BLURGH! You Fracking Smeghead!

What did she say?

Orson Scott Card cautioned against using invented swears in fiction because the fake “oaths” risked making the story silly. Fair enough.

But frak it, sometimes cursing is the only way to let it out.

On-screen rules often prohibit or limit profanity. So, screenwriters get creative (while engaging in world-building). Even Fantastic Mr. Fox had to release some heat (“This is going to be a total cluster-cuss,” “You scared the cuss out of us”).

Using cuss as a cuss is cute, if vanilla. For some more kapow, here are some of the most clever fake swears seen on screen, from our favorite sitcoms to classic sci-fi.

"Holy forking shirt!"

In the NBC comedy The Good Place, Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) finds herself in a heaven-like neighborhood, the titular Good Place, in the afterlife. Except there's one problem: a less-than-perfect Shellstrop was placed in this eternal abode for the righteous by mistake.

As she tries to find her way down the straight and narrow, Shellstrop lets slip many—and we mean many—a choice word. But, the Good Place won't be sullied with four-letter words, however, and so it automatically swaps Shellstrop's swears with words more appropriate for angel ears.

The F-word becomes fork. The S-word? Shirt. B*tch is filtered to bench, and *ss, ash. And, these substitutes make for some truly divine fake swears in the show. Here are some forkin' amazing lines from Shellstrop:

  • "She is secretly a two-faced, calculating, phony bench."
  • "Girl, you are a messy bench you loves drama and I am into it."
  • "I saw we leave this miserable shirt-hole."
  • "Are you forkin' kidding me right now?"
  • "It bit me in the ash."

"Blurgh, you jagweed"

Liz Lemon first uttered “Blurgh!” (also spelled blergh) in a 2007 episode of 30 Rock. It was so compelling a swear that she used it several other times in the episode. It’s been immortalized ever since as a word expressing to expression frustration and disgust.

Tina Fey, who plays Ms. Lemon and is the show’s creator, explained that blurgh was one of the invented swears the writers came up with while trying to circumvent the no-swear policy of network television.

Jagweed, another zesty example of lewd-Lemon lexicon, is synonymous with douchebag. The fake cuss riffs on Pittsburgh's jagoff and d*ckweed.

“You fusking cloff-prunker”

Around the 1990s, the British comedy sketch show A Bit of Fry & Laurie was a platform for Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie to engage in hilarious bouts of wordplay.

Aside from “The Language Conversation” (an episode focusing on the flexibility and arbitrariness of language), some of the most inventive displays of word wizardry were the meaningless but nevertheless obscene-sounding tell-offs: “You fusking cloff-prunker.” Then there's: “Skank off, you cloffing cuck, you're all a load of shote-bag fuskers, so prunk that up your prime-ministering pim-hole."

When asked to explain what cloff-prunker means, Stephen Fry explains in the show it’s a practice whereby “one person frangilates another’s slimp .... and smuctat[es] them avially.” It's like a sweary "Jabberwocky."

"Frak!"

Frak is one of the most well-known fake swears in science fiction. Its appearances off the mothership Battlestar Galactica, in entertainment as divergent as Gossip Girl and the Dilbert comic strip, demonstrate frak’s immense appeal. Who wouldn't want to display this famous fake swear in all its glory?

A futuristic stand-in for the F-word, frak first appeared in the 1978 series Battlestar Galactica. Originally spelled frack, the word was revamped for the 2010 revival of the series so that it reflected its true four-letter-word nature.

Though not an intention of the producers, the respelling now differentiates the fictional swear from the practice of fracking.

"Frell!"

Farscape’s frell is another example of how writing teams imaginatively side-step the boundaries of what can be said on TV. According to a Farscape fan site, frell is used by Sebaceans, bipedal beings that look uncannily like humans (and can be played by them on the show, to the producers’ relief).

Doing double duty, frell appears to blend hell with that old standby, the F-word. 

"Gorram!"

In 2002, Joss Whedon combined Western and sci-fi genres in Firefly, set in the year 2517. The language of the show is a mix of English and Chinese, reflecting Whedon’s visionary world in which the US and China are the only surviving superpowers.

Gorram is a substitute for godd*mn, and is thought be based on a pronunciation of the word among Chinese speakers.

Charles Dickens, though, used gormed in the 1800s as a euphemism for goddamnedso this one may be older than Browncoats know.    

“What the cabbage?”

The leap from adult sci-fi genres to a child’s fantasy adventure cartoon is not insignificant, especially considering this slideshow is about invented cuss words.

But, Adventure Time appeals to both kids and parents through the interactions of the protagonists, Finn and Jake, with magical characters in the Land of Ooo.

In the show, English words conjuring (for some) utter doom and dismay—like lump, cabbage, and math—are cheekily and brilliantly used as euphemisms: “I lumping hate them!”, “What the cabbage?”, and “I wanna go to sleep and you’re creeping me the math out!” 

"Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking, nerfherder! "

Hop aboard the Millennium Falcon to venture back into the universe of fake swears. Star Wars is rife with inventive curse words, from F-bomb alternatives (farkled and krong), insults (laser brain and the Huttese E chu ta), to general expletives like vape and varp.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia insults Han Solo as a nerfherder, someone who—as anyone from Alderaan would know—herds nerfs, or “foul-smelling furry quadrupeds bred for meat across the galaxies.”

Nerfherders had a bad reputation for being dirty and smelling like their beasts of burden.

“Shazbot!”

While the human survivors on Battlestar Galactica were yelling “Frak you!” to the Cylons, Mork (in Mork & Mindy) was exclaiming “Shazbot!”

Robin Williams, who portrayed Mork, might have invented the Orkan profanity in a moment of ad-libbed genius. Shazbot evokes "robot" and a four-letter word for the smelly droppings of a human.

"Smeggy, smegging smegger!”

“... smeg off ... you annoyingly little smeggy, smegging smegger!” proclaims a character in the British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf. Based on this insult, in which smeg so flexibly morphs into any part of speech (like our F-word), it seems smeg can be used in place of at least a couple choice curse words. Adding -head is a nice option if going for a version of, you know, sh*thead. 

The Red Dwarf screenwriters claim no association, but this coined obscenity has a fairly disgusting real cousin in English (and in physical anatomy): smegma is the “thick, cheese-like secretion” that collects beneath nether-parts. Smeggin' gross.

“Where the smurf are we?”

To help you move on from that last smegging visual, we’ll turn to The Smurfs. The little blue mushroom-dwellers use the word smurf to mean just about anything: “Our village has been smurfed by a smurf that smurfs smurf."

Only Smurfs truly understand what one Smurf-speaking Smurf is smurfing. Smurf comes close to a minced oath for God in Papa Smurf’s cries of “Great smurfs!” and “Name of a smurf!” In the 2011 movie, there was no smurf about it: Smurf became a smurf-word: “Where the smurf are we?”

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