Alfred Hitchcock in a publicity shot for Dial M for Murder, 1950
Alfred Hitchcock in a publicity shot for Dial M for Murder, 1950
I’ve always considered Dune and its many sequels more science fantasy than science fiction. Sure, there’s starships and other planets, not to mention sandworm biology, but there’s also a Catholic-like sisterhood with sinister mind powers, swordfights, a Chosen One trope, and a feudal society with emperors, princesses, and dukes. Herbert cribbed a lot from human history as well (the Hapsburgs, the spice trade, the rise of Islam, the Old Testament) so the books could, in a sense, also be called historical fantasy. Let’s add steampunk to the list too, for all the mentions of clockwork mechanisms and old-timey social mores. (If released today, they’d probably defy categorization.)
One character who has always gotten the short shrift is Princess Irulan, the eldest daughter of the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, one of the baddies of the original book. Irulan serves as the binding force that holds the novel together, her narrations beginning each chapter. She serves the same purpose in the David Lynch version of the movie, her talking head introduction easing the newbie viewer into Herbert’s convoluted fantasy. Storywise, she serves as the mighty brought low trope, the tall, haughty blonde (can you say WASP?) married off to Paul Atreides so he can claim the Emperor’s throne. But at the end of the story Paul is no prize. He’s tanned to leather as a Fremen and has freaky blue eyes, his mind permanently altered by spice usage. To add insult to injury, he never consummates his marriage with Irulan, keeping true to his Fremen sweetheart Chani, who bears the twins who are his heirs. Irulan is little better than baggage, and unwanted baggage at that.
How this affects Irulan is by turning her into a victim of Stockholm syndrome. From some point in the future she writes the texts that become the chapter headers of the past, and judging by them, she has become slavishly devoted to the very odd family she married into. In the Lynch movie, Virginia Madsen does a swell turn as Irulan, her chiseled yet sensual features matching the character.
In Children of Dune Irulan was replaced by her sister Wensicia as the scheming villainess, but by then I had lost interest in the series. The characters I knew well and had sympathized with were all going off into different directions that put the lie to the conclusion of the first book, and I wish I had ended the series there.
In the Dune universe Irulan had four younger sisters, who, though they were not featured in the first book, were featured in the glossary at the end of the first book… which, for me, was actually more fun to read than the actual book. Herbert had a way with names, perhaps second only to LeGuin. The sisters had names odd enough to stand out, but familiar enough to feel comfortable with: Chalice, Rugi and Josifa are only a few letters off from the old-fashioned Alice, Ruby, and Josephine. Going by the glossary alone I expected to read more about them, but only Irulan figured in the plot. I wish, in some alternate universe, the whole series could have been about the princesses. Ah well, off to AOC to look up some fanfic.
Cobalt’s axim: If you open up a graphic novel and see psychedelic mountains made of disembodied boobies, it must be French.
For this series so far I’ve been generating American military slang which could be used in the modern era. In previous conflicts, however, such slang existed too. Redcoats, as every school child knows (well, those who were alive during the American Bicentennial) was slang for British soldiers in the Revolutionary War, along with the less well-known Lobster or Lobsterback. The Civil War gave us Webfoot (infantryman) while WWI was the origin of terms like Shellshock, Basket Case, Cooties, and Strafe.
Like all my names these are free to use or inspire.
|Rooster: A watch/watchman to a private’s room
Rotorhead’s Drilling Hat: A hat worn by a military mechanic in the Middle East
Russ: A term of endearment for a male Marine, or anyone having a pasty white body. Try to run a last mile in any marine’s gear and the room is over half occupied by these sorts.
Set Up: An advanced landing stage on the fly boat
Urban Footwear: A term used by sailors to refer to athletic shoes
UDA: Unintentional Disposal Association
Vidinator: A pilot who oversees a restricted area
Wag-Tag: Another name for an aircraft carrier
Yardrunner: Soldiers who have completed a challenging training regimen
Zoo Hundred: Usually shouted by a crew on an errand
Are you wearing yours?
Among the more well-known of military slang words are snafu and FUBAR. Both originated in WWII. Snafu has since passed into regular language use as a noun meaning a mess, an unexpected monkey wrench thrown into one’s plans. Originally SNAFU, the letters stood for Status Nominal: All Fucked Up, a sarcastic term referring to the normal chaotic state of military life in the field.
FUBAR, in contrast, still keeps its acronym status, which means Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. Both terms have polite definitions in which “fouled” is substituted for the “fucked.”
Here’s some more randomly created military slang.
Jigabo: A sailor’s companion
Jive Batman: Long-suffering husband of a sailor
Jock: Enlisted man
Johnson: A General or USMC Field Marshall
Jumper suit: By definition, anything that can be worn in a parachute. You’ll want the perfect fit, but don’t wear a suit on this one!
Jumped-up Bootleg: Insulting term for newbies (nearly all of us)
Junk: Items that are not normal sized, such as tents or pallets
Landrezzer: Fully-automatic machine gun that fires a plastic disc
Navy Ace: President of the United States of America
Oath Keeper: Navy staff officer
Q-Boat: Container ship
“Pay me a visit,” Medusa said. “We’ll get stoned together.”
Military slang is obscure and puzzling even at the best of times. It’s easy for civilians to pick up terms readily bandied about by journalists like MREs (military rations) and those from TV shows and movies, like dogtag and grunt. But there’s a whole slew of others, some dependent on location, like AWACS (Airborne Early Warning and Control System, familiar if you live around Boeing Field in Seattle) and others by war, for example, the Hanoi Hilton.
For this type of rich, varied list I use talktotransformer, feeding it examples from real life military slang.
|Anytyzer: Enemy armored vehicle
Arctic Cat: Transforming tool, used to sculpt scaly plates from sea ice
Awlfish: Amphibious truck
BadShibe: U.S. Army Quartermaster
Barbwire Smiles: U.S. Army Rangers
BB Bumblebee: Surgical projectiles
Bubble Bob: A Naval officer
Bushwacker: Commander of Task Force Able, or 3rd Air Force veteran
Bust-O-Matic: The blast deflector array used on many ex-USMC (Ex-Navy) F/A-18 Hornet fighters
Cohicoon: Heavy round of artillery
Colonel Reptilicus: Ew!
Compy: The x-ray dummy used to transport medicine to locations
Deepwater Sam: A Naval officer
Evergreen: Struck off a ship after being with too many other ships
Flaming Heart: Member who sacrifices for the good of the unit
GAS: Gunfighters abbreviation for gas assist
Hamburger: An informal term for beer
Independent: An officer who has failed at the rank of corporal
You talkin’ to me?