    • This is an excellent example, because by this point in the novel, we have already seen all of these words (in different, innocent contexts). Shit is a pretty important consideration in your life, if you're a rabbit.
      • But rabbits have to do that for their digestion to work properly...
      • Rabbits don't eat their own, er, hraka. They chew caecotropes, masses of undigested fibre and nutrients that their digestives systems couldn't break down the first time through. To be fair, caecotropes do exit the body the same way as droppings, but one assumes that a sentient rabbit would think of them as entirely different from hraka.
  • From the Star Trek Novel Verse, we have Vikak (A curse among the Payav), krught (a Tellarite curse), Frinx (the all-purpose Ferengi sexual euphemism), Grozit (the Xenexian all-purpose curseword), kyeshing (among Pacifican Selkies), and many more.
    • One novel even has Riker use an obscene whistle to shock an hysterical visiting Starfleet commander so he'd snap out of his panic. The whistle was a swearword in Bottlenose Dolphin, which was the distressed commander's species.
  • After several characters come into possession of a translation spell in Mark Anthony's Blood Of Mystery, one character continues swearing obscure and bizarre oaths in his native language until he realizes they're being translated for his companions. As he puts it, "They work better when nobody else knows what you're saying."
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, where "Belgium" is actually the most obscene word in the universe, except on Earth. This started in the original radio incarnation, where real obscenities were not permitted. (In the books, things are somewhat different... The US edition of the Hitchhikers book Life, the Universe and Everything has a scene featuring the word "Belgium", with a rather long explanation of its significance. In the original British edition, they just say "fuck".)
    • And then there was Arthur's offhand comment "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle" and a freak wormhole accidentally setting off a interstellar war...
      • Further referenced in The Video Game where the offensive phrase is the first phrase that you mistype - or if you always type perfectly, is pulled from your recent input into the command parser after a given number of turns.
    • This is referenced in The Movie, where Ford, taking cover from the Vogons' attack, exclaims "Belgium!"
    • "Belgium" as a swear word has actually made it out of the Hitchhikers series and into popular culture in other ways as well. Stingray used the word on Neighbours.
    • Given the fact that Earth was a giant computer, the Earthling use of Belgium probably constitutes a vulgar prank on the part of some mouse.
    • Subverted in the novelisation of Starship Titanic. Blerontins, the resident aliens, use "North of Pangolin" (usually shortened to "Pangolin") which is "a particularly nasty suburb of Blerontis's capital". However, the Lemony Narrator is keen to inform us that "the general meaning was 'Shit'".
    • Don't forget that Earth's adoption of a game called cricket was responsible for the entire galaxy thinking we're a planet of completely tasteless philistines. The bit where the ball hits the wicket is especially nasty. (It shows up in every pre-contact culture as a universal genetic memory of the Krikket Wars, but only the British could turn the most terrible wars in Galactic history into a national sport.)
    • There are also a few more examples: The repeated use of "What the photon" and Zaphod yelling "Starpox!" in The Restaurant At the End of The Universe
    • In the radio series (and Life, the Universe, and Everything), the same passage explaining "Belgium" also gives us "swut," "turlingdrome," and "joojooflop."
  • The locals of the Sector General book series are so big on the galactic peace and harmony thing that their Translator Microbes do this on purpose. The euphemism of choice is "made a sound that did not translate."
  • In E. E. "Doc" Smith's THE VORTEX BLASTERS, the ultimate unrepeatable expletive on Tominga (where the language metaphors all revolve around plants) is "srizonified". Sentient telepaths, just like the Lens, leave this untranslated, but we are told that it is loosely rendered as "descended from countless generations of dwellers in stinking and unflowering mud."
  • The fairies in Artemis Fowl say "D'Arvit". In one of the margins, it is "explained" that if the word were to be translated, it'd just be censored anyways.
    • But considering the fact that there is already swearing present in the books (as well as the context in which 'd'Arvit' is used), it's glaringly obvious that it means fuck.
