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Author Topic: Bad Sci-fi lingo
babooher
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I just paid good money to see an overhyped movie with the worst sci-fi lingo I've ever heard or read. I don't want to get into arguments about the film (thus I can't mention the term), but I was wondering if anyone else had nominations for the worst sci-fi terms or lingo ever.

Honorable mention automatically goes to making the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs.


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snapper
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Yeah, isn't a parsec a distance? That's like saying I made the hundred yard dash in 300 feet.
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Rhaythe
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I thought the Kessel Run thing was supposed to be a measure of distance? Didn't it go through a mine field or black hole area or something, so the pilot had to route AROUND the areas of major disturbences?
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goldhawk
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Star Trek "tech the tech" See http://scifiwire.com/2009/10/ron-moore-calls-star-trek.php
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Robert Nowall
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I remember an episode of "Bob Newhart" where he was watching a medical drama, and he (and we) heard the doctor say, "I'm sorry, but you have a gastric ulcer." Then Bob Newhart shouted, "No, no, a peptic ulcer."

Us SF types often know too much to let it go and enjoy something sometimes.

(Other than that, I've often thought later "Star Trek" episodes got kinda techno-cute with their technobabble, often to the point of unintelligibility. But then, the theory behind making the new "Star Trek" movie was that they had gotten hidebound with their continuity, unable to move out of it. Mmm...maybe I should take a look at the movie after all...)


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babooher
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When my loving wife and I walked out of the sci-fi babble film I've previously mentioned, she looked at me and said "seriously, they used the word XXX. That's the word they came up with and I'm supposed to think this is a good movie." That was my loving wife who, while intelligent, generally isn't the sci-fi type. She then went on to wonder if the writers had just put the word in the script, figured somebody would eventually change it, and then somehow, the word made it on screen as a major source of motivation to the rest of the plot.

Maybe I'm just ranting because I got suckered into spending my limited time and resources on a film that used a word so jarringly bad.

If you'll escuse me, I need to go untwist some knickers.


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DeepDreamer
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Rhaythe is right: Parsec is indeed used correctly, as the Kessel Run was basically a smuggling route through both asteroid belts and black holes, but this definition was retconned through various books and comics and other media. http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Kessel_Run
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Kitti
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goldhawk - that article was hilarious. "Tech the tech" indeed.
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Rhaythe
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I love the first comment in that article:

quote:
Fascinating. But Rom Moore's hair still scares the tech out of me.

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Robert Nowall
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I believe I know what word and what movie you're talking about---a couple of reviews commented on it.
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Pyre Dynasty
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I'm pretty sure what word you're talking about so I shan't ruin the fun for the others still trying to guess. (But yeah that was so silly, and lazy.)

For me the stupidest sci-fi term is a tie between frell and frak, both of which are just a stupid safe for tv version of the f word that I'm not going to say. (Not that I could have sat and listened to them using the normal word either.) To me it rendered Battlestar Galaga and Farplace unwatchable.

Oh and I think the Kessel run also involved skirting around areas the empire heavily patrolled, thus proving that the Falcon could outrun the Star Destroyers that were chasing Luke et al. (Although I believe that this is an explanation that George Lucas (Or his fanboys) tacked on when people started defining the word parsec to him.)


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Zero
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quote:
I thought the Kessel Run thing was supposed to be a measure of distance? Didn't it go through a mine field or black hole area or something, so the pilot had to route AROUND the areas of major disturbences?

Haha, that's just some bull**** lucas and lucasphiles came up with to save face.

The fact of the matter is that space is so extremely un-dense, there would be a perfect path for direct flight and everyone would know of it. It would have nothing to do with the ship itself, any ship (with enough speed) could do it in the best time.

And if you're doing it through "hyperspace" then all of the so-called obstacles are effectively irrelevant anyway for lamost the same reason.

Lucas botched it. So what. May as well own up to it. It's still a good movie.


