Monday, October 21, 2013

294: AF Slurs

ENTRY 294: AF Slurs

"Why do I need a Chinese word for 'cunt'? Or a Venusian word, whatever. Why do I have to use a made-up word to say what I really mean? What's wrong with the word 'cunt' that I can't use the one we have in English?"
- John Tecumseh Jones, What A Cunt I Am

Hate, fear, and prejudice always find expression in the syntax of the time. That said, few swearwords, insults, and slurs have real staying power beyond general cultural inertia: the word 'fuck' has been in the English language in some form or another for a thousand years, and will probably continue to exist for as long; the Lunar trend of 'cuntoid' for female-identifying synthmorphs is already dying fast. Still, where there is anger and discrimination there will be words to describe it, and the changing social norms after the Fall provide plenty of raw material for new and injurious expressions. So in addition to all the hundreds or thousands of slurs still in use with regards to an individual's ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, intelligence, appearance, odious personal habits, ancestry, etc. there have arisen thousands or tens of thousands of terms discussing new ethnicities, religions, morph types, political and social beliefs and preferences, just to name a few. Few of these really catch the metacultural awareness, and remain tied to specific networks, habitats, and social circles, but a few have spread fairly wide throughout the system.

"Nutes" as a disparitive descriptive for genderless biomorphs is one of the most common, though nowhere near as insulting as some of the more inventive names for them in Vo Nguyen, where bioconservatives have painted neuter biomorphs as sexual deviants and "unnatural."  Gender identity still remains a point of contention for nominally sexless synthmorphs (and, less often, informoprhs), which spans the spectrum from synthmorphs-that-identify-as-a-given-gender ("Cuntoids," "Princkbots," etc.) to mixed-biomorph-synthmorph-sexual-relationships ("Toyboy," "toyboi," "toygirl," "toygurl," "toyfag," "toyqueer," etc.) Xenoreligions and new religions see rather widespread distain, with any number of insults based on their beliefs, the least contentious of which is the Mesh media labeling them all as cults. Even some specific morphs and factions get their share of nicknames, such as the Ultimates and Remade ("ussholes," on Olympia, "Ulticunts" in Nova York, etc.) This is but a small sampling of the vast number of new slurs being generated, used, and abandoned every day.

Using AF Slurs

In moderation, where and when you must. The issue with fantasy slurs in a science fiction setting is less an issue of being politically correct as it is sounding like an asshole by spouting a bunch of silly, obviously made-up words designed to be quasi-offensive. I mean, c'mon, "cuntoid" sounds like something a thirteen year old boy would come up with to shock his friends. A number of sci-fi insults often come across the same way, feeling artificial and silly on the tongue - feth, feck, frak, frag, frell, shazbot, bleep, tanj, gorram, smeg, shock, smurf, bastich, Belgium, blotching, slitch, etc. Sci fi slurs are little better, often based on some basic physical characteristic or disparaging resemblance to Earth organisms/objects, like crab, bug, spoonhead, clicker, clanker, suckhead, spacehead, flatlander, socialator, smeghead, etc. These terms aren't offensive to contemporary ears because they aren't culturally ingrained as offensive, and so miss the desired impact (unless you just want to sound slightly silly, which is perfectly acceptable), whereas real-world ethnic slurs are likely to offend people you're playing the game with, which is generally undesired.

So what's the point? Well, sometimes you do want a non-offensive but patently supposed-to-be-a-slur-or-swearword in your campaign. Fair enough, more than one science fiction writer has written pseudo-swears just to get past the censors or for verisimilitude. However, this kind of language is also a strong indication of what characters in your game hate and fear - these are the focal points for social, sexual, gender, and ethnic commentary in the setting, and the new slurs you introduce can be a springboard for highlighting or examining those issues. Given the propensity of new insults to borrow from old insults, it is up to you to determine whether your group is comfortable or mature enough to handle such topics in a game - I would encourage you to talk with your players about it before Marvin d'Mars describes Rusters as "Martian Niggers," for example. That's going to send a shock through the table - and so it should. The 'n-word' is the ethnic slur to end all ethnic slurs in the United States, and busting it out at the table could cause an argument or at least several minutes standing around looking uncomfortable.

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