In the TV series The 100 there is described a punishment used on multigenerational space ship. Its being described as "To float someone":

Given person is put to an airlock without any protective suit and outer airlock is then quickly opened, causing rapid decompression, sucking that person to space and thus killing them.

Pretty gruesome type of execution, huh?

It does not surprise me that float is used as swear word:

  • Go float yourselves!
  • Float you!

However, how can we use "float" also as description of a procedure?

It seems to me, that people also use the word float as description of punishment:

  • What are we going to do with [this bad person]? We will float him!
  • What happened to Bob? He killed two people, therefore he has been floated

It does not give me sense to use same word for a curse word and legal term at the same time

I know that closest example is Jaywalking where term Jay meant something really naughty. But in common English, (I hope) people do not use phrases like:

  • Isn't he stupid? Yes, he is such Jay!

So, to repeat the question: Can we have legal term word used as a swear word at the same time? Is such evolution of language possible? And if so, how?

(P.S.: I know that the TV series is going this way mostly because they want the series accessible to kids, which I imagine is nearly impossible if you use another F-word)


closed as off-topic by sphennings, ShadoCat, Bellerophon, StephenG, Frostfyre Mar 7 '18 at 19:40

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – sphennings, ShadoCat, Bellerophon, StephenG, Frostfyre
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How is this about worldbuilding? If you want a legal term to also be a curse word, you as the worldbuilder get to say so. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Mar 7 '18 at 18:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Jay is also the name of a bird. There was a time when ladies would swear by saying "sugar". Obviously in place of "sh**". A word like "screw" remains in common usage while having a perjorative meaning too. Words gain their meaning from their context. This includes culture. Note to VTCers, worldbuilding can include linguistics. $\endgroup$ – a4android Mar 8 '18 at 0:42

Can I assume you are not a native English speaker? That may explain the confusion - words with multiple meanings and ways to use them can be hard to get the hang of using.

The use of a word as both a noun and a verb is quite common in English - the word "polish", for example - you can polish something (a shoe, a trophy, etc) with polish. The word float is already a verb in English, though the noun "float" is more commonly associated with a display in a parade, and not with "a buoyant thing that can be placed on the water"

When Robert Bork was unilaterally blocked from becoming a Supreme Court Justice, the verb "to Bork" popped up for a while, meaning "to block approval of someone or something" as in "we don't like their candidate for manager, we're going to Bork him". Similarly, train conductors may say "only the first four cars of this train will platform", meaning that only the first four cars will open their doors at the platform of the next stop.

There are a number of words that can have rude meanings, depending on their use. "Push off" can mean to help a boat leave the pier, but in British English it can also be a somewhat rude term, a mild replacement to "F" off. "Bone" is another very common one - one can "bone a chicken", as in remove all the bones from a chicken, but "boning a chick" might mean something else entirely. One can also describe oneself as being "boned" which would mean...in great trouble.

So in the case of the term above, if answering the question "What happened to Bill after his trial?" The answer "he was floated" would not likely be seen as rude, but to say "I'm floated" would. Context, and tone of voice would be important to take into account here.

I wasn't aware of "Jay" being a rude term, I just went and looked it up. There's a possibility it either came from, or turned into "jerk", a word which was once seen as far more rude than it is now. Though interestingly, it was at the same time the common term for someone who worked as an ice cream parlor of soda shop - "soda jerk".

BTW, the "f-bomb" is rather unique in that it had evolved uses as (I believe) every part of speech - noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc. I don't know of too many other words with that distinction.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.