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babooher
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True words, there Zero, true words.
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tchernabyelo
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If it's the film and word I think you're talking about (A****r, U*********m), then it's arguably become an established in-joke in Hollywood. To my knowledge it was first used in the hilariously bad "SF" movie "The Core" where I suspect it was used in a draft copy of the script (with a "we'll think of a better word in a later version") and somone thought it was funny and decided to leave it in.
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MrsBrown
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Oh come on, cough it up! I'm curious as hlap.
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micmcd
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quote:

If it's the film and word I think you're talking about (A****r, U*********m), then it's arguably become an established in-joke in Hollywood.

One fun thing, and one interesting thing. And yes, I was also pissed off about that word.

  1. Hours, no, days of fun could be had trying to come up with actual expletive-like words that you felt the need to "asterisk out" above. It reminds me of when Jimmy Kimmel does his "Unnecesary Censorship" bits and then a bland speech on foreign policy becomes hilarious. For those who haven't seen it, imagine Robert Gates saying "We're heavily involved in Sudan right now," only you hear "We're heavily involved in s*** right now."
  2. My buddy proposed a theory that make the writers slightly less moronic. The u***** word is only used twice in the film, and one interpretation of it is that the corporate boss guy is explaining to the soldier guy "This stuff is basically u*****," so as not to bore the "dumb soldier man" with the fact that they're trying to mine a rare 4th isotope of a molybdenum-technetium alloy. In the film, of course, they don't use "basically," so it sounds like they've discovered an element and went back in time to let Dr. Seuss name it, or perhaps they've mixed up the A***** universe with Harry Potter-land.

PS - If you're still playing the Unnecessary Censorship game at home, feel free to dig into the mixing of "the a***** universe with Harry Potter-land." In fact, by Rule #34, one of the interpretations of that has already happened (many, many times).

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited January 22, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited January 22, 2010).]


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micmcd
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Slightly more on-topic, yet ever so off, the most recent sci-fi awfulness that infuriated me to the point of wanting to actually send hand-written hate mail to the writers of the movie was the unbelievable vessel of suck that somehow managed to star Bruce Willis, a movie I cringe at remembering - Surrogates.

The sci-fi concept is actually pretty good. Lots of people use surrogates, i.e. androids that they see/hear/experience life through, and this radically reshapes our world.

My beef, or rather my many, many beefs, is that somewhere at the beginning of dreaming up that movie, they took one interesting idea and then made a series of the dumbest of all possible extensions on it. Even the giant info-dump at the beginning of the film (which, for some reason I remember in excruciating detail) is enough to blacklist them from writing anything anywhere ever.

Some gems from that "dump"

  • 98% of the world's population uses surrogates in the not-too-too-distant future. Really? 98%? Did they stop to think, "Hey, that's considerably higher than the number of people who have access to running water and don't have to poop in a hole in the ground today. But yeah, in fifty years I'm sure all of freaking Africa will be sufficiently rich that they can afford to use these incredibly expensive machines." (My impression from the film is that they are roughly as expensive as cars are to us today.)
  • The Supreme court rules, in a landmark case, allowing the use of surrogates in everyday life. I wish the last part of that sentence wasn't a direct quote, but I'm afraid I can't unremember that. Boy, aren't we all glad about that landmark supreme court case a few years back that legalized the use of computers in everyday life? What was the name of it... I forget... Bill Gates v No_damn_reason_whatsoever?!! I mean, come on... at least have the SC rule that, say, a surrogate testifying in court satisfies the right of the accused to confront his or her accuser. That would be legally contentious - the ACLU would hate it, but undercover cops would love it since they wouldn't have to expose their real faces. Do the writers think that the US Supreme court had to vote to allow us all to drive to work or to the grocery store if we want to?
  • They show giant blocked off regions of the US where people have formed basically reservations where surrogates are not allowed - the people that want to live "for real." Problem is... the areas they show blocked off by themselves could easily account for greater than 2% of the population, particularly if such places existed anywhere else on earth.
  • For some freaking reason the Boston police department can access everybody on freaking Earth's surrogate, a gross violation of privacy even if they could do it all in Boston. Oh, and if those geniuses remembered their own rules - that's 98% of the freaking planet!!! Yeah, I'm sure nobody in France would have a problem with the Boston PD being able to do pretty much anything with their surrogates.
  • The "select * from database people_of_earth" query takes about a half-second to complete. Either there has been a massive die-off in human population levels, or... I don't even know. Hey "writers" of Surrogates, and I use that term loosely. Have you ever opened up a folder on your computer and noticed that it sometimes takes half a sec for all your stuff to show up? Mac, Windows, doesn't matter. Yeah, that's your stuff. How many files have you got? Thirty? A hundred? A thousand? Imagine if it were 98% of 6 billion.
  • Even worse, they can WIRELESSLY upload a crippling virus to all 0.98 * 6 billion users in... well... there was a pause for dramatic tension... so about two minutes. Again, "writers" of Surrogates: Have you ever downloaded a song from iTunes on your iPhone (and don't even pretend that, as a Hollywood writer, you don't have an iPhone). How'd that go? Take a few minutes? Not bad, eh? Now send six billion times that amount of data. Not to the nearest cell tower, but also to the one in Kenya. And Siberia. Oh, and don't miss New Zealand.

