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smirting

noun [uncountable]

socializing in a romantic way whilst smoking outside a place such as a bar, restaurant etc, where smoking is prohibited or illegal

smirt

verb [intransitive]

smirt

noun [countable]

'It's called smirting, and it's almost certainly coming to a smoking zone near you soon … If you think you've already smirted because you stand in the office car park three times a day sharing smoke breaks with Eric from accounts, think again. … Smirting brings you into contact with a far greater variety of people than shuffling about on a dancefloor ever could …'

The Sunday Times 26th February 2006

'Outcast "smirters" have a new way to find light of their lives …'

San Diego Union-Tribune 18th April 2004

Smoking might damage your health, but could do wonders for your love life, it seems, as increased concern for a smoke-free environment has inadvertently given birth to the concept of smirting.

advocates of smirting claim that it holds many advantages over trying to strike up a conversation at a crowded bar

Smirting is the new label given to the scenario of being in a pub or restaurant where smoking is forbidden, going outside for a quick cigarette, and taking the opportunity to do a bit of flirting in the cool night air with a fellow smoker. Even though we theoretically live in an enlightened world where smoking is out of fashion and no longer supposed to be 'cool', in places like the Republic of Ireland, where a complete ban on smoking in bars, pubs and restaurants has been in force since 2004, going outside for a quick smoke is rapidly overtaking speed-dating as the new way to spice up your love life. The craze has swept through Ireland since the ban, with enterprising pubs and bars introducing outside areas for smokers to gather.

Advocates of smirting claim that it holds many advantages over trying to strike up a conversation at a crowded bar. Simply asking someone for a light avoids any introductory awkwardness, and the five-minute life-span of a cigarette means that you can simply go back inside or carry on chatting, depending on how you feel about the other smoker. In Ireland, smirting has to some extent caused the smoking ban to backfire, with evidence of a rapid increase in the number of social smokers all over the country, so it probably won't take long for non-smokers to realize they're missing out on all the fun and start stepping outside for 'a breath of fresh air' in the hope of some passive smirting!

With the introduction of the smoking ban in Scotland on 26th March 2006, and throughout the rest of the UK from the summer of 2007, smirting is likely to become a popular route to romance in Britain too, and so has the potential to gain currency in the English lexicon. There is already evidence for a related intransitive verb smirt, and those who enjoy the pastime are often described as smirters.

Background – smirting

Smirting is a blend of the words smoking and flirting. The term evolved in Ireland in 2004 as a consequence of the legislation banning smoking in bars, emanating from the Temple Bar area in Dublin, a major centre for nightclubs, restaurants and bars. With smoking bans now also in place in many US states and parts of Australia and New Zealand, the term smirting and its derivatives have also found their way into American and Australian English.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 27th March 2006.

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