Origins of the name "Tribbles?"

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by T'Girl, Oct 13, 2012.

  1. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A friend of mine point out a short while ago that tribble sound very close to "tribbing," a specific sexual act engaged in by lesbians. Does anybody know if David Gerrold (author of the episode) choose the name tribbles for his delightful little beasts as a sly reference to this sex act?

    I read the book Gerrold wrote on writing the episode, and he said he considered several names, but he did not say why he ultimately choose tribbles.

    I can't help but wonder if Gerrold was "slipping one under the radar" with his final choice.

    :)
     
  2. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    You've got it backwards. According to The Urban Dictionary, it's the other way around. "Tribbling" in the sexual sense of "mating like rabbits" came from the Star Trek episode. Later it was used to mean the lesbian act you're referring to (a meaning I was unaware of 'til just now.)

    If you've read Gerrold's book, then you probably know he originally wanted to call the creatures "fuzzies," but couldn't use that name because of a possible legal issue. So he made up a list of silly-sounding names including "callahans" and "roonies" (too Irish!), "brazzies" (sounds like Australian slang) and "poofies" (let's not even go there). After narrowing the list down to a handful of words starting with "tri-", he chose "tribbles" mainly because of the possible puns with "trouble."
     
  3. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Rule 1: No poofies.
    Rule 2: Never feed the tribbles or Cyrano Jones after midnight.
    Rule 3: No poofies.
    Rule 4: No member of the Enterprise crew should be caught not drinking in their quarters while off duty.
    Rule 5: No poofies.
    Rule 6: There is NO...rule 6
    Rule 7: No poofies.
     
  4. Robert D. Robot

    Robert D. Robot Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Tribolium is the RW name of a genus of Flour Beetle, insects that get into flour and other grains. Their developing larva are major agricultural pests, especially in grain storage silos ( ... sound familiar?). A freshman biology T.A. who was a Trek fan told me that Gerrold had created the name "Tribble" as word play based on the Flour Beetle genus name, and although I have never read confirmation of this in any official Trek materials, it made so much sense to me that I have taken it to be the likely explanation.

    Also, Triticale is the genus name of a present-day hybrid of wheat and rye, so we can see where the name Quadrotriticale came from.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2012
  5. nightwind1

    nightwind1 Commodore Commodore

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    Actually, you've got it wrong.

    What the ladies do is called tribadism. (Look it up on Wikipedia- I don't want to get into trouble for linking because of the article's illustration.). It's shortened to "tribbing", NOT "tribbling".
     
  6. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    To Wiki!!!!!
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I've found the term "tribbing" in lesbian erotica written back in the early 1950's, so the term does predates the Trek episode.

    :)
     
  8. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Then I stand corrected. In any case, I'm fairly sure David Gerrold wasn't thinking of a lesbian sex act when he came up with that name.

    Perhaps "tribbing" is what regular lesbians do, and "tribbling" is what lesbian Trek geeks do.
     
  9. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Something that seriously need to be included in the next Trek series. Think of the rating points!!!

    :hugegrin:
     
  10. Robert D. Robot

    Robert D. Robot Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I've never heard the word "tribbling" used to imply anyone "mating like rabbits", but I think whoever came up with that slang needs to watch the episode more closely, or maybe take a remedial class in Exobiology at the Academy.

    McCoy discovered Tribbles were born pregnant, so no intense, rabbit-like behavior is needed. "Tribbling" should be used to imply producing offspring like crazy, not schtupping like crazy.

    ..... but I guess I am only quibbling.
     
  11. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Ask David, if you're game. He has a website and is on Facebook. ;)
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Sometimes there just isn't any deeper meaning to a name a writer comes up with except that it sounded good at the time. We know from Gerrold himself that he tried a lot of possible names and picked the one that sounded best, so that alone is enough to convince me that he wasn't starting with some underlying agenda to make it sound like something else; he was just looking for a nonsense word that would sound good, and that was the one he settled on out of all the candidates for no other reason than that it was better, or at least less lame, than the others.

    I mean, really, there are plenty of words that sound like other words, so just because two names sound similar, that's not evidence of a connection. I really don't think, for instance, that George Lucas named the Jedi after Jed Clampett. Indeed, in my own writing, a major factor in picking an alien name is avoiding names that sound too much like something else, because I don't want people to get the false impression that I'm referencing something I'm not.

    And isn't it a stretch to assume Gerrold was making a reference to tribadism specifically when there are so many other similar-sounding words like tribulations, tribune, distribute, contribute, treble, triple, dribble, and of course trouble? Not to mention trill, as in the trilling sound they make, giving it an onomatopoeic quality of a sort that's common in animal names. It's often a reach to try to read hidden meaning into something an author comes up with, but this is a truly humongous reach.
     
  13. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    From the tone of that exchange, I assumed McCoy's "born pregnant" comment was facetious and not meant to be taken literally. By "bisexual" I figured he meant that tribbles are hermaphroditic, reproducing sexually but with each individual having both male and female sex organs.

    Which brings up the question of just how tribbles breed so quickly in the first place, which might be a suitable topic for another thread.

    Well (and no disrespect intended to anyone on these forums), some folks these days do seem to look for subtexts in EVERYTHING. Specifically gay subtexts. You should read some of the ridiculous comments on the IMDb message boards!
     
  14. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    This thread is FAR too educational! :eek:

    ...I always figured the tribble/trouble thing was not a coincidence. Kinda lazy, even.
     
  15. Robert D. Robot

    Robert D. Robot Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    AHH! I should have gone back and double-checked the dialog! I had forgotten the line about the Tribbles being hermaphroditic (I agree with your interpretation!) and that McCoy had commented on their 'enthusiasm' for mating. Thanks for pointing that out!

    I still suspect that there might be a connection between Triticale-eating Tribolium and the creation of Quadrotriticale-eating Tribbles. Gerrold went to the trouble of researching the scientific name of a grain and then putting a sci-fi twist on it... seems like he might have also come across the genus name of the Flour Beetle pest & done a similar thing in creating the name Tribble.

    I always thought the idea of taking the inspiration of the naming from the RW was a clever thing to do on the part of the writer, and was a little inside joke for the biologists among us. BUT maybe it really was a incredible coincidence. Serendipity. (Well, no- that was a different Universe.... ;))
     
  16. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    The answer is in The Trouble With Tribbles book. He wrote out a bunch of nonsense words and started crossing them out until he found one he could live with. He wasn't in love with tribbles, either, but he needed something. Then he said he got the idea for the title:

    "You Think You've Got Tribbles?"

    Gene Coon hated the title, but they kept the name.