If you talk about economic goals, people say “hmm…” and nod gravely. They perfectly know what you mean. The ideal of earning money, usually the kind of which we are all victims. But if you think about it for a moment, economic goals can (and should) be far more complex than that. Are we talking about long-term goals? Selfish economic goals or the more sustainable kind? Goals that support economic growth, or goals that support economic stability? With the possible exception of economists, people generally don’t quickly ask such questions. That it because the word economy has quite a high smurf-intensity: its definition is unclear, and yet people understand each other when they use it.
Smurfs can smurf smurfs and smurf exactly what other smurf smurfs. This is part of their smurf, because they are used to using the word smurf all the time and look deeper into its meaning. We humans are not smurfs, or at least we don’t seem to be, but have a certain capacity to do the same. The problem for us is, that the meaning of a word with a high smurf-intensity depends on the subculture we find ourselves in.
The word ‘love’ has a cosmic smurf-intensity. It’s a word everyone has a strong connection to, and everyone has a personal definition for. One calls it partnership, the other friendship, another calls it passion, someone else thinks of it as community and yet one more describes it as a divine rush. But if we talk about love, people generally don’t feel a strong need to truly define the word. There is a silent mutual acceptance of the differences in understanding, and the impossibility to pin it down.
Words that are slightly less smurf-intense have this silent agreement only within specific communities. At the same time, they bind and define the community in which they are used. Take the word “energy”. That’s a great adhesive for the New Age communities. A sentence like “this place has great energy”, says something about a place, but it also sets the identity of the person who uses the word. This is a person who explicitly understands the world in flows and vibrations. Subtly using the word energy in this sentence affirms this person is part of this culture. Only people from within that community truly get the sentence.
People from outside such communities are often quickly annoyed, precisely by smurf intense words and precisely because of that high smurf intensity. The words God and Allah are good examples. Many people spend much effort attempting to dismantle them. They do so in the name of truth, but miss out on the bigger picture: the community they would tear apart if they were to succeed. This also highlights another property of smurf intense words: within the community they have immunity to the kind of criticism that threatens its understanding as existing beyond the imagination. This means that being overly critical on smurf-intense words typically excludes you from the community in which it is smurfed.
Pointing at a word’s smurf intensity during a debate is an effective technique to divert an argument. As an example, you could answer the statement: “It really is becoming time that humans protect nature.” with “well, humans are part of nature”. The second speaker has broadened the definition of nature, and the first speaker now has to spend effort finding more precise wording. By that, speaker one loses terrain in the battle. A typical weakness of using smurf intense words.
The use of smurf-intense words can also distinguish the expert from the amateur. Biologists among themselves would never speak of ‘biological’ phenomena, because that’s far to broad. They would specify if they are speaking about cellular processes, animal physiology or ecology, for example. At the same time, a sentence such as, ‘well that’s just my biology’ is meaningful among all other people. In this case, avoidance of a word with a high smurf intensity may indicate above average knowledge on the meaning of the word.
Smurf intense words are the big fish of the verbal sphere. Using them successfully helps you speak to a broad public. At the same time, you risk being misunderstood because of the innumerable interpretations it causes. But every word has a certain smurf intensity. Being aware of the smurf intensity of a word can help you take a distance from it, and worry less about its roots in reality. This way, you can take a look and appreciate that high smurf intensity can be a cozy and innocent thing.