As far as I was concerned “yuck” was not a swear word, and I didn’t think that
tearing the label off an empty tin can created indecent exposure, but that was before
my alien friend KB-11.2, filled me in on the finer points of galactic decency.
Kaybe and I were having a soft drink together at The Enchantment, a dingy
roadhouse north of Letongaloosa. The Enchantment is the kind of joint that college towns
like Letongaloosa must have to qualify for academic accreditation.
My alien friend Kaybe isn’t one of those scary bug-eyed, green-skinned beings
that you see in sci-fi movies.. Kaybe looks like a giant tuna fish can. Erector Set® arms
sprout from the curved sides of his body, and three spindly metal legs drop from the flat
underside of his stainless steel torso. He has ball bearing wheels for feet. Three sensoreyes
wave at you from the ends of floppy antennae on the top of his lid.
No one at The Enchantment even raises an eyebrow when Kaybe rolls in and
joins me at one of the back booths. Customers are used to seeing unusual folks around
One night Kaybe and I were chatting in our favorite booth when Recycle Rick
came in carrying a big black garbage bag.. Rick picks up cans and bottles along the
highway. He starts in town and when he gets to the Enchantment he stops in to sort
everything. Then he mooches a ride back to town.
Rick is meticulous. He takes the items out of the big bag one by one, tidies them
up, and sorts them. Then he puts them into smaller plastic bags. He knows all the recycle
rules and regulations.
On the night in question, Recycle Rick came in and set up shop right across from
Kaybe and me. The first item he pulled from the bag was covered with mud. “Yuck,”
said Rick, and wiped away the mud .
“He shouldn’t swear like that,” said Kaybe.
“Yuck,” isn’t a swear word,” I said.
“It certainly is,” said Kaybe. “The Commission on Foul Communication has
banned that word throughout the galaxy. All it would take is a complaint from an alert
cosmic citizen and that guy’s communication license would be jerked, and he’d face a
seventy thousand mazimba fine.”
“Recycle Rick doesn’t have a communication license,” I said.
“Of course he has a communication license,” said Kaybe. “Everyone in the
galaxy has a communication license. Every word you say goes far beyond these walls.
Your words go out into space. Children on other planets could be listening.”
“So, if I say, @#$%^ and someone turns me in, I can be censured by the Galactic
Commission of Foul Communication?”
“No,” said Kaybe.
“Because ‘@#$%^’ isn’t a swear word.”
“But ‘yuck’ is?”
“Yes, of course, everyone knows that.”
“I didn’t know that, and Recycle Rick certainly doesn’t. Mild mannered Rick
would never swear.”
Just then Rick pulled out an empty tomato juice can from his bag and began
ripping the label off.
Kaybe rotated away and lowered his antennae with their three sensor-eyes to
the table in a gesture of acute embarrassment.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You saw that,” said Kaybe. “He stripped that tin can bare. It’s indecent. I can’t
“You can look now,” I said, “he put it in a sack. You’re weird.”
Kaybe raised his antennae from the table and winked at me with one of his three
“You’re jerking me around,” I said.
“Guilty as charged,” said Kaybe.
“So ‘yuck’ is not a swear word?”
“Not in this galaxy.”
“And there’s no Galactic Commission on Foul Communication?”
“Oh there is, but it doesn’t concern itself with words like ‘yuck.’ The Galactic
Commission on Foul Communication deals with such reprehensible terms as ‘federal
regulator,’ ‘plausible deniability,’ ‘social justice,’ ‘politically expedient solutions,’
‘federally mandated diversity,’ ‘combatant rendition,’ ‘enhanced interrogation
techniques,’ and the like.”
“People on Earth use those terms all the time and the Galactic Commission on
Foul Language has never done anything about it,” I said.
“You live on a third-world world,” said Kaybe. “The commission doesn’t waste its
efforts on backward planets like Earth.”
“Lucky for us,” I said.
“If you say so,” said Kaybe.”
Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co