Urgh... sorry for the excessive rant. I've just never been so pissed off by such poor writing in modern sci fi. It's like they let a promising middle-school student plan the film.


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jayazman
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Okay, I give up. What was the movie?
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JSchuler
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As I understand it, u********* is a standard filler in screen writing. I was actually relieved to hear that they just dropped the pretense. I figured they'd spend less effort on fake science and more on good story telling.

Ok, so I got that wrong.

Anyway, some bad science lingo:

I can't be certain, but in Red Planet, I swear that I hear the geneticist refer to the genetic code as "A, G, T, P."

In the English dub for "Crest of the Stars," there is a lot of talk about "anti-substance fuel."

The movie Hackers. The whole thing.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I've forgotten the reason for the coyness, so even though I haven't seen the movie in question yet, I am going to "guess" the title and the "stupid word" for those who are getting frustrated.

In AVATAR, the military-industrial complex is trying to get a hugely valuable substance they refer to as "unobtainium" and that's why they are attempting to take over the moon that the 10-foot-tall, blue aliens live on.

When I heard that the hugely valuable substance was called "unobtainium," I, too, groaned and rolled my eyes.

EDITED TO ADD: So is this "unobtainium" some kind of anti-gravity substance and that's why the moon (or floating rock, or whatever it is) floats?

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited January 22, 2010).]


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Bent Tree
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Avatar reminded me of Fern Gully Meets G.I Joe; story and characters were horrible, but the visual experience changed the way I felt about it. The premise of the Avatar itself was very cool though.

I never have understood why they cannot apply all these revolutionary, hell, even good special effects to worthy stories.


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MartinV
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I too gagged when I heard the word "unobtanium". The whole movie is like a screensaver and that's how I went to watch it.
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Robert Nowall
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(At least with "Titanic," Cameron had an actual real-life story to work with.)

Meanwhile...I like the idea of concealing a joke in a story like that...I've tried on several occasions...but I know I'd damned well better be more clever about it than "unobtainium." Couldn't Cameron and Company be more clever, too?


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babooher
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I didn't want to get into the merit of the film since it's made more money than I have with my writing.

Unobtanium is the dumbest word ever. Who discovers a new mineral and thinks, "I know, we'll call it unobtanium!" ? I'd have grinned at "Cameronite" or "Titanicum" (maybe), but unobtanium is just too pathetic.

I've never been impressed with Ayn Rand's heavy, blundering style, but she knew that if you find or create something new, you are probably going to name it after yourself or something you care about. Rearden steel is way better than unobtanium.


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aspirit
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When I watched the movie, the word bothered me, too. I felt better after friend told me why the name didn't bother him.

"So, scientists find this mineral with special properties. They give it a name, but none of the business people in their corporation can remember the name. Finally, one of the scientist throws his hands up. 'It's unobtainable. Just call it Unobtainium!' The bigwigs like that. Someone puts the joke name on a presentation. Within a day, thousands of copies of that presentation are distributed. The rest of the scientists realize too late that no one will ever again use the official name."

Today, I found the following website and now think the name is funny.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Unobtainium

[This message has been edited by aspirit (edited January 25, 2010).]


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