      • Which is, in and of itself, entirely the point. And it's rather infamously used in Artemis Fowl fanfiction as 'd'Arviting', despite the fact that the word doesn't conjugate the same way as in English. Though it's important to note that 'd'Arvit' was said as the first curse in the series, so at that point it could have meant, in context, 'damn it' (Which would seem likely, given the word itself, and the færies pointing out that every human language originated with Gnommish.), 'shit' or 'fuck'.
      • Given that it's generally used as an all-purpose expletive, it could still be fairly easily translated as "shit", "damn", or "dammit". The point is that it's vulgar.
    • And also, 'cowpog', which is apparently a vulgar version of 'moron', from what a slightly-more-than-a-bit-delusional Artemis manages to explain.
  • Subverted (of course) in Discworld; Dwarfish words are occasionally used in such a context in a conversation that the non-Dwarfish-speakers present assume they're swearwords. Example from the novel Feet of Clay, when a group of angry dwarves discusses an attempted robbery on a dwarven bakery by human criminals with Captain Carrot of the City Watch: "They kicked Olaf Stronginthearm in the bad'dhakz!", "Let's hang 'em up by the bura'zak-ka!" Footnotes explain that the words in question meant "yeast bowl" and "town hall."
    • The joke is upped when Captain Carrot, dwarf by adoption, patiently explains, "Now, now, Mr Ironcrust. We don't practice that punishment in Ankh-Morpork." with the footnote adding: Because Ankh-Morpork doesn't have a town hall.
      • Although it does in the first game, complete with a notice posted by the door citing being hung up by it as a possible punishment. Rincewind (your character) does in fact hang from the town hall flag pole at one point, but not as a punishment; no when he's punished, he gets put in the stocks...
        • This being Ankh-Morpork, it's entirely possible that it used to have a town hall, but that nobody bothered rebuilding it after it burned down (or got built over or repurposed or whatever, but "burned down" is likely, especially since the discovery of the concept of "fire insurance").
    • Interestingly, the dwarf word for Littlebottom's name seems to be "Sh'rt'azs", which sounds rather like "shortarse".
    • There's also the dwarf insult tossed at Cheery when the dwarfs see her dressed in a way that clearly indicates she's female in The Fifth Elephant, "ha'ak". The implied translation would be something like "whore," but it must be very bad indeed—even Sgt Detritus knows what it means, and it's bad enough to get him to point his Piecemaker at a group of dwarfs who call her that.
      • Later uses of "ha'ak" in Thud establish that it's not gender-specific, apparently meaning something along the lines of "betrayer/sullier of dwarfishness".
    • Occasionally invoked with Troll words also. Monstrous Regiment introduces the word groophar, which is implied to be trollish for "fuck".
    • This joke is also commonly pulled with archaic words rather than foreign ones, particularly in Guards Guards. The penalties for betraying the secret society involve "having your figgin roasted, having your gaskin plucked out", and so on, when these eye-watering words actually mean things like "mince pie" and "waistcoat worn by makers of spectacles".
      • Similarly, there was mention of an esoteric punishment involving being 'hung up by your figgin', students looking up the word out of morbid curiosity and discovering it meant a kind of pastry. Leading to the conclusion that either the language changed over time or there was some secret horror to being suspended next to a teacake.
    • On another note, Cpt Carrot is known as the only man who can audibly swear in asterisks. "D*mn!"
    • The "children's" Discworld book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents differs from the typical "grown-up" Discworld novels only in that the swearing and sex references are translated into either Cat or Rat. The fully human Stupid-Looking Kid even swears in Rat, something that is instantly lampshaded.
    • The non-Discworld book Nation has characters using two languages, English and that of the Nation, both of which are rendered in English for the reader's convenience. The only untranslated word occurs when Mau complains that his new trousers "chafe the sresser".
    • Early Discworld books replaced the harsher swear words with dashes. A lampshade was hung on this in a later book, where a character has a verbal tic that causes him to punctuate his sentences with dashes and "-ing."
      • This led to an ultimate facepalm moment when a reader's mother sent an irate letter to Terry Pratchett, complaining about the amount of swearing present in the books. As he said, some people will complain about anything...
      • Lampshaded even earlier in Mort:

