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Talk the talk.
Here's the Serenity Appendix, folks!

Basic Rim World Speech
Slang: Frontier Life
Slang: Spacefaring
Slang: Underworld
Slang: Technical
Slang: Chinese

The movement to leave Earth-that-was stands out as a remarkable event in human history, one in which cross-cultural cooperation helped to achieve what some thought was impossible. In the effort to find a new home for humanity, the primary powers of the era--the United States of America and China--worked together to create the necessary technology, manpower, and logistics for the largest migration of people ever known.
Once the exodus of mankind had begun, the close quarters and difficult survival conditions in space broke down traditional barriers of language and culture. After a full generation had lived and died in the massive convoy of ships slowly trudging from star to star, the average person was at least bi-lingual and had a very multi-cultural outlook. A person's ethnicity became far less importance than competence and character.
Thus many generations later, the children of Earth-That-Was don't think much back to the days of colonization, but continue the legacy by their almost universal fluency in both English and Chinese. Culture and language have both continued to evolve, with economics becoming a primary dividing line. It is easy to distinguish a person from the central planets from one born and raised out on the Rim. Slang and linguistic shortcuts are used on the frontier, though some have filtered back into the refined speech usually found on worlds of the Core.

English and Chinese

Folks in the 'Verse speak English or Chinese, one or the other being the dominant tongues most everywhere. It pays to know at least a little of both if you plan to get very far. Of the central planets, Londinium is primarily English-speaking, while Sihnon stands out as a center of Chinese influence.

Mutt Tongues

Hundreds of languages made the great leap from Earth-That-Was and most of them survive in the pockets and ghettos on most worlds. Only rarely, however, will anyone encounter a community that speaks a non-dominant language exclusively.


Human beings have happily fouled the gift of language with whatever inventive, vindictive, and insulting expressions they can imagine. While the traditional English swear words have survived intact, a few additional crude words have been added to the common man's vocabulary.
The basics include Gorram or Gorramit ("Run! It's the gorram law!"), Rutting or Ruttin' ("It's gettin' too ruttin' hot in here."), and Humped* ("He's got a gun on us. We're humped!"). Cursing in Chinese is considered more imaginative and expressive, and most everyone does it--at least when his mother has left the room.

*this one isn't really used that often. They used it in the pilot about two or three times and then decided to drop it from the dialogue.

Fightin' Words

Some speech isn't cursing by the traditional definition, but it will cause fists and bullets to fly just the same. Religion, politics, social class, and wealth are touchy subjects--as is mention of the Unification War.
Browncoat: Member of the Independent Factions, Independent veteran. Adopted early in the war by the Independent Factions, a brown coat has become indelibly linked to supporters of the Independents' cause. After the war's end, clothiers made good money dying brown coats blue or gray as folks wanted to forget the past and let the past forget them. Those that still "wear the brown" do it on purpose.

Frontier Slang

In English, there are two predominant speech patterns. "Core Speech" is carefully used and grammatically correct. "Frontier Slang" sounds sloppy and quaint to the Core speakers, who judge the speaker as poorly educated and low class. Those born outside the Core are more likely to have at least a little of the Frontier in their speech.

Basic Rim World Speech

  • Truncate the "g" for "ing" words. ("Schoolin'")
  • Pepper with slang adjectives.
  • Double negatives. ("It don't mean nothin' out here.")
  • Using odd words and word forms in phrases.
  • Use "don't" instead of "doesn't".
  • Ain't.
  • Odd words: druther, yonder, dang, plumb, right smart.
  • Prefixing on "-ing" ("a-runnin'")
  • No -ly pn adverbs. ("She described the plan real simple. That job's awful hard to do.")
  • Subject and Verb don't match. ("We was goin' there. He got none of that.")
  • Malformed verbs. ("He growed up real good. He come by her last night. I seen it with my own eyes. He done run off again.")
A Few Examples

--"Looks like we got us some imminent violence."
--"We got no short of ugly ridin' in on us."
--"I'm just feeling kind of truthsome right now."
--"We're in some peril here."
--"We just need a small crew, them as feel the need to be free."
--"This here's a recipe for unpleasantness."
--"I'm shocked my own self."
--"We'll be there directly."
--"But she does have an oddness to her."

