Smart is Pain

Smart is smart. Devices running sophisticated software are smart. Dogs who know how to steal food from the kitchen counter when their owners are on vacation are smart. I’m smart all the times I’m not stupid.

If you have a high IQ, you’re smart. If you figure out a novel solution for preventing a wobbly table, you’re smart. If you instantly have a funny comeback, you’re smart.

Something I discovered today is that there’s a definition of smart that means “sharp stinging pain” as in “the smart of the cut on me knee.” The word “smart” derives from words that meant “to bite, sting” and the history of the word contains meanings of hurt, aching, and pain.

I find this to be an interesting double life for the word smart, since I’m so accustomed to its more common and mostly positive use. Next time you use the word to acknowledge a higher form of intellect, in capacity, speed, and precision, remember that you also might be calling that person, or yourself, a pain in the ass.

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