Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What the frak

StraightMan and I lag behind the curve when it comes to TV - and no doubt other things, but the point that I am making here is that we just became hooked on the reimagined "Battlestar Galactica."

Striking is (what I perceive as) the constant use of the word "frak."

Jesse Sheidlower, in his book, The F Word (Oxford University Press 2009), includes frak as "(a partial euphemism for) FUCK, in various senses and parts of speech":

Coined on, and chiefly associated with, the television show Battlestar Galactica. In the Original Series (1978), used exclusively as an interjection; in the Reimagined Series (2003-2009), used more broadly as a euphemism for many forms of FUCK, both figurative and literal. Spelled frack in Original Series scripts, frak in the Reimagined Series, apparently because the producers wanted it to literally be a four-letter word (Sheidlower 2009:55).

A more complete explanation on the uses of frak in the Twelve Colonies is available at the Battlestar Wiki on the topic, which explains also that the reason for the invention of the term had been to get around FCC regulations concerning language.

Which demonstrates, again, the cultural and social process that is language. The focus on the FCC is on policing particular words, which is based on (and promotes) esp. narrow understanding of language. The funny thing is that we absolutely know what Starbuck and the rest of the crew mean when they utter such phrases as "frak me."

BTW, StraightMan and I just started watching Season 2, but I am not sure that I have heard "frak you" - or possibly that crosses a kind of line? "Frak me," like "fuck me," is what one says to acknowledge one's own predicament - somewhat self-deprecating, it can be played to comic effect (esp. when the word is "frak"...) In contrast, "frak you" is hostile and possibly not funny at all.


Frack has been on my mind, too, because we live in an area where hydraulic fracturing, aka hydro fracking or fracking, are esp. live wire issues. Drive around, and you will spot "No Drill, No Spill" signs cropping up on lawns aplenty.

It might seem "obvious" that fracking comes from fracturing, but it seems also to me that there might have been a bit of deliberate wordplay involved in coining the term. Ground penetration, drilling, the pumping of fracturing fluids: We hardly need Dr. Freud to interpret for us the kinds of metaphors and images that frequently become used to describe human interactions with their environments, esp. when those interactions are intended to extract resources from the environments.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, judging from the "Battlestar" fan gear being hawked on the Web, either I missed the uttering of "frak you" or it will come in future seasons...