Slang: Frontier Life

  • All-fired - completely. (ex. "Where'd she go gettin' all-fired jealous 'bout this?")
  • Awful, Dreadful, Mighty, Plumb, Powerful - very, really, or other adjectives for emphasis (ex. "Gettin' awful crowded in my sky.")
  • Bang-up - great. (ex. "They did a bang-up job.")
  • Bughouse - a mental hospital.
  • Git - go away.
  • Peck - A large amount.
  • Preacher - anyone religious.
  • Ornery - stubborn, not passive.
  • Run afoul - to get into trouble.
  • Shindig - a party, usually with dancing.
  • Shiny - good or valuable. (can also be used as an exclamation. For example, "That's just shiny!")
  • Size someone up - judge how tough they are or what their intentions might be.
  • Tetchy - sensitive or complaining.

Slang: Spacefaring

  • Atmo - atmosphere, as in to "leave atmo."
  • The black - space
  • Clean your housing - to give a thorough beating (as in a spaceship's engine housing)
  • Feds, Federals - Members of the Alliance, its military, law enforcement, or functionaries.
  • Go to blackout - shut down power on the ship to avoid detection.
  • On the drift - in space without fuel, unable to travel.
  • Reavers - madmen who live on the edges of civilized space, flying dangerous ships and preying on other space vessels.
  • The Rim - frontier planets, not the core.
  • The 'Verse - inhabited space or the universe.
  • Being buzzed - sensors from another ship are actively sweeping you.

Slang: Underworld

  • Doxy - prostitute.
  • Drops - illegal, addictive, narcotic drugs.
  • Second story job - breaking and entering robbery.
  • Scratch - valuables.
  • The goods - loot.
  • Went south - problems appeared, the plan fell apart.
  • Tonic - amateur or illegal alcoholic drink.
  • Bushwhack - ambush.
  • Footpad - pickpocket thief in a town.
  • Hornswoggle - to trick someone.
  • On the dodge - wanted by the police.

Slang: Technical

  • Advocate - a lawyer.
  • Cortex - wide-spread information network.
  • Genseed - genetically engineered crop seeds used on freshly terraformed worlds.
  • Skyplex - orbital city or space station.
  • Wave - a communication: text, audio, video, or holographic.

Chinese Phrases

The following phrases can be tossed into whatever situation seems most appropriate--or not. These just scratch the surface of Chinese cursing possibilities. While even educated, refined folk swear every now and then, you're more likely to hear most of these phrases out of a free-boosting fringe rat.

