Thursday, March 18, 2010

Five favorite curse word substitutes that aren't "frak"

De La Soul
The other morning, the surprisingly not-so-awful 1993 made-for-cable action comedy Taking the Heat turned up on my TV in the background. It starred the very attractive Lynn Whitfield as a slit-skirted rookie NYPD detective assigned to escort wimpy murder witness and love interest Tony Goldwyn to court while mobsters attempt to bump him off on the hottest day of the summer. (It's too bad Whitfield never became the action movie star that she should have been because in Taking the Heat, she's as fierce as Pam Grier, running around sweltering New York and Toronto locations in heels--and on horseback at one point--and never once taking those heels off.)

The late New York radio DJ Frankie Crocker acts as a Greek chorus during Taking the Heat. I didn't grow up listening to Crocker on the radio, so whenever I hear his voice, I think of "Crocker!"--Prince Paul's way of half-assedly bleeping out the obscenities during the sketches(*) on one of my favorite albums, De La Soul Is Dead.

(*) In an earlier post, I said a skit is "some lame, amateurish thing kids perform at a summer camp or church." It's also a usually unfunny and thankfully short comedy bit that's the most common example of filler on a hip-hop album. The difference between the skits on most hip-hop albums and the skits on De La Soul Is Dead is that the DLSID bits are slightly longer, which makes them qualify as sketches, and genuinely funny.

I hate censorship in any form. (According to Cursebird, I swear like a Scottish comedian.) But when you can't fight the censors, sometimes you have to come up with ingenious ways to depict rough language without attracting the attention of those uptight [Crocker!]s. You can make up your own curse words a la Mork & Mindy, the 1978 Battlestar Galactica, Hill Street Blues, Red Dwarf and motherfrelling Farscape, or you can conceal the curse words in foreign languages like on Firefly and Caprica. For my money, South Park, Archer and TNT's Southland opt for the best method, which is to have the actors utter the obscenities and then bleep out all of them, except for "shit," "goddamn" and "pussy." (Before he died, George Carlin was probably relieved to see that some of the words he once famously put on a pedestal are now safe for basic cable.)

Who's the person who tweeted that nerds should stop adding the rather clunky-sounding "frak" to normal everyday conversations? Buy that person a drink. The masterminds behind the following five euphemisms also deserve a drink because they perfected the art of sneaking in expletives.

'What do you know about music, hamster penis?'

1. "Crocker!" (De La Soul Is Dead)
For some inexplicable reason, the tracks on De La Soul's insult humor-filled second album are uncensored, while most of the sketches are not. They feature Black Sheep member Mista Lawnge as the voice of "Hemroid," a playground bully who steals a cassette copy of DLSID from one of his victims and becomes frustrated by the album's lack of violent lyrics while listening to it ("Van Damme! What happened? What happened to the pimps? What happened to the guns? What happened to the curse words? [Crocker!] That's what rap music is all about, right?"). Prince Paul's intentionally half-assed censorship of the swear words in the sketches is part of what makes them funny. He covered up most of the cursing with a soundbite of someone saying "Crocker!"--a reference to the legendary DJ. "Crocker!" isn't the only curse word substitute during the sketches. There's also the memorable "Put the tape back in, natal wart!"

2. "melonfarmer" (the syndicated TV version of Repo Man)
Like me and millions of others who hate watching feature films on channels that aren't TCM, IFC or Sundance, Alex Cox considers the practice of redubbing profanity in movies to be ridiculous, so he had some fun with it by taking what could have been a completely unwatchable commercial TV butchering of his cult classic Repo Man and making it somewhat entertaining. The TV cut contained intentionally lame new dialogue like "Flip you, melonfarmer!"

Yvonne Strahovski from 'Chuck vs. the Nacho Sampler'
3. "smeg" (Red Dwarf)
One of the few elements Ronald D. Moore's Galactica unfortunately retained from the inferior 1978 original was the fake swearing, which sounds like a Mormon's idea of how people curse (in fact, that's what it was--Glen A. Larson is a Mormon, so I blame them for the creation of "frak," which the '70s version spelled as "frack," and "felgercarb"). Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the creators of the sci-fi Britcom Red Dwarf, coined a slightly more inventive swear word 10 years after "frack" by replacing "shit" and "fuck" with a word they claimed they didn't know already existed. (Do not click on the link in the previous sentence if you're enjoying your lunch, smeghead.)

4. "Ooh la la!" (The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson)
I like how The Late Late Show's way of dealing with Ferguson's French has been to cover it up with a well-placed French flag and his cheesy imitation of a frog. Because of Ferguson's year-long goal to learn Spanish, the flag was recently changed to a Spanish one, and "Ooh la la!" is now "¡Ay caramba!"

'What the French, toast?'

5. "lint-licker" (Orbit Gum ad)
Treme staff writer and Undercover Black Man blogger David Mills is spot-on about the homewrecker lady from his current favorite commercial, whom he refers to as "a cross between Karen Carpenter and a cheap French oil painting." Her way with a euphemism makes the Galactica and Caprica cast members sound like lints.

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