Tongue Tied

"Smeg" is a mild vulgarism which reached prominence through its use as a supposedly inoffensive expletive in the British science fiction situation comedy Red Dwarf.

During the 22nd Century, the term "smeg" seems to have become a popular vulgarism, with variations such as Smegger, smeg off, smegging hell and smeghead. Rimmer was often the target of such insults. Other swear words included goit and gimboid.

Mechanoids were programmed to obey their human masters and were not programmed to swear. However, Kryten managed to override his core programming, but could not say smeg head. The words would cause a minor malfunction, causing them to come out as "smeeeee heeee".

Outside the show[]

The show's creators (Grant Naylor) have stated it was not related to a medical term and was a made up swear word. The show has consistently claimed to know nothing of the word "smegma", and that "smeg" was entirely made up, sounding as it did like a generic, four-letter, single-syllable swear-word that might be used in the future (and so could be used in the programme in place of swear words that, at the time, would not usually be used in mainstream sitcoms).

Lexicographer Tony Thorne, in his 1990 Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (ISBN 0-7475-2856-X), reports instances of "smeg" (and derivatives) being used as a term of "mild contempt and even affection" among "schoolboys, students and punks" as early as the mid-1970s — a decade or so prior to the inception of the Red Dwarf phenomenon — and claims unequivocally that the etymology of the term traces back to "smegma".

The term "Smeg Up" was coined by the cast and crew to refer to bloopers during production; several volumes of "Smeg Up" (or, alternately, "Smeg Out") VHS tapes were released in the 1990s, and "Smeg Ups" have been regular features of the various DVD and Blu-ray releases of the series.


Logo of the appliance company

Smeg is also the name of an Italian manufacturer of upmarket domestic appliances. Vittorio Bertazzoni founded the company in 1948 in the town of Guastalla, Reggio Emilia, Italy. The name is an acronym for Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla ("Emilian metallurgical enamel works of Guastalla").

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