I was standing at the bus-stop, reading (it’s what I do, and how you can tell when the book is pretty good — if I’m still reading while I’m waiting for the bus) and this line crossed my path:
“Then why are you talking about exhibitionism? It’s a ridiculous term. Someone wants to celebrate their existence and you call it exhibitionism. If you don’t want anyone to know about your existence, you might as well kill yourself. You’re taking up space, air.” – Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
I thought it was an apt reflection on blogging. I hear a lot of comments, off-hand, careless remarks mostly, questioning the wisdom of putting one’s innermost thoughts online for all to see. Two part answer for that:
1) These are not really my innerMOST thoughts — more of a meso-layer of thought.
2) See the above quote.
As an aside, I was struck with an interesting revelation about the name of this site. I have been asked many, many times: what the heck is a nanosmurf? Usually, I shrug, grin, and tell some vague story about the joys of my high school nerdness and the stickability of unique single-word nicknames.
But then it occured to me: If I can’t explain it, there must be something deeper. So, while walking — plodding through the streets of my neighborhood — I began devoting a few megahertz of brain power to the problem, and, oddly enough, came up with a rather interesting solution. At first glance, this may seem very contrived. But remember, I’ve hung onto this word for nearly ten years now: there must be something of substance to it, stuck somewhere in the fractaline crevaces of my brain.
First, I broke the name up into it’s component parts: nano + smurf
The first part, nano, is obvious. Literally it means “one-billionth” or 10-9; mathematically very small, sub-microscopic, vaguely quantum in scale, insignificant — miniscule.
On the other hand, smurf has nothing to do with any of that (beyond the fictional notions that the little blue guys are very small — three apples high, to be precise). Smurf evokes images of Saturday morning cartoons, and two-inch plastic figurines posed in socialist glory atop collector cases around the world. So what does that mean?
Really tiny smurfs?
I have never been entirely content with that idea. As a writer — amature linguist, peddler of cheap words, and digital architect — I have hung onto a word, smurf, which has no meaning whatsoever. In fact, seem to be the whole point of it: It had no meaning.
And then it struck. That WAS the point. And one question hung right there in the air: Considering everything we know about “The SmurfsÃ¯Â¿Â½” — their life, love, society, enemies, friends, hobbies, families, and everything — did they actually speak (as in, were the words coming out of their mouths) English?
You know: English?
Okay, I know there are a couple answers to this one: (a) like, who cares? (b) only when the scripts were re-recorded in English from the original French. (c) Maybe we need to make way for creative licence and say, yeah, sure. I know. All those answers get to the literal point. It was a cartoon show, burried in the annals of pop-culture from the eighties, and left to dangle. Don’t over analyze. Don’t question. Just enjoy. Right?
But then a less literal answer popped out: (d) No. The Smurfs were not speaking English — even when translated for national television audiences. No one — ever — has heard a smurf speaking English. Ever. Period.
What’s that you say? “But I can understand them speaking. I’ve seen the show. I own the DVDs. I worship those little blue guys.”
Sorry. You’ve never, ever, heard them speaking English. They’re speaking “Smurf” — a closely related dialect of English, but a dialect none-the-less. And more importantly: that dialect is only related to English in the same way that mathematical Arithmetic is related to Algebra. Why? Because in the Smurf language, the word “smurf” is literally a word-variable, to be used at the speaker’s discretion, openly and freely, to replace any single verb, noun, adjective, or adverb in the same way that the letter “x” replaces any of an infinite set of numbers in algebraic mathematics.
Is this getting a little abstract? Sorry. Look at the following examples:
“I feel smurfy today.”
“I think I’d like to smurf some ice cream.”
“What the smurf are you doing!”
“It sure smurfs like rain today.”
Are any of those in English? No? They’re written in SMURF! Random words are substituted with the word “smurf”.
Okay. Bizarre, I know. So back to NANOsmurf: what is a nanosmurf? Well, since we’ve discovered that a “smurf” is a non-word — a language variable of sorts — then what are we left with? Simply, perhaps, if you want to lean in close and stretch out the threads of oddness and rip the language to shreds:
nanosmurf : nan’oh’smerf (noun) a small and insignificant hazed perception of the English language, wherein meaning can be drawn with vague certainty and absolute concept is often mistaken blurred by perception of that meaning.