This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Thing To Do Secretly Today: be clever.

'How's Dick?'

'Oh, he's not too clever at the moment.'

If you're from my part of England that won't mean Dick is suffering from a sudden attack of stupidity: it'll mean he's not very well.

Pleasingly, this means that Dick can be a cleverdick at the same time as being a not-too-clever Dick, a cleverdick being someone who has a much too high opinion of his own intelligence.

And how about something that's more than clever? Something, in fact, that's clever-clever? Well, that's even more idiotic than a cleverdick, because something that's clever-clever is something where the cleverness is more important than the actual content.

A step even further up (or down) the scale of idiocy from the clever-clever is the person who's always shows off his cleverness, a clever clogs. Obviously he (or she) is a complete idiot because no one, but no one, likes a smart aleck.

That being the case, I shall finish by declaring that I haven't the faintest idea who aleck was, and thus slip modestly away.*

Thing To Do Today: be clever. This word arrived in English in the 1200s as cliver, which meant quick to seize, or adroit. But where the word came from before that is something else I don't know.

*I've just looked it up. The phrase "smart aleck" is possibly derived from Aleck Hoag, a 19th century New York con man and thief.

But it's all right: I'm sure I'll soon forget it.

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