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Etymology of ‘Smurf’

Have you ever wondered what the smurf those Smurfs are smurfing about the whole day long? Or how the Smurfs can possibly understand each other when they use the word smurf for nearly everything?

Though it is difficult to refer to “Smurf language” as an actual language (it’s more like a nonsense argot), its use and purpose align with other artificial languages such as Gromalot. In Smurf language, the ever-present word smurf serves as linguistic construct known in the computer science community as a metasyntactic variable whose meaning is inferred through pragmatics.

But where does the word smurf come from? Well, according to legend, in 1958 Belgian comic creator Pierre Culliford (known by the mononym Peyo) was dining with fellow comic artist André Franquin and momentarily forgot the word for salt so instead asked Franquin to pass the “Schtroumpf” (pronounced like the German word for stocking). Excited by their newly coined nonce word, the two gigglepusses continued the day schtroumpfing about until someone had the genius idea to turn it into a comic book.

In the original French, The Smurfs is actually know as Les Schtroumpfs, but as the comic gained popularity and began translation into other languages, Les Schtroumpfs became The Smurfs in Dutch (and subsequently English)—apparently because the word smurf makes so more sense…and probably because contains fewer consonants.

So what does smurf mean? Well, it either means ‘salt’ or it means ‘stocking’ or it means whatever the smurf you want it to mean.