The Time Family Guy Made Up Its Own Curse Word, And Then Got Censored For It

quagmire being grossed out family guy
(Image credit: fox press)

In just a few weeks, Family Guy will officially be old enough to buy alcohol, with its series premiere airing all the way back at the end of January 1999. Despite its many laudable moments during that span, from its many Emmy wins to its merchandising empire to...other things, perhaps Family Guy's most impressive achievement is getting censored for its own made-up curse word.

Some of Family Guy's censorship woes have been well documented, such as the initially banned-from-airing episode "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein," but not a lot of hubbub was made over the Fox comedy's use of the made-up obscenity "clemen" (sp?) when it was uttered back in Season 4. At least, not until the Internet got a hold of it and apparently convinced Fox censors that it was legitimately rude slang.

Longtime Family Guy writer and producer Chris Sheridan spoke with CinemaBlend at this year's Television Critics Association winter press tour while promoting his awesome new Syfy series Resident Alien, starring one of Family Guy's many guest actors Alan Tudyk. When the topic of the animated series' pop culture legacy came up, Sheridan shared the hilarious following story about the F.G. writers unwittingly setting themselves up for censorship.

[Family Guy] has been on long enough that we did a bit once where we had the word 'vagina' in an episode. They said, 'You can't say vagina on the air.' So we changed the word and we just came up with our own word and called it 'cleman.' We just swapped out 'vagina' with 'cleeman,' and it was like, 'Oh, we'll just say that. No problem.' And then several years later, we did a joke, and we use the word 'cleeman,' and they're like, 'Well you can't say that.' And we're like, 'What do you mean we can't say it?' 'Well no, it means vagina.' I was like, 'I know! We made it up.' But it made its way into the Urban Dictionary, and then we couldn't say it. I was like, 'I think that's completely unfair.' So when a show is on that long, it's just insane.

It's almost strange to think that Family Guy has been airing for so long, Bill Clinton was still the President when it debuted on Fox, and that we've gone through three other Commanders in Chief in the meantime. And that not ONE of them ever used the word "clemen" in one of their inauguration speeches. Well, that last part is not as strange.

Below, you can check out the clip in which the word was first uttered by Tom Tucker.

Of all the things that Family Guy has offended people over, I can't imagine that anyone in its viewing audience (or even any of its naysaying detractors) has ever heard the word "clemen" and felt pangs of anger and despair. The fact that Fox's censors balked at using the made-up word, despite its presence on the show years earlier, is perhaps a sign of just how inherently ridiculous the concept of swear words is in the first place. This probably isn't the time or place for that shit, though.

Family Guy fans will no doubt find things to like about Chris Sheridan's swearing-friendly new series Resident Alien, which is based off of the acclaimed comic book series from Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse. It stars genre king Alan Tudyk as the titular alien, who has been stranded on Earth inside the body of a hermitic doctor on the outskirts of a snowy Colorado town. When the main town doctor is murdered, Tudyk's Harry Vanderspeigle is called upon by local police to help solve the case, but the bigger question is whether or not Harry can accept his plight and learn how to live amongst humans. It is set to debut on Syfy in the early part of 2020.

How many of you out there have been watching Family Guy since the beginning? Let us know in the comments, and tune in when the too-hot-for-Disney+ comedy returns to Fox on Sunday, February 16, at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.