Monday 29 November 2010

Smarting Phones

I recently bought a smart phone, and when it was delivered I seemed to hear the voice of Cleopatra shrieking at me:

Horrible villain! or I'll spurn thine eyes
Like balls before me; I'll unhair thy head:
Thou shalt be whipp'd with wire, and stew'd in brine,
Smarting in lingering pickle.

People still do smart from their wounds, especially those wounds inflicted by a smart bomb, and it occurred to me, smart Alec that I am, to wonder whether there was a connection. There is.

Smart, as an adjective, originally meant painful and had everything to do with the verb smart, which meant hurt. However, we've always had a soft spot for stabbing. We think knives are clever. Sharp, cutting and incisive are all synonyms for intelligent, and the same thing happened, in the seventeenth century, to smart.

Smart Alec's surname was Hoag and he was a pimp and a pickpocket in nineteenth century New York. Smart phones were first mentioned in 1978. And Smarties, everybody's favourite oblate spheroid, have nothing to do with anything.

The Inky Fool trying to look smart

N.B. If you look at the Inky Fool on your iPhone, then press the + in the bottom middle and click "Add to Home Screen" - Hey Presto! You have an Inky Fool app.

Sort of.

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