"Well, ---- me," he said. "A ----ing wizard. I hate ----ing wizards!"
"You shouldn't ---- them, then," muttered one of his henchmen, effortlessly pronouncing a row of dashes.

    • Also, throughout the series, the phrase "pardon my Klatchian" is used after a character swears. That sounds a bit familiar...
    • To top that, Pratchett once used a variant of Pardon My Klingon which translated swear-words into Cat mid-sentence! When Greebo involuntarily shifted from cat to human, his string of feline yowling ends in "..iiiit!" Elsewhere in the same book, his conversion from human to cat is accompanied by a cry of "Oh, shhhii... [cat snarls and hissing]!".
    • Weirdest of all, in the section of Nanny Ogg's Cookbook dedicated to the Language of Flowers, Nanny calls a certain unpleasant nobleman a "Creeping Foxglove/Mouse Cress/Climbing Elderberry/Water Dropwort". Harsh words there, Nanny...
      • And then there's Nanny Ogg's favorite expression following an off-color remark:

Pardon my Klatichian.

  • Characters in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels say "cruk" a lot, which means... pretty much exactly what you'd imagine, and apparently takes the same conjugation.
  • Used once in Redwall with the reportedly foul-mouthed squirrel Grood: "Gorrokah!" As well as "splitten flitten gurgletwip" and the other incoherent swearing he was repeatedly reprimanded for.
  • Inverted with in Barry Longyear's Enemy Mine: human and alien knew enough of cheap insults on each other's tongue (or at least they thought so), but fluid use of the foes' language was beyond either. So when slightly more complex profanity was used, guy had to stop and explain it—after all, what's the point of swearing at someone if the target can't understand? -- they switched to this linguistic "problem" until all was clear... and then resumed the brawl.
    • In the original story, the exact phrase used by the Drac was "Irkmann, yaa stupid Mickey Mouse is!"
      • No, that was the obvious one. What required an explanation was "kizlode" = "kiz" + "lode".
  • The favorite four-letter word in Larry Niven's Known Space stories (including the Ringworld novels) is "tanj"—originally an acronym for "There Ain't No Justice."
  • In Piers Anthony's Xanth series, swear words are 'bleeped out' magically if spoken in the presence of a child, although the characters still object to this. An extreme case is in the book Roc and a Hard Place, where a roc (giant bird) is put on trial for using a swear word in the presence of an egg she was caring for. It turns out that although the roc didn't realize it, the chick inside that egg is actually able to hear and understand words spoken in his presence, even before hatching.
    • The curse words are consistently rendered in Symbol Swearing such that #### and $$$$ always refer to specific four-letter words. It's worth noting that these seven words of power carry enough power to literally scorch shrubbery and hair in their vicinity. One of the books involves the protagonists having to use Lethe water to unteach a goblin child who'd learned them too early and was causing trouble.
  • Subverted in Piers Anthony's Prostho Plus, wherein all dialogue is translated by the characters' earpieces. A clam-like alien shouts something that comes through as "Boiling oceans!" and the students surrounding him mutter, "Did he say 'poisoned anthills'?" "Yeah! 'Melted ice cream'!"
  • One of H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories had an offhand reference to a Paratime agent being unable to use a straight rearrangement of his real name to fit in because his first name, "zortan", is a particularly unpleasant swear word. The phrase "son of a zortan" pops up approximately 75 times over the rest of the story.
  • Dragonback has "frunge".
  • In Brave New World, John the Savage swears in Zuñi, the language of the area where he was raised.
  • "...and the prophet spake saying, 'Frak this, for my faith is a shield that is proof against thy blandishments.'"
  • In Daughter of the Drow, Forgotten Realms novel by Elaine Cunningham, happens most likely because a drow just have no reason to learn upper-Common words not related to things like commerce or magic:

Liriel: I've pulled your tzarreth out of the fire four times, you've saved mine three--that sort of thing.

  • Subverted in one of the short stories that makes up Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who... Sang: one of Helva's brawns curses a hapless functionary off the ship by reciting a particularly vituperative string of syllables—her grandmother's recipe for paprikash, which she then proceeds to cook and eat.
  • In Fever Crumb's far future London the term blog has become a general purpose profanity.
  • In Gaunt's Ghosts the Tanith use feth. The word obviously sound a lot like Fuck and the main protagonist thinks that it does mean that. Instead, it refers to the tree spirits back on Tanith.
    • It is actually somewhat ambiguous in the passage where that claim is made as to whether Gaunt is telling the truth and it doesn't mean what people assume, or he's bullshitting an Inquisitor (and he's definitely got the attitude for it), or he's telling the truth and the word DOES still mean exactly what people assume. After all, there are some pretty, well, lascivious tree-spirits in the folklore of our own world.
  • William Gibson's "All Tomorrow's Parties" had a bit of twist on this concept in that the reader can hear the profanity, but the characters involved can't. "People are fascinated by the pointlessness of it. That's what they like about it. Yes, it's crazy, but it's fun. You want to send your nephew in Houston a toy, and you're in Paris, you buy it, take it to a Lucky Dragon, and have it re-created, from the molecules up, in a Lucky Dragon in Houston. . . What? What happens to the toy you bought in Paris? You keep it. Give it away. Eviscerate it with your teeth, you tedious, literal-minded bitch. What? No, I didn't. No, I'm sorry Noriko, that must be an artifact of your translation program. How could you imagine I'd say that?"
  • In Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien series, the main characters have a device installed in their brains that translates all alien languages, even aphorisms and gestures. However, it is stumped by Kreeblim's use of the word "Plevit", save that it seems to be rather obscene.
  • Bill the Galactic Hero often uses "bowb" as his expletive of choice.
  • Happens with the Hork-Bajir in Animorphs, though justified since they speak a mixture of their own language, Gilard, and English.
  • The Automatic Detective does this once with a nonverbal communication: in response to Mack's quip, Mack narrates, an alien "executed a maneuver with his tentacles that I could only assume was derogatory in nature."
  • The exclamation Khadasa! appears in Deryni Rising, although the characters otherwise use English, including other swearing in English on occasion (Archbishop Cardiel actually shouts "Goddamnit" once).


