Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.

Raunch Review: Red Dwarf
Raunch Review: Red Dwarf
The Author: Rob Grant & Doug Naylor
Work in Question: Red Dwarf
The Profanity: “Smeg”

In the annals of science fiction and fantasy, it’s hard to think of a faux-profanity more beloved than “smeg.” There isn’t any other fanbase I can think of that has adopted a series-specific faux-profanity as a moniker. But the “smegheads” who adore the BBC science fiction comedy Red Dwarf use the term unabashedly.

Controversy surrounds “smeg,” with some questioning its faux-status, and it is difficult to pin down answers. Some of the cast (Robert Llewellyn) claims it’s rooted in the real world whereas others say the opposite (creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor). In fact, on the interview CD from the Six of the Best box set, the creators are quoted as saying, “we wanted to invent a futuristic curse word which had the right sort of consonant and vowel arrangement to make it sound like a genuine… curse word.”

Whether you believe it to be real or fake, it’s easy to appreciate its simplicity and it works in plenty of uses throughout the show’s run. I wish there were some hints to its meaning within the writing or at least nod toward its orthographic or semantic drift. As a vulgarity, it captures the right tone, and it doesn’t feel like a skip around censors (looking at you, Battlestar). So, “smeg” on smegheads.

Score: Half Swear (3.5)

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Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.