Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners
Fandom: BBC’s Class
Pairing: Charlie Smith x Matteusz Andrzejewski
Characters: Charlie Smith, Matteusz Andrzejewski, Miss Quill – Andrea Quill/Andra’ath
Summary: Charlie failed to grasp the meaning of a swear word.
“Matteusz, what does ‘motherfucker’ mean?”
Matteusz was diligently dicing the carrots and potatoes for the beef stew when Charlie’s out-of-the-blue question had him almost cut off a piece of his own finger, spicing their dinner tonight with just a dash of blood. Miss Quill wouldn’t like it when you contaminated her food with human DNA. “Matteusz, be extra-aware not to contaminate my food with your human DNA,” she had said word-for-word. He guessed that was her very Quill-like version of “Matteusz, be careful not to hurt yourself over dinner.” Either that or she truly detested humans, him specifically.
“Where did you get such a word, Charlie?” Matteusz asked once he had fully recovered from the whole ‘Charlie-just-said-an-offensive-word-in-his-posh-accent’.
From where he was sitting, Charlie raised his blonde head and gave Matteusz that innocently baffled look he often sported when coming across something confusing in the human culture. Which often made Matteusz melt a little inside. His cute little alien boyfriend. “They were having this discussion on a Facebook post,” Charlie said, turning his IPad, which he ‘borrowed’ from Miss Quill as she was busy grading the students’ papers, his and Matteusz’s included, towards Matteusz’s direction. “One user wrote something and it was inaccurate so I corrected him – I think he is male – in my reply. Very politely. But then he called me a ‘motherfucker’. I didn’t understand it so I asked him its meaning, and then his reply was a litany of ‘motherfucker’s and nothing else. Some humans are really strange.”
Hearing Charlie say that word twice in a row proved to be a little too much for Matteusz.
“Don’t say that word, Charlie,” Matteusz said. “In fact don’t even think about it in your head.”
“Why is that?”
“It-It’s a swear word, meaning it’s bad an-and people using it are not usually nice.” He struggled a little to find the right words.
“Oh,” Charlie let out a small surprised sound. He sort of grasped the reason why the Facebook user had replied him with it – he had meant to insult Charlie as he had pointed out his (rather silly) fault in argument earlier. Some humans really hated it when their mistakes were pointed to them; from his short period on earth Charlie had come to understanding as much. But why was a swear word ‘bad’? That was what he failed to get. Back in his planet, ‘swear’ had involved putting one’s right hand on one’s heart and swearing life-time allegiance to the newly ascended king or queen, with nothing but utmost respect for the new crown. Even the Quill people had sworn loyalty to their cause. No-one had associated the word ‘swear’ with bad connotation; in fact, only those with honor would have sworn.
He considered asking Google and asking Matteusz and decided he wanted to hear his boyfriend’s Polish accent. “I don’t understand why a swear word is ‘bad’. To Rhodians, it was associated with solemnity and honour.”
“And Quills,” Miss Quill chimed in, never allowing a chance to remind Charlie they’d come from the same planet to slip.
“And Quills,” Charlie grudgingly repeated after her.
“Here it also means to be offensive because when you use it, you want to insult somebody. Do you have insults in your language?”
Charlie knitted his eyebrows, shaking his head. “No,” he said, a touch of exasperation, “we didn’t have insults in our culture. It would be uncivilised to say bad things about people.”
Matteusz’s smile froze a little while his hand’s chopping pace faltered. A culture with no insults. Weren’t the Rhodians even for real?
Well, Charlie was for real and he was a Rhodian, having been brought up in the apex of that culture. “Then what did you say to someone who got you, like, really pissed off? Like you wanted to vent your anger somehow but not by hitting them.”
“There was no hitting, for sure…” Charlie trailed off, a look of contemplation plastered on his countenance. “If we were displeased with someone, we gave them ‘the code of silence’.”
“The code of silence?” Matteusz echoed, sounding half confused, half intrigued.
“Yeah, it means absolute silence: no talking with or about them however long it took for them to apologise. Until then we generally treated them as non-existent.”
