Clever clogs

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From time to time Gert’s acquaintances say  of a book (including Gert’s own books), with an expression ranging from faint distaste to downright ire,  Of course, it’s very clever.

Always a bloodhound for linguistic enquiry, Gert has gathered up some sayings containing the word clever and sent them whizzing round the Bertrand Wittgenstein Collider in the hope of uncovering the structure of the word through high-energy collisions. Here is the input to date:

clever clogs

as clever as a cartload of monkeys

too clever by half

be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever

Can you help with this enquiry by providing more clever sayings? Answers on a small piece of paper to the Comments section below.

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20 thoughts on “Clever clogs

    1. Also ‘clever clever’ comes to mind which I see as meaning an ostentatious display of cleverness for its own sake.Then there is ‘clever Dick’ which has a meaning akin to the Australian term ‘smart alec’.

      Also I have heard an American expression ‘clever as paint’ which some of your American readers may be able to interpret.

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  1. Not an expression that I’ve heard often, but here’s a Google explanation:

    “Re: Smart as paint [http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/47/messages/316.html]

    Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 06, 2006

    In Reply to: Smart as paint posted by lewis rosenbaum on April 06, 2006

    : does anyone know the origin of the phrase used by long john silver in treasure island when praising jim hawkins you’re a “smart as paint”

    It simply means that Jim is smart (clever) just as anything freshly painted is smart (neat and well-looking). It’s a sort of pun on the two meanings of ‘smart.'”

    While researching that one, came across a Chinese proverb, “The clever crow will always paint its feathers black.” Have had a hard time getting any of the sites with an explanation to load, but it might mean that a clever person blends in with the surroundings. Or something else entirely; if I find something authoritative, you will be the first to know.

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  2. I read the post title as Clever Dogs and jumped at a reply. Is there a word for misreading titles? Back to Clever Clogs. Things Mothers Used to Say. “They may be clever, but do they say their prayers?” and “Clever is as clever does”. One did not want children who thought too highly of themselves

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  3. Now we want to know what your reply to “Clever Dogs” was.
    Perhaps Mothers are to blame for the pervasive suspicion of cleverness (as they are for so many other things)?

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    1. Buck from The Call of The Wild, Nana from Peter Pan, Red Dog from Red Dog, Rowf and Snitter from the Plague Dogs, although they were damaged rather than clever. You can see where my tastes lie. I think you may be right about Mothers.

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      1. Hmmmm – thought I had noted an explanation for “clever as paint.” It seems to be a variation of “Smart as paint,” said of Jim Hawkins in “Treasure Island.” And while finding that out, I came across a Chinese saying, “The Clever crow paