Writing a post inspired by a Smashing Pumpkins song recently got me thinking about that word smashing.
Specifically, how in British English it’s used to mean great or fantastic. What’s the link between the most common meaning of the word (crushing/breaking), and this use?
It seems to have come about in the United States in the early 20th century, and have come from the music world, particularly the term smash hit. And where did that come from? It’s simple enough really. I suppose it just comes from the way a sudden, huge hit has such an impact on the charts, like it’s smashing them, hitting them hard. Because smash hit then became associated with great songs/albums/films/books etc. it’s not such a stretch to imagine then that smashing would come to mean great in general.
There’s another interesting theory about smashing though. This one suggests that it comes from the Irish-language is maith (é) sin, meaning that’s good, though there’s not much evidence to support that, even if other common words have come from the Irish language. I guess we’re all just attracted to the idea of interesting origins of words, even if the reality is usually much more mundane.