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Who, or what, is "Zark" in the Hitchhiker's Guide series? When did it, he, or she originate, and what does the word "zark" refer to?

The first time I remember {it / him / her} being mentioned is on page 360 (of the Ultimate Guide, the beginning of chapter 9 of Life, the Universe, and Everything):

[The door said:] "It is my pleasure to open for you..."

[Zaphod:] "Zark off."

"...and my satisfaction to close with the knowledge of a job well done."

"I said zark off."

"Zark" is then used several times throughout the rest of the series. For example, in Mostly Harmless:

[Ford:] "An RW6, for Zark's sake. I've got this great relationship going now between my credit card and the Guide's central computer. You would not believe that ship, Arthur, it's..." (page 768 in the Ultimate Guide, chapter 18)

I know that I've seen it mentioned elsewhere in the series, but I can't find any other references right now.

The capitalization in the quote from Mostly Harmless suggests that Zark is a person, humanoid, creature, or at least a proper noun of some sort. If this is true, I don't recall Zark (I'm just going to give up on the pronoun game at this point) ever being mentioned as a person or other creature elsewhere in the book.

Is this just a creative replacement for a certain other word that has the same length and ends with the same letter? Or is it a reference to someone or something, fictional or real?

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'Zark' is an abbreviation for Zarquon, the Great Galactic Prophet, a religious figure who appears briefly in the book "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" (see H2G2 Wikia, Urban Dictionary, and Fact Index). So literally it's basically the H2G2 equivalent of 'Jeez', although its usage in phrases such as 'zark off' and 'what the zark' suggests it would more often be translated as e.g. 'fuck', as Wiktionary has it.

The practice of introducing semi-euphemistic swear words in fiction isn't restricted to Adams; for instance 'bloody' is replaced by 'ruddy' in Harry Potter and by 'bliddy' in Zizou Corder's Lionboy series.

Anyway I shouldn't be swearing in front of such tender young ears as Doorknob's! :-)

  • 6
    Ruddy and Bliddy weren't invented in those fictions though. Real people have used them, long before those works. Certainly they replace swears, but (and I may be completely misreading your point, of course) it would be wrong to say Rowling and Corder made up those words, as Adams seems to have done. – Mac Cooper Dec 26 '14 at 0:23
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    @MacCooper - Good point. I've edited my answer. – Rand al'Thor Dec 26 '14 at 0:28
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    Well, then an example of invented swear word could be "fracking" from Galactica. – SJuan76 Dec 26 '14 at 0:52
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    Could just be the Universal Translator malfunctioning at (in?)appropriate times. – Kyle Kanos Dec 26 '14 at 3:29
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    Evidence that zark is an abbreviated from of Zarquon, besides simply sounding similar? "Zark" sounded like the galactic version of "f_ck" to me... fits all the same parts of speech. Much like "frack" from BSG or "frel" from Farscape. – Lexible Dec 26 '14 at 15:02
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apparently also a verb "Zarking" as in "Zarking Fardwarks". Although "get zarked" implies this in any case. Zarquon is a phonetically convenient name for an alien potentate in any case.

I strongly suspect that Douglas Adams was influenced by Mervyn Peake as these coined combinations seem Gormenghastian. The Goon Show possibly too.

  • Broomfondle and Magicthighs ? – mckenzm Dec 30 '14 at 7:02

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