Everybody uses slang. Or almost everybody. And I suspect that folks who insist they never use slang have their own version of it. If we don’t use any cultural slang, I suspect we make it up—I mean where else would a word like shizzle come from besides someone trying NOT to say something (ahem) more colorful. My mom used to say things like dammity-hellity, son of a beach, or the ever-popular Jiminy Christmas in order to avoid … you know. She also talked about things “going to hell in a hand-basket.”
Writing any novel of science fiction or fantasy poses the issue of slang for a writer. When people are in stressful, or surprising or annoying situations, they will cork off as Mom used to say. This is true in the Galaxy Far Far Away as well. Not only do we need to posit a set of human responses to annoying or shocking or dangerous situations, but there are other cultures—both human and alien—to consider.
Now as I’m writing dialogue for Dash Rendar and company, I could just make stuff up, but I’d rather see if there isn’t an existing term that I can use. Michael, likewise, prefers not making up new slang or expletives where existing ones would do. The question is, where to mine them from?There are a number of possibilities, the original movies being at the top of the list. We all heard Han Solo tell Chewie to “Laugh it up, fur-ball.” So, the phrase laugh it up is usable as is the epithet fur-ball. Star Wars novels, comics, and games, likewise, offer a glossary of “pre-approved” words and phrases for the Star Wars writer to select from.
A number of these come from outside the GFFA. For example, words like frack and frell (the latter of which IMO, is too soft to be a really good swear word), started in other TV or movie universes, but have been used in Star Wars materials as a sort of “nod” to the other shows. Frell (which is from Farscape), was used in the video game Star Wars: Republic Commando, while Michael Kube-McDowell used frack, from Battlestar Galactica, in his 1996 novel Shield of Lies. It also appears in the Star Wars: Legacy comic series.
And of course there is the official Galactic Phrase Book and Travel Guide, from Del Rey. This compendium includes slang in a variety of languages, including Sullustan, Huttese and Ewokese. This book is referenced heavily by the various websites that pay homage to the Star Wars universe. Here I have to give a shout out to Wookieepedia for footnoting its references so that the curious fan (or writer) can trace a term back to its source and therefore decide how authentic it might be.
I’m happy to find, for example, that one of my personal favorites, dwarf-nut (which Michael also seems to find amusing), is a real honest-to-Lucas term included in the Galactic Phrase Book. I also have a fondness for floob, a Sullustan epithet Michael Reaves and Steve Perry coined for their collaboration, Death Star.
A lot of usages come directly from our current cultural repertoire of slang, others are shifted slightly to one side. In fact, LucasBooks is taking a new look at this idea of Star Wars jargon and asking its writers not to lean so heavily on it. Our editor apologetically asked if we could cut back on the Star Wars lingo. So while a character might say “Let’s get the show on the road” to mean “let’s get moving,” he might yet say he “didn’t give a Psadan’s patoot” instead of referring to a rat’s posterior. Of course, he might also characterize someone as gonzo—a term we, here in the Galaxy Right Here and Now are very familiar with.
Kudos to whoever can recall where the term gonzo was used in a Star Wars property.
Next time: After Chapter One…