Lexicon Valley

Felgercarb: An Underused, Sci-Fi Word for BS

Illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo

As part of the launch of Bullshit: A Lexicon, Mark Peters is writing a BS word of the day. 

Now we’re getting deep (so to speak) into the lexicon of BS—and of geeks too.

This term first appeared in the pilot of Battlestar Galactica back in 1978. Felgercarb—which sounds like some kind of bogus carbohydrate—doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and it hasn’t been much of a lexical success. It’s no truthiness (a word I’ll discuss Friday). But it does pop up now and then among the hardcore geek crowd.

For example, a comment on the appropriately named Hot Air works this term into a nice rant:

The ballot box has been corrupted with electronic felgercarb and illegal voters.
The courts have been corrupted by a lack of knowledge of the Constitution and a lack of ethics and morals.
The Pols are corrupt Kleptocrats.
The Executive is corrupt, PERIOD.
Even the currency is corrupted beyond recovery.

In reference to Windows 10 and privacy issues, SciTech Scotty wrote: “I’m starting to wonder if I want this felgercarb on my computer. I might use 7 for gaming, Linux for everything else.” Also on Twitter, Matt Dahan summed up felgercarb’s small, insistent place in English: “you know you’re addicted to #SciFi when your swear words include ‘frack,’ ‘frell,’ ‘felgercarb’ and ‘dren’ #battlestargalactica #farscape.”

(Subtle hint alert! For far more on felgercarb and other sci-fi words, you should really buy my book, Bullshit: A Lexicon, which includes plenty o’ info on sci-fi BS words like Star Trek’s targ manure and Futurama’s crapspackle.)

Geekery aside, felgercarb is barely a stain on the English language, but BSG did have a few notable lexical contributions. Frak (or frack) is the biggest. This euphemism for the F-word was introduced on the original show, then used early and often on the reimagined show, which ran from 2003–09. Frak has everything going for it that felgercarb lacked. Frak is the same length as fuck, and it has two of the same sounds. It’s a natural coinage that’s easy to use in variations like clusterfrak and motherfraker. Frak has been successful enough to be included in the most recent edition of The F-Word, in which Jesse Sheidlower immortalized it alongside terms (such as starfucker and mofo) and idioms (like I’ve been to three county fairs and a goat-fucking contest).

Frak is pretty commonly used, especially in situations where people want to fly their geek colors. For example, a ChicagoNow blogger wrote: “Why the Frak Is There Gluten in Shampoo?!” Though the post is mainly about shampoo ingredients, you can tell the writer relishes the chance to explain the BSG reference to the uninitiated in paragraph one.

The other successful BSG word is Cylon. As the main bad guys of BSG, the Cylons were two kinds of villain in one. In the original show, they were evil robots who rebelled against humans. But in the 2000s show, some Cylons looked like humans, so they were also covert dangers, like replicants and vampires. “Who’s a Cylon?” was a major dilemma of the show and a fun thing to wonder about in real life about anyone you don’t like.

All these words could be put to very practical use during a presidential debate. I want to see a moderator bold enough to ask the questions that really matter:

“Do you get paid by the load of felgercarb?”

“Are you a Cylon? If not, under what circumstances would you betray Earth to the Cylons in exchange for Cylon sex?”

“What the frak?”

Previously on BS Word of the Day