Criminal cases hinge on it, human interactions are frequently guided by it, but intent, by definition, is slippery.
So when Montreal Canadiens general-manager Marc Bergevin says he has "no intention" of trading superstar defenceman P.K. Subban, people spot a loophole and freak out.
Even if he later qualifies it by saying there's "no such thing" as an untouchable player in sports and the same applies to everyone – Carey Price, Max Pacioretty – this is P.K. we're talking about.
Face of the franchise, philanthropist. Or, to his detractors, a me-me-me merchant and all-around pain.
Yes, the Habs' $72-million man has a no-trade clause kicking in a couple of months down the road, hence the speculation.
It would be supremely foolish to deal a guy who plays some of the hardest minutes in the league and contributed to almost a quarter of the team's goals this year.
But it's at least a theoretical possibility. Even the Great One was dealt more than once – an allusion Subban delighted in before providing his two cents on the matter.
"There's not a day that has ever gone by where I regret putting on this jersey … I love everything about this city, but at the end of the day, that's the business part of it," he said.
They weren't his most interesting words on the day.
Those may have been about Pacioretty, with whom he is often alleged to have a rift.
"I can say it till I'm blue in the face: We like each other, we play together, we respect each other. What? Do I have to go over there and make out with him?" he said. Love him or hate him, the man can turn a phrase.
Minimal prodding was required for him to stride across the dressing room and grab Pacioretty in an embrace – the Hug Heard Round Habs' Nation.
Here's the thing about garbage-bag day: Depending on your point of view, it's either an opportunity to unravel a season's worth of falsehoods and innuendo, or an elaborate bit of theatre designed to bury them under an even thicker layer of mendacities.
Choose your camp.
Here's Subban's take: "It's really funny to hear some of the stuff out there that people try to concoct about our team."
Pacioretty added that if the public could "see P.K. playing mini-sticks with my son after the game, I don't think I'd be asked this question. Or when we're in the room and he's talking to me about my wedding four years ago. That he came to."
Another perennial topic is Subban's relationship with head coach Michel Therrien, who, despite heavy criticism, will be back behind the bench for the home opener (how much longer afterward is another question).
Given an opportunity to say nice things about his coach, Subban said, "I haven't heard Marc's end-of-year presser yet, but we'll see what happens with everything."
Evidence of a rift? When the non-compliment was read back to the brain trust – the coach, GM and owner Geoff Molson showed up in a united front of funeral suits – Bergevin said he had no problem with it, Therrien said Subban was a fun player to coach.
Also notable: Each of Subban, Pacioretty and Bergevin acknowledged being surprised by this year's speculation and conjecture.
You'd think they'd know better by now, although 2015-16 is an exceptional vintage.
Otherwise serious people held up Pacioretty's nomination for the King Clancy Award for leadership and community service (voted on by players) as a rebuff to Subban, who pledged $10-million to the Montreal Children's Hospital last fall.
"I'm like, really? That's a story?" Subban said, adding "I voted for [Pacioretty]. Almost twice."
There are ample on-ice reasons to treasure No. 76.
The main reasons to get rid of him are the supposed divisions his teammates deny exist.
"Everyone respects P.K. and wants to follow him … there's nothing there," winger Brendan Gallagher said.
The Habs are patently a better team with Subban on it; personality conflicts only become relevant if people care more about them than winning.
There's one criticism Subban should be safe from.