Silence was the best insult, Matteusz thought he had read it somewhere, probably some free self-help magazine he’d grabbed and read to pass the time on the tube. One aspect the Rhodians definitely had shared with humans. Maybe aliens weren’t so alien after all.
Still, Matteusz personally could not yet wrap his mind around Charlie’s Rhodian no-insult culture. Probably one the weirdest thing he’d heard about this month.
Miss Quill laughed, startling both Charlie and Matteusz. “I’ve heard about this ‘code of silence’ before,” she said, air-quoting, a gesture she’d no doubt learnt from watching a large number of sitcoms on YouTube, “but to hear it from you makes it sound even more absurd.”
“It’s civil,” Charlie rebuked, “and cultured.”
“The Quills had one word for insult…”
“Just one?” Matteusz asked.
And then she pronounced a word Matteusz found to be stranger than Chinese, which he was also unable to transcribe.
It must be a word from the language they’d spoken back on their planet since immediately after he’d heard it, Charlie sported his rare ‘I’m insulted’ (but still rather cute) look. Whatever Miss Quill had said must have offended him; Matteusz just didn’t know why.
So he asked, “What does that mean?”
A question directed to both Charlie and Miss Quill.
“It means ‘a Rhodian’,” Miss Quill answered. “If a Quill meets another Quill who is annoyingly stuck up, she will call that Quill ‘a Rhodian’. Best insult there is.”
Okay, Matteusz saw why Charlie was offended. Now that they were living under the same roof, sometimes it was easy for Matteusz to forget that Miss Quill and Charlie used to be enemies.
Oh, wait, maybe they still were as here and then they would wage a mini-war right in this flat, whose aftermath was a very tense atmosphere in the physics class where Miss Quill was using (more like abusing – Charlie’s word) her authority as a teacher to try to give Charlie a hard time and Charlie was giving every other student a hard time by challenging her. And yes, Miss Quill had just fired a cannon ball at Charlie’s front, to which Charlie would retaliate. Matteusz believed he understood as much to guess.
“I sincerely regret we hadn’t invented something similar in our language,” Charlie said, trying his best for a smirk.
“Too civil and cultured for that, weren’t you?” Miss Quill replied, effortlessly besting Charlie in the smirking contest. “Perhaps not so much when you released that arn into my head.”
“It was punishment,” Charlie insisted, for approximately the five hundred and fifteenth times since Matteusz came to live with him and Miss Quill. “Just and merciful.”
There, the war started again and Matteusz knew better than to interfere lest he himself become collateral damage. So he kept silent and focused on his beef stew as Charlie and Miss Quill were gradually and unconsciously slipping from English to their mother tongue. They had that habit whenever they fought.
Briefly, Matteusz wondered why Charlie had never invoked the ‘code of silence’ on Miss Quill.
The war had subsided precisely on time for the steaming beef stew to be served and then they all enjoyed their meal in comfortable silence.
Until some unknown sinister source urged Charlie to pick up on his seemingly forgotten earlier matter.
“I still haven’t gotten what ‘motherfucker’ means and why it is offensive.”
Knowing it was inevitable, Matteusz heaved an unvocalised sigh. “It’s a compound word,” he explained, “of mother and fucker. You know what mother means—”
“I do,” Charlie said, “unless it has another, rare and unknown-to-many meaning.”
“It doesn’t,” Miss Quill said. “I checked the dict.”
Charlie paid her no mind, perhaps finally having applied the ‘code of silence’.
“Yeah, it doesn’t. As for the rest…” A short pause, before he continued, “it’s like ‘shag’ and the Americans tend to use it more often. It has many other meanings though.”
Charlie sported an expression that conveyed a far greater disgust than the time he had had his first experience of spoilt foods on Earth (and yes, his first experience of spoilt foods on Earth had involved Matteusz). Even Miss Quill’s face was spelling “You humans actually do what?!”.
“I would never in a thousand lifetimes!”
“It’s an offensive word.” Matteusz quickly took a defensive stance. “We don’t take offensive words literally.”
Or else it would be totally messed up.
“Argh,” Charlie groaned. “I shouldn’t have asked during dinner.”
Of that Matteusz agreed.