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Worf occasionally uses Klingon curse words. Also, in Fanon, Picard frequently swears in French (something he actually did on-screen, if only rarely).
    • Combining the two, during a tense on-screen moment on the Enterprise bridge, a visiting Klingon dignitary accuses Picard of speaking "the lies of a taHqeq", which prompts Picard to get right up in his face and unload a barrage of unintelligible but vile-sounding Klingon back at him... leaving said dignitary (favourably) impressed enough to comment: "You swear well, Captain... I wouldn't be surprised to find Klingon blood running through your veins."
      • It's accurate Klingon. Word of God says Klingon insults generally don't translate well, but rest assured, it was very insulting.
        • Some expanded universe sources claim that the problem isn't that Klingon insults don't TRANSLATE, it's that to humans not versed in Klingon culture, the insults don't make SENSE (and vice versa). An example given was the human insults saying that a person is ugly. This translates into Klingon in one of two ways: It may translate as "unattractive for mating" (which Klingons would generally find nonsensical from a non-Klingon) or as "facially experienced" (which Klingons consider to be a compliment).
    • It's funny how those Universal Translators stop working whenever someone feels like unleashing gratuitous Klingon...
      • Considering the Enterprise's diplomatic function, that could be a deliberate omission from the translation-program's vocabulary. No need to provoke anyone unnecessarily.
      • Or perhaps some swearwords don't translate accurately from race to race, so the universal translator just doesn't translate them. This would also explain some other alien language terms (like Pon Farr, etc.) that don't have a direct English equivalent.
    • Probably the most frequently used Klingon insult is peta'Q, which generally means "someone who is useless or weak" but literally translates along the lines of "you weirdo!" [1]
    • The actual worst thing you say to someone in Klingon is "Hab SoSlI' Quch", literally "Your mother has a smooth forehead".
      • Which goes a long way to explaining why the Klingons who got smooth foreheads as a result of the attempt at genetic engineering gone horribly wrong were always in such bad moods.
    • A perfect example is an exchange involving Worf, Riker, and the eponymous Romulan admiral in the episode "The Defector":

Jarok (posing as "Setal"): How do you allow Klingon pahtk to walk around in a Starfleet uniform?
Worf: You are lucky this is not a Klingon ship. We know how to deal with spies.
Jarok: Remove this tohzah from my sight.
Riker: Your knowledge of Klingon curses is impressive. But, as a Romulan might say, only a veruul would use such language in public.

  • Hoshi cusses T'Pol out in Vulcan on the Enterprise pilot. T'Pol's response is something along the lines of "Very impressive, but I thought we were speaking English on this journey."
    • From the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Terra Prime" (a basic form of UT had just been invented by Hoshi):

"There are protesters chanting outside the Andorian embassy. And they're using words that aren't in the universal translator!"

  • Farscape: The Translator Microbes only translate profanity sporadically. "Bitch" and "ass" come through loud and clear, but the show had an entire vocabulary to replace FCC-unfriendly words, and occasionally just for humor:
    • Frell. As in, this "frelling" ship, or "I want this miracle of life the frell out of me." While "frelling" was usually used to replace the usual F-word in the more metaphorical sense, there was at least one notable instance where Aeryn Sun used it to refer literally to sexual intercourse, just in case anyone was still slightly fuzzy on which exact curse word it was meant to substitute for.
    • Mivonks: testicles/junk.
    • Trelk: whore/slut.
    • Dren:

Aeryn: "... and this whole end of the galaxy's in some serious frelling dren."