A knot of self-indulgent lunacy: Fang zong feng kuang de jie
A real ba***rd!: Ge zhen de hun dan!
A switch to those girls' backsides is just good enough: Bian da ta men de bei jiu gou le
Abracadabra-alakazam: Tian-ling-ling, di-ling-ling
Accusing someone of lying, a ridiculous notion, or talking out of the posterior: Fang pi, literally "to break wind"
Act blindly: Bi se yan jing zhuo ma que, literally "try to catch sparrows with one's eyes blindfolded"
Agitate someone out of hiding: Da chow jing ser, literally, "beating the grass to startle the snake"
Aah!: Ai ya!
Alas: Zao gao, literally "spoiled cake"
All talk: Da chong wu dan, literally "big gun, no bullet"
All that is proper: Suo you de dou shi dang
All the planets in space shoved up my butt: Tai kong suo you de xing qiu sai jin wo de pi gu
Alliance: Tong meng
An absolute genius: Zhen de shi tian cai
Are we clear?: Dong le ma
As far as the eye can see: Yi wang wu ji, literally "look afar no bound"
A**-kicking killer: Xiong can sha shou
Attributing an unfortunate longshot occurrence: Yeh lu jwo duo luh jwohn whei jian gui, literally "do enough nighttime travels and one will eventually see a ghost"; also a warning of future retribution.
Awesome: Gao gan, literally "high pole"
AWOL: Kai xiao chai
Baboon's arse: Fei fei pi gu
Baboon's a** crack: Fei fei de pi yan
Ba***rd: Hun dan, literally "rotten egg"
Big Boss or operator of a business: Lao ban; Lao ban ni'un for a female boss or proprietor's wife. Also informal appellation for acquaintances.
Big Brother, Older Brother: Ge or Ge-Ge, the former is more intimate and connotes a blood relation.
Big stupid pile of stinking meat: Yi dwei da buen chuo roh
Big Sister, Older Sister: Jie or Jei-Jei
Blessing on you: Zhu fu ni
Blindside or conspire against someone secretly: Fahn leong jian, literally "shoot a cold arrow"
Bon Appetit!: Nin chi hao
Boss: Lao ban. Also informal appellation for acquaintances.
Boss (Female): Lao ban ni'un. Also informal appellation for acquaintances.
Bottoms up: Gan bei, literally "dry cup"
Brilliant: Jing cai
Browncoat: Zong yi
Cheap floozy: Jian huo
Check it out, inspect: Jian cha
Check at once: Ma shang jian cha
Cheering or urging someone on: Jia you, literally "add fuel", equivalent of "go (name)!" in English.
Cheers: Gan bei, literally "dry cup"
Chinese/Mandarin language: Jwohn Guo Hua
Cool: Ku
Come in, enter: Qing jin
Commit blunder of great magnitude: Bie wu long
Complete disarray or sheer pandemonium: Tian fuhn di fu, literally "sky tumbles while earth turns over"
Completely useless: Tian di wu yong
Congratulations: Gong xi
Conniving or scheming person: Gui tou gui nao, literally "ghost head ghost brain"
Consistently useless: Jing-chang mei yong de
Cow Dung: Niu shi
Cow Poop: Niu fen
Cow sucking: Xi niu
Crap: Gou shi
Crap: Zao gao, literally "spoiled cake"
Crazy dog in love with its own feces: Ai chr jze se duh fohn diang gou
Cursing: Ma jung hwa, literally "chastise with dirty words"
Cute: Ke ai
Damn, my god: Ai ya
Damn it: Zao gao, literally "spoiled cake"
Danger/Dangerous: Wei xian
Dangerous person or animal: Wei xian dong wu
Darling: Bao bei
Daydream or wishful thinking: Bai ri meng
Deserving of bad consequence or fate: Hwo gai
Despicable: Kuh wu
Do something for nothing in return, or wasted endeavor without a payoff: Yee yan, literally "a charity show".
Done for: Wan dan, literally "finished (cooked) egg"
Don't worry: Fang xin
Dumbass: Chun, descriptive literally "retarded"
Earthshaking: Jing tian dwohn di, literally "startle the sky and shake the earth"
Empty Threat: Da chong wu dan, literally "big gun, no bullet"
Engage a monkey in a feces-hurling contest: Gen hou zi bi diu shi
Enough of this nonsense: Gou huang tang
