Saturday, December 1, 2012

Smart [smahrt] (adj.)

astute, clever, bright, quick, witty are all synonyms for "smart" but where all these have stayed pretty much within the bounds as adjectives describing people or animals, "smart" has gone digital and is one of the most "high-tech" words around. We use smartphones, smartboards, etc. But was smart always that smart? As it turns out, smart has a painful past.

The word smart started out as a verb from Old English smeortan "be painful," from W.Gmc. *smert-  originally "to bite". This led in late O.E. to the adjective smeart "sharp, severe, stinging". In c.1300 smeart became smart meaning "quick, active, clever", probably from the notion of "cutting" wit with words, etc. The first mention of smart devices, "behaving as though guided by intelligence" (e.g. smart bomb) was made in 1972. 

So from 1972 on wards "things" started to become smart and this is how we got smart phones and smartboards. The fact that smartphones are really smart can be seen from the fact that NASA uses android smartphones to power an economical new line of satellites called PhoneSats. And there is no way of knowing which object will turn "smart" next! Smart cupboards? Smart glasses? Smart desks? 

As a matter of fact, it turns out that smart desks already exist: NEW TECHNOLOGY PROMISES TO TRANSFORM CHILDREN’S SCHOOL DESKS INTO GIANT TABLET

Could we get some SMART CHILDREN next please? That would make teaching so much easier...


  1. Thanks for the info, Avraham.
    Smart students would help create smarter systems and smarter use of our hours.
    - Judih

  2. And who do you think operates all the smartphones if not these smart children...?
    It is well known that there's a strong correlation between the advertising behind a product and the product itself. The advertisers used a catchy and simple word (rather than clever and bright) that reflects their product - smart... - which is not always catchy and simple. However, these products have become products for the masses, which says a thing or two about the creative, imaginative, and smart minds that invented the Smartproducts.