      • Also, in at least one episode, drug dealers offer to sell the crew "some really great dren."
        • And when Rygel gets hold of some sucrose (in the form of candy he stole from Trick-or-Treaters when first visiting Earth in the past) and gets completely wasted, he tells John that he'll pay anything for more of that dren, no matter how illegal it is.
    • During the later parts of the series some alien characters (Aeryn in particular) try to learn English; since everything is perceived in English due to the microbes,[2] the only way to notice this is mangled English idioms and Aeryn's strange foreign accent: Once Aeryn walked off after saying something totally incongruous to the conversation she and John just had; John's response was to mutter to himself that "she's trying to speak English again." Presumably, the microbes translate unknown languages in correct English (for English users), but leave even very bad English as is.
    • There's also "Hezmana" for Hell, in both the figurative "What the Hezmana" or directly "the underworld of Hezmana". The best was "like a barkan out of Hezmana" (Bat out of Hell).
    • Farbot: Insane. Rygel is fond of this one.
    • Feckik: Idiot/dumbass. Another of Rygel's favorites.
    • The DVDs come with Farscape vocabulary as a special feature, which makes fun times for anyone wanting to confuse the Hezmana out of their friends.
    • Humor ensued when some of the crew would attempt to use human idioms they'd heard Chricton say, but they invariably got them wrong.
      • D'Argo saying that if they were going to die, he'd "rather go down on a swing" comes to mind.
      • In an early episode, Aeryn remarks that an alien woman "gives me a woody." John corrects her: "the willies, Aeryn, she gives you the willies".
    • And at least once Klingon was used by John and it failed to translate.
      • He was deliberately trying to confuse an alien chick who claimed to be good at languages (her species is allergic to Translator Microbes).
  • Doctor Who: In "The Christmas Invasion", just after making a big deal out of the translation mechanism, the Doctor lapses into Sycorax when insulting the alien leader. Since the Translator Microbes are linked to the Doctor's mind, it's not quite clear whether he's doing this for effect, or it's a suspiciously timed failure of his still-unstable mind. An Expanded Universe story claimed previously that the Translator Microbes have a "swear filter".
    • The Doctor also speaks Judoon in "The Stolen Earth". The Doctor is talking to Judoon. Looking at Donna's facial expression, there's no indication she doesn't understand. So why wasn't it in English in the episode? Similarly, Martha is able to understand the Hath in "The Doctor's Daughter", but it isn't translated for the viewer.
      • It doesn't seem like Martha can actually understand the Hath. Instead, she figures out how to communicate with them using gestures.
      • A discarded line in the early drafts of "The Stolen Earth" handwaves it away to the Judoon "being too thick".
      • Word of God explains that the Judoon speak in code words rather than a different language. It was described as a "military verbal shorthand".
    • A line when the Doctor is holding Davros hostage in "Destiny of the Daleks" strongly implies that "spack" is a Gallifreyan obscene verb. It is often claimed that this was an accidental line-garbling by Tom Baker, but the delivery seems too strong and deliberate for that.
      • While the above explanation is possible, the line is more likely to be a garbled "just back off!"
    • In "The Fires of Pompeii", the TARDIS translates Donna's English into Latin, but when she actually speaks Latin it's apparently translated into Celtic. One wonders if Time Lord technology isn't based on less than scientific principles. In that case, Donna's English was probably translated into Welsh, as that would fit well into the show's running joke about Wales, Welsh and Cardiff.
      • As mentioned above, the Translator Microbes are linked to the Doctor's mind, and he certainly understands the Rule of Funny. It probably amuses him to do it that way.
      • It's also possible that the latin was translated back into modern English, but that the Pompeii citizen didn't understand and mistook it for Welsh (he spoke neither language).
  • Mork, from Mork and Mindy, used "Shazbot" most noticeably; despite it being an alien language, it bears enough resemblance to an English expletive that the audience recognizes it. This has been parodied on The Simpsons by Kang and Kodos, who use curse words with even more resemblance to English ("Holy flurking shnit!")
    • "Shazbot" has been lovingly re-used in other situations: Bart says "Oh shazbot!" once, and it's one of the voice chat options in Tribes.
  • The original Battlestar Galactica Classic made extensive use of "frack" and "felgercarb."
  • The BSG relaunch changed the spelling to "frak," and has been particularly fluent in conjugating it in ways that match English constructions: frakking, frakker, frakked...
    • Frak has been slowly making its way into regular English euphemisms, simply because it has aural satisfaction when spoken. Over the past few years, it's also been used with some regularity by Ascended Fanboys in other sci-fi series who might presumably have watched Battlestar Galactica (e.g., Topher in Dollhouse and Fargo in Eureka).
  • Mira Furlan, the actress playing Delenn in Babylon 5 occasionally cursed in Minbari after fumbling a line.
  • A CBBC advert for Ed & Oucho has the pair having a conversation. Oucho speaking in his tongue of "dee baa shor baa dee" says something, to which Ed replies he cannot say on television. Oucho continues and Ed starts shouting louder at him to stop.
  • Stargate SG-1, "Deadman Switch":

Aris Boch: And you, O'Neill, you're considered -- Well, you're a pain in the mikta.
Jack O'Neill: Neck?
Teal'c: No.