Everyone shut up!: Ni men dou bi zui!
Everything under the sky: Tian shia, can be used to allude to the world or the universe
Excrement: Mi tian gong
Explosive diarrhea of an elephant: Da xiang bao zha shi de la du zi
Extraordinarily clever: Gao gan, literally "high pole"
Extraordinarily impatient Buddha: Zhen mei nai xing de Fo zu
Fear nothing but (fill in the blank): Tian bu pa, di bu pa, tze pa...
Fellow: Ja hwo
Female companion or girlfriend: Ma tze, a somewhat derogatory slang; add Dow in front for "looking for a girlfriend"
Filthy fornicators of livestock: He chu-sheng za-jiao de zang-huo!
Fire!: Kai huo (as in shooting), fen huo (as in starting)
Fire at will or terminate with extreme prejudice: Da kai sa jeh, meaning "breaking the Buddhist vow against killing"
Flat-chested: Hur bao dan, slang, literally "eggs cooked sunny-side up"
Foiled or ruined at the last moment: Soh ya fei tian, expression, literally "a cooked duck flies away"
Fool: Sha gua, literally "stupid melonhead", or ben dan, literally "stupid egg"
Friend, pal, buddy: Peng you
Frog-humping son of a b****: Qing wa kao de liu mang
F***: Ta ma de! (vulgar term)
Gang, crew, or confederate of diehards: Se duhng
Gang or faction leader: Da gher ga for male, da jeh da for female, slang
Garbage: Le se
Get bold or audacious: Fang dan, literally "release courage"
Get lost: Kwai jio kai
Go all out, hold nothing back: Ping ming, literally "fight for one's life"
Go away: Kuai qu hen yuan de di fang, literally "go far away very fast"
Go die: Chui se
Go to hell: Chui se, literally "go die"
God knows what / name of all that's sacred: Tian xiao de
G**d*mn monsters: Tian sha de e mo
Good: Hao
Good-for-nothing: Bu lang bu you
Good journey or bon voyage: Yi lu shun feng, or yi lu ping an
Good luck: Ju hao yun
Great: Da bian hua, literally "big change"
Greetings: Nihao
Handsome: Shuai
Happy development or fortuitous turn of event: How shi sung chung, literally "a good show's about to start", can be used sarcastically
Have desires above one's social/financial position, or beyond one's ability to realize: Lai huh ma shi yong tze tian e zoh, literally "for a toad to think of eating a swan"
Hell: Gui, literally "ghost"
Hell, underworld: Di yu
Hello: Nihao
Hey!: Wei
Holy testicle (exclamation): Shen sheng de gao wan
Home wrecking tramp: Hu li jing, literally "fox spirit"
Horrible old tyrant: Ke-wu de lao bao jun
Hurry or make haste: Gan mang
I don't believe my eyes!: Wo bu shin wo dah yan jing
I neither see nor hear you: Wo dui ni bu wen bu jian
I'm sorry: Dui bu qi
Idiot: Ben dan, literally "stupid egg", or chun zhu, literally "retarded pig"
Imminent Doom: Wan dan, literally "finished (cooked) egg"
Impossible: Bu ke neng
Impressive display or visage but no substance: Da chong wu dan, literally "big gun, no bullet"
In the doghouse: Leng gong, literally "a cold palace," which is where an emperor confines those concubines who have fallen out of favor
In that case, nevermind: Na mei guan xi
Jerk: Hun dan, literally "rotten egg"
Junk: Fei wu
Just our luck: Zhen dao mei
Kick me in the butt: Ti wo de pi gu
Leader of a criminal operation: She tou, literally "snakehead", derogatory.
Leave one to his own fate: Tze sh'un tze mieh
Let me repeat myself: Wuo jai jeong yi chi
Let's take a deep breath: Yi qi shen hu xi
Life support failure: Shuhn ming shi t'wohn gu jong
Like hell/In your dreams: Jian ta de gui, literally "see his ghost", or jian gui which likely means "seeing ghosts"
Little Brother: Di or Di-Di
Little Sister: Mei or Mei-Mei
Long time no see: Hao joh bu jian
Loopy in the head: Feng le, literally "insane"
Male companion or boyfriend: Kai tze, also a somewhat derogatory slang
Make a big mistake: Bie wu long
