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Nov 26, 2017
Hugh Dellar

Phrase of the day: smash it

Every now and then, a phrase comes along that makes you feel really old. I’m not talking about things like the use of the adjective bare, which you hear teenagers and young adults using all the time on the streets of London. In case you’re wondering, by the way, in sentences like I was bare tired and We had bare laughs, the word bare has come to mean very or a lot of, but this use still remains very much a working-class street thing here. The kind of phrases I’m talking about are those which suddenly go viral and explode into the popular consciousness. One minute they’re used by a tiny minority of people, the next they seem to be everywhere, being used by almost every person out there who is younger than you are! And so it’s been with smash it.

Up until perhaps a couple of years ago, I was blissfully ignorant of the phrase and don’t recall ever really hearing it used. Then suddenly sports commentators are telling me that the diver Tom Daley absolutely smashed it with a series of excellent dives, customs officials at airports are suddenly high-fiving each other and shouting “Smashed it!” as they celebrate confiscating a large pair of scissors from a suitcase and after a charity walk, slimming groups who’ve been encouraging their members to exercise more send round an email saying that they’re very proud of all their members “who set themselves the challenge of walking more – and absolutely smashed it!

Smashing it seems to involve going for it, beating someone, winning, achieving something good, doing a lot better than you’d expected, destroying the opposition, becoming a legend in your own lunchtime, and beating your own personal best. The phrase combines a strange mixture of ultra-competitive sports speak and self-congratulatory job interview ultra-confidence, which perhaps explains why young candidates on the TV show The Apprentice are so keen on using it to describe how well they feel they performed in the weekly tasks! It also somehow manages to contain suggestions of other meanings of smash: you can smash a world record if you do something much better, faster, etc. than anyone has ever done it before; a very successful film or song or book can be a smash hit; and the police can smash a criminal gang if they find it and completely destroy it! All of which makes smashing it such a perfect expression!

Not that I’ll be using it myself, of course.

I’m far too old – and self-deprecating!

  • Can you think of a time when you totally smashed it?
  • Can you think of any performances you’ve seen recently where someone totally smashed it?
  • Can you think of any recent books, films or songs that were smash hits?
  • Can you think of any other phrases that have only become popular very recently?
  • Have you heard any words or expressions in your own first language that lots of young people use, but you don’t?

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