    • "Gonach, ha'shak!" (screw you, fool/weakling!) and "Mai'tac!" (damn!).
    • Also, until the defeat of the Goa'uld, Teal'c was ubiquitously known as "shol'va" (traitor). The word was always spat out as a curse, although it made Teal'c and O'Neill smile.
    • "Tar" is a vulgar form of "Tau'ri" (human).
      • Not necessarily vulgar. Daniel only said it was a sort of slang.
        • That makes it 'vulgar' in the sense of 'not refined'. Strictly speaking, that's not the appropriate meaning for this trope.
    • The episode "200" had a scene that was a Shout-Out to Farscape above, parodying its tendency toward this trope by consisting almost entirely of the characters swearing in alien languages. The best one had to be Christopher Judge's character's "Hezmana!", or perhaps Ben Browder's "Son of a hazmot!"
  • Variation, not sci-fi; (possibly even justification for all the others) In I Love Lucy, whenever Ricky gets angry (or horny) he switches to Spanish.
  • Red Dwarf has "smeg" (and variants thereof, such as "smegger", "smeghead", etc.). As in:
    • Additional hilarity ensues when Kryten tries to swear. Due to either a malfunction or censorship, when he says "Smeghead" (usually to Rimmer) all that comes out is "That smeeeeeeeee... Smeeeeeeeee..."
    • The show's usage of "Smeg" became so prolific that when Craig Charles visited a PBS station in California for a pledge drive, an astonishing number of people pledged on the contingency that he would either call them a smeghead on air, or tell them what "Smeg" meant. His answer to the latter? "Ask your mother."
      • Your mother would probably tell you that it is an Italian brand of large kitchen (and other home) appliances (cookers, fridges, etc)...
    • "Goit" and "Gimboid" were also used, but with far less frequency.
  • Porridge, of all things, has "Naff". This was created for the series because while it would have been just plain silly, not to mention unbelievable, to have convicts not swear at all, the time at which the series was shown and the mores of the BBC at the time meant that they had to use something. Thus an inoffensive, interchangable four-letter-word was invented for the series. Full marks, though, for the word entering British slang anyway, and meaning whatever you want it to and being completely understood, no matter what the context!
    • Actually the word goes back further than that. Polari was a gay slang used in the 40s and 50s when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. Naff stood for a great looking guy who was straight, hence Not Available For Fucking. Given the context of the show I don't think that is what they were aiming for, with the exception of Christopher Biggins that is.
    • Fletcher has referred to Warden Mackay as a "charmless Celtic nerk" at least once.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of NCIS where a suspect insults Gibbs in Klingon, but McGee is able to translate it as "your mother has a smooth forehead", which to a Klingon is a very dirty thing to say indeed. To Gibbs... not so much
  • Gorram laser!
  • Lampshaded in an episode of CSI: the episode is actually titled "Fracked" (a natural gas drilling term), and when Ray Langston is asked if he knows what fracking is, he says that it sounds like some kind of sci-fi curse word. Notable since Katee Sackhoff guest stars in this episode.
  • In one episode of Dinosaurs one character accidentally shouts "Smoo!" on television after accidentally hurting himself. This titillates the public enough that the network creates "The Smoo Show," which then prompts imitators such as "The Flark Show" and "Kiss my Glip."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "A New Man" Giles is turned into a Faryl demon by the villainous Ethan Rayne. Translation Convention is used so Giles is heard speaking English, but from the POV of any character he's grunting and snarling in a demon language. A gag scripted—but unfortunately not used—involved Giles bursting in on Rayne shouting, "I'm going to rip off your arms and shove them up your--(sudden shift to Giles shouting in Faryl).

Theater[edit | hide]

  • This is Older Than Radio. In Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia, Limited, Tarara, the Public Exploder of the Kingdom of Utopia, enters raving in his native language ("Lalabalele talala! Callabale lalabalica falahle!"); the Utopian maidens all cover their ears when they hear this shocking language, all the more shocking since a royal decree has abolished the Utopian language in favor of English. Tarara nevertheless insists he has no choice but to the Utopian language for venting certain feelings of his, having learned from British education that the English language has no such strong expressions.


Toys[edit | hide]

  • Being Merchandise-Driven, Bionicle has the challenge of bringing in new villains every year and having to establish their bad guy cred. One time they did this in part by having the team name be a dirty word in-universe: "Piraka" means thief, murderer, sadist, and so on; Even Evil Has Standards but Piraka don't (and the villains in question wear this label with pride). And being Merchandise-Driven, the "offensive" word got plastered all over posters, websites, toy packaging, you name it.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Doubly subverted in Warhammer 40,000, with the term Eldars use to talk about the humans: "mon'keigh", a racial slur for species deemed inferior.
  • One of the sourcebooks for the FASA Star Trek game had an aside about terms different species use for things that don't work and what their literal translation into English is. The Tellarite word translates to "inedible" or "tastes bad". The Andorian word literally means "pink". The Orion word translates as "trade goods". It also mentions that there's no equivalent word in Vulcan. "Apparently, on Vulcan everything always works."


Video Games[edit | hide]

Kaelyn: You ... you are a ... Oh, I don't know any curses. How embarrassing.