Make an example of someone: Sha ji gei hou kan, literally "kill a chicken in front of a monkey"
Merciful Buddha protect us: Ren ci de Fo zu qing bao you wo men
Merciful God, please take me away: Ren ci de shang di, qing dai wo zou
Merciless Bastard: Leng xue za zhong, literally "cold-blooded mixed-breed"
Merciless Hell: Ai ya tian a!
Mind your own business: Guan ni ziji de shi
Miss: xiao jie, literally "little lady." Follows a name when addressing a known person, so River Tam would be addressed as Tam River xiao jie, or simply Tam xiao jie.
Mister: xian sheng, literally "born before me." Follows a name when addressing a known person, so Simon Tam would be addressed as Tam Simon xian sheng, or simply Tam xian sheng.
Monkey raping: Qiang bao hou-zi de
Monkey's butt: Hou-zi de pi-gu
Moron: Ben dan, literally "stupid egg", or chun zhu, literally "retarded pig"
Mother of God: Wo de ma
Mother of God and all her crazy nephews: Wo de ma he ta de fen kuang de wai sheng dou
Motherless goat of all motherless goats: Gao yang zhong de gu yang
Muddled, Mixed-up, Confused: Wu tou wu nao, literally "without a head or a brain"
No problem: Mei wen ti
No way: Cai bu shi
(a) Nobody: Wu ming shao zu, literally "nameless little footsoldier"
Nonsense, rubbish, superfluous words: Fei hua
Not advised: Quan gao bu yi
Not enough: Bu gou, or Hai bu gou for "not enough yet"
Not good: Zao gao, literally "spoiled cake"
Not keeping a rendezvous: Fang ge zi, literally "release a pigeon" but insinuating not picking up the bird at the destination.
Not much of a choice between the two: Ban jin ba liang
Nothing ventured, nothing gained: Bu ru hu xue yan de hu zi, literally "how can you catch tiger cubs without entering the tiger's lair"
Now, immediately: Ma shang
Nuts: Shiang Jing Ping, or just Shiang Jing; Fah Shiang Jing for "going nuts"
Nuts: Kuang zhe de, literally "crazy"
Oddball or Goof: Chai Neow
Of course: Dang ran
Oh, this is a happy development: O, zhe zhen shi ge kuai le de jin zhan
Oh God, no: Lao tian, bu
Oh my God: Wo de tian a
Okay: Hao
Old: Lao
Old friend: Lao peng you
Old man / husband: Lao gong
Old lady / wife: Lao po
One must be ruthless to be great: Wu du bu zhong fu, literally "a person without poison is not a great man"
Out of touch with reality: Bi mu se ting, "shut one's eyes and stop up one's ears"
Outdo someone or doing one better: Dao-gao-yee-chi moh-gao-yee-juhn, expression, literally "the solution advances a yard, the problem advances a mile"
Over my dead body: Chu fei wo si le
Pal: Lao xiong, "old chap", between male friends
Panda urine: Xiong mao niao
Paranoid, extremely suspicious: Bei gong she ying, literally "mistaking the reflection of a bow in the cup for a snake"
Pathetic wretch: Bei bi xiao ren, literally "shameless little dirty person"
Peon: Wu ming shao zu, literally "nameless little footsoldier"
Petty: Suo xi
Prehistoric: Lao Diu Ya, literally "so old as to lose all teeth"
Pig's Sty: Zhu fuen chse
Pile of sun-baked dog poo: Ri shao gou shi bing
Plain, bland, bare: Yong chwen mien, slang taken from the namesake generic, flavorless noodle dish.
Please be quiet: Qing an jing yi dien
Pool of Excrement: F'n Zse
Pool of pig droppings: Zhu fuen chse
Posterior, bottom, butt: Pi gu
Precious: Bao bei
Real man, manly man: Nan zi han
Really Dangerous: Wei xian, more poetic, wo hu chung long, which is "crouching tiger, hidden dragon" and expression for something dangerous.
Remorseless harridan: Bu hui hen de po fu
Retreat, run away: Jio weh sung chiuh, phrase summarizing the last of the Chinese "36 Stratagems", which extols the virtue of fleeing to fight another day.
Ridiculously strange, illogical or nonsensical: Mo ming qi miao, literally "not understanding the peculiarity"
Ruined, finished: Wan dan le