  • A Tale of Two Kingdoms has "gronk" as a generic Goblin swearword, cuss and interjection, plus assorted bits of "slang". They also use 'Pinkskins' and 'Pinkies' as a slang for humans.
  • Even the Sims seem to have their Simlish swear word equivalents. In the first game, angry or frustrated Sims would sometimes yell something that sounds like "Googlesnot!"
  • In StarCraft, Zeratul and the other Dark Templars will say "Cas Nerada" or something like that when annoyed. The inflection clearly marks it as some Protoss cuss word.
    • Presumably it's Khas, which would make sense as a Dark Templar curse (being something along the lines of Khas be damned) since the whole Dark Templar society is based around the rejection of the Khala, which was Khas's invention. They love that Adun though...
      • Why wouldn't they? The mainstream Protoss love him because the Conclave lied to the public about what happened and turned him into their hero. The Dark Ones know the truth - he sacrificed himself to save them, so they revere him even more.
  • Drone and Grenadier class Locust in the Gears of War series sometimes scream "Suck my blithe!" in the campaigns and Horde mode. Of course, they don't pardon their Locust, as those few seconds could be better spent shooting you in the face.
  • Mass Effect: "Bosh'tet" is some kind of Quarian swear word that Tali will say whenever frustrated. She also calls Shepard this (albeit affectionately) if Shepard chooses to tease Tali about how flustered she gets confessing how much she's come to trust and appreciate Shepard.
    • To clarify, she called an admiral a "bosh'tet", which seems to be something akin to "son-of-a-bitch." He deserved it, though, and did not press the issue.
      • Pretty sure it means "faulty tech," which is a pretty high insult to a Quarian.
    • She also exclaims "Keelah" from time to time. Judging from the various contexts this term is used, it seems to be the quarian equivalent of the English "Jesus!"
      • Especially given that Keelah Se'lai is some kind of religious oath or benediction. It turns out to mean "By the homeworld I hope to one day see," so it might have connotations along the lines of a more secular "For Heaven's sake."
    • Mordin once refers to one of his fellow Salarians as "bit of a cloaca, though".[3]
    • Krogans also have the refer to a "quad", which correlates pretty directly to balls or cojones. "You've got a quad" is used in the same context as "You've got balls" would be, and it's established that Krogan have four testicles.
  • In Infinite Space, the word "Grus" is a context-sensitive swear. It can mean anything from "Shit" to "hell".
  • The Thief series has the word "Taffer". Its also used as "What the taff?"
  • In Morrowind you're often called "N'wah!", an insult that means foreigner, slave - or "he who is about to search my corpse for valuables."
    • "Fetcher" is another insult used often by the Dark Elves, with similar slavery implications. The Dunmer really like having slaves.
    • Don't forget the other popular Dunmer insult, "s'wit".
  • "Vashaden," as said by Sten in the party selection screen if you take him out of the party.
    • Saemus in Dragon Age II will also use this phrase towards one of his "rescuers."
    • And in Dragon Age 2, Fenris will lapse into his native language if angry/upset enough, usually at Hawke.
  • Half-Life 2, during the chapter "Sand Traps" had a vortigaunt camp after you got the bugbait, you'll come across two vorts who'll pardon themselves for there "flux shifting" speech and tell you they will speak English unless they want to say "unflattering things about you."
    • After which, they immediately go back to their flux shifting speech.
  • In The Reconstruction, Yacatec does this twice. Early in chapter 4, he calls Tehgonan a "Zin d'an",[4] at which point Dehl snaps, "Yacatec, please do not call him that." Later, after the camp is threatened to be washed away by magical rain, he snaps at Ques, flinging what is presumably a heinous insult at him in his native language.
  • In Guild Wars, the only Asuran word heard so far has been "bookah," which is stated to mean a non-Asura. Given its general usage (and its derivation from a clumsy, stupid creature in Asuran folklore), however, it's really something of a racial slur.
  • Wings of Dawn: During a Q&A session with the fans, Crystal (a Cyrvan) responded to a certain request with "Ariyu ze yyura." No one's sure what this means, but everyone's sure it isn't... polite.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Tim in Bobbins used to say "tupping", particularly in his supposed hard-man catchphrase "Tuppin' liberty!". (He has used it sometimes in Scary-Go-Round, too.) In this case, the replacement is just an archaic word meaning... exactly the same thing. Shakespeare used it in Othello.
  • The orcs in Dominic Deegan say "Ilka tuk tak" whenever they feel like they need to let out some foul language, and it is infrequently commented as being very inappropriate.
  • Save Hiatus: When Ven finds out his favorite show, Hiatus has been cancelled, he's not very happy. The creators even had a contest to name all the sources of his epithets.
  • The utterance of real swear-words in Erfworld is impossible, due to instantaneous forced self-censorship by the Powers That Be ("Oh, boop!"). In a variant of this trope, Erfworlders have come up with some pretty graphic uses of words they can say (e.g. clinical terms like "testes" are permitted) to sidestep this limitation.
    • And Parsons does manage to overcome the censorship quite spectacularly in the last strip of the first book, whether due to extreme frustration or him having recently "broken the game" through his exploits.
  • Robot swearing is discussed at one point in Questionable Content.

Pintsize: Human cusswords focus on mating, excretion, and genitalia. Robot cusswords focus on mashing on homerow. ASDF is a four-letter word.
Hannelore: Hee hee! So what is "qwerty" slang for then? *Pintsize and Winslow assume squicked-out expressions* What? What did I say?