Ruthless or savage beast of a person: Ching soh
Scoundrel: Huai dan, literally "bad egg"
Screw him/her running: Gun ta jwo lu
Screw you: Qu ni de
Shameless Hussy: Meh lian duh jyah ji, literally "faceless bastard prostitute"
Shiny, awesome, fantastic: Jahn!
Sh** on my head! (or another expletive): Ai ya, huai le!
Shut up: Bi zui
Shut up (as in, 'Get out' or 'yeah right'): Hu che
Shut up, all of you!: Ni men dou bi zui!
Shut up and make us wealthy: Bi zui, rong wo men fa cai
Shut up, you inconsiderate schoolboys!: Bi zui, nin hen bu ti tie de nan sheng!
Sir: Da yeh. When used as a nobility, Nuhn Jwei, following the name.
Small fry: Wu ming shao zu, literally "nameless little footsoldier"
Smelled a fart: Wen guo pi
So guilty as to deserve a thousand deaths: Jwei gai wang se
SOB: Wang ba dan, or gou neong yung de for a more literal and vicious translation.
Speak now and quickly: Yo hua kuai so
Speaking without a clue: Xia hua, literally "blind talk"
Splendid: Jing cai
Stop talking: Ju kou
Stubborn disciplinarian: Pian zhi de jie cha yuan
Stupid: Yu ben de
Stupid son of a drooling whore and monkey: Liu kou shui de biao zi he hou zi de ben er zi
Stupid inbred sack of meat: Ben tian sheng de yi dui rou
Sweetheart: Bao bei
Swindle: Guai
Suicidal idea: Zu sha zhu yi
Surrender, give up: Tou xiang
Take care, stay healthy: Bao zhong, literally "maintain weight"
Talk nonsense: Shia suo
Teacher: Lao shi
Thanks: Xie xie
There's nothing in this plan that isn't horrific: Zhe ge ji hua zhen ke pa
Things never go smooth: Hao yun bu lai, huai yun bu jwo, literally "good luck don't come, bad luck don't leave"
Time out!: Yi qi shen hu xi, literally "Let's take a deep breath"
To throw in a monkey wrench: Gwai ma jiao, literally "twist a horse's legs (while it's galloping)"
Too bad: Zao gao, literally "spoiled cake"
Trouble, problem, complication: Ma fan
Troublemaker: Wan nao
Tyrant, iron-fisted ruler: Ba wang
Ugly or perverted person: Zhu Bajie, insult taken from the name of the hoggish, lecherous character in the popular Chinese folktale, "Journey to the West"
Understand: Dong, dong ma for "understand?" dong le ma for "are we clear here?"
Unnecessarily complicating something, or overdoing it: Hua she tian zu, literally "draw a snake and add feet to it"
Urine-soaked demons (or something to the effect): Niao shi de du-gui
Very: Fei chang
Violent lunatic: Xiong meng de kuang ren
Vixen: Hu li jing, literally "fox spirit"
Wah!: Wa, an exclamation, meaning the sound of vomiting.
Wait/hold on a second: Deng yi miao
Warning someone against doing things 'the hard way': Jing zhou bu chi chi fa zhou, literally "choosing to sip the wine of penalty over that of respect"
Watch your back: Zhen ta ma yao ming. Zhu yi. Literally "this is pretty da**ed dangerous. Pay attention"
Water: Shui
We will enjoy your silence now: Bai tuo, an jing yi dian
We're in big trouble: Ai ya wo men wan le
Weak-a** sauce: Lan dan jiang, literally "rotten egg sauce"
What?: Shen me
What is that?: Na shi shen me?
What is this?: Zhe shi shen me?
What a mess: Zao gao, literally "spoiled cake"
What is this garbage?: Zhe shi shen me lan dong xi?
Whores in hell!: Ta shi suo you di yu de diao zi de ma!, literally "she is the mother of all prostitutes in hell"
Whores of SOBs: Wang ba dan de biao zi
Wonderful!: Pai an jiao jue, literally "slap the table and shout with praise"
Yes, affirmative: Shi a
You don't deserve it: Ni bu ying de zhe ge, or Ni bu gou ge
You fink/wretch/etc: Ni hun qiu
You want a bullet right in your throat?: Ni yao wo kai qiang
You wanna die?: Ni zhao si ma?
You're all idiots: Ni men dou shi sha gua, literally "all of you are foolish"
Young one: Nian qing de, or ying chi, slang for underaged (literally "infant teeth")