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Happens in the Whateley Universe too. Fey, who is merged with an ancient Faerie queen, sometimes curses in languages that haven't been spoken in millennia. Carmilla, who is the descendant of Cosmic Horror creatures, has been heard to swear to.. well, you don't want to know what she was swearing to.
  • Homestar Runner features The Cheat, who only speaks in his self-titled language (which sounds like cute grunts), and Pom Pom, whose "voice" is a bubbling sound; both have had instances where they were told to watch their language.
  • The Neverending Quest:

"What the heck?" Astra exclaimed most unroyally. "Pardon my French." Actually she didn't say heck, and it wasn't exactly French either.

  • Spoony plays this one for laughs in his review of the Demolition Man video game. He has a sponsorship deal with Taco Bell and thus has to keep the show all-ages, but when the game gets particularly frustrating he starts resorting to such classics as frell, frack, and smeg in order to get around the restriction on swearing.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Teen Titans: Starfire seems prone to using what are presumably Tamaranian profanity and/or insults when agitated. For a character portrayed as generally sweet and innocent, she sure does have a foul mouth—although she may just be using the Curses of the Tamaranian Ancients.
    • Though it also allowed some stuff getting slipped past the radar, in one instance, suggesting that Beast Boy (accidentally or not) groped her during a black out.

Starfire: Someone's claws are on my grebnaks!
Beast Boy: Heh...my bad.

    • Due to an overly aggressive profanity filter in the chat software that couldn't be turned off, when one person playing a Tamaranean in DC Universe Online started using those same profanities in-character, a number of others picked up the habit of doing so, too—to the point of the original compiling a mini-lexicon of about a hundred words and phrases. Since the developers finally put in a toggle switch for that filter, the popularity has dropped—but when the original uses them, they sometimes get jokingly chided for foul language.
  • Hawkgirl occasionally says "Yom Shigureth" when she's frustrated.
  • Pirates of Dark Water did this to let their fantasy pirates swear, which for cartoons was a bold move.
    • Common examples are chonga and chongo-longo, but special mention goes to noy jitat! (implied to mean "damn!" or "God damn!") which actually got conjugated - and fairly often - into jitatin ("damned" as in "that jitatin monkey-bird") and jitata ("damned one," "damn kid," or occasionally "dumbass").
  • Lloyd in Space used the interjection "durf" a lot, although given that he's a kid, its meaning is probably more along the lines of "darn".
  • Justified in Beast Wars. The transformers—Rhinox in particular—use "slag" as an epithet, which makes some kind of sense for robots.
    • Transformers Animated, of course, also uses "slag" as a swear word, this time with Bumblebee as the worst offender. Note that the Dinobot Slag was renamed "Snarl" in Animated (with a bit of Lampshade Hanging from Scrapper).
  • Cathy from Monster Buster Club does this. A lot.
  • Happens in an episode of Team Galaxy in which Josh and Bret are suppsoed to be translating a text from an alien language into English. Josh, who has been goofing off playing a video game on his computer connects his up to Bret's and steals his copy. Josh ends up taking all the credit. Bret annoyed, tells Josh he has a word for him and speaks some strange word. The whole class suudenly gains an expression of shock on their faces.
  • On The Fairly OddParents, both Norm and HP have used the term "smoof" in place of any expletive. Oddly, smoof was established in its first use as a magical substance rather than anything that could be dirty.
    • It makes sense, since it seems to be more an anti magic material. To them, it could be a literal way to refer to some version of hell.
  • Batman Beyond did this to make the future seem more real, by having slang terms being slightly different. Terry would often utter 'slag it' when he was agitated.
    • So he's the offspring of Warren McGinnis, Mary McGinnis, Bruce Wayne, Amanda Waller, and Rhinox?
    • "Slag" is by-product of steel smelting. Limestone mixed with iron ore impurities. It's also usually the stuff train rails are laid on.
    • "Slag" is also a British slang word for ... a lady who sleeps around, caring nothing for the feelings of the people she's using.
  • I'll have your jhorbloks for not putting Warmaster Gorrath on here!
  • Holy flurking schnidt!
  • The Trap Door had some wanderfully evocative examples - 'Globbits' and 'Great Grumfuttucks Tusks'.
  1. It actually uses a second person plural verbal prefix, which doesn't quite translate into English, but might be similar in sense to the plural suffix -mey, which, when applied to inanimate objects, implies that they are both many and chaotically scattered; it doesn't help that Klingon doesn't have adjectives as such, only verbs describing properties of an object, and there's some indication that even the distinction between nouns and verbs is a little arbitrary. Therefore, the exact translation is really complicated (and possibly nonsensical in English), but is probably along the lines of "You 'you are many annoying weird things' person!" It probably has a connotation similar to "pervert".
  2. apparently, each character hears everything in their own language
  3. The cloaca is the bird equivalent to anus/vagina and Salarians are confirmed to reproduce via eggs, so It Makes Sense in Context
  4. It literally means "little brother" in Shra, but because si'shra use it to refer to ordinary shra, its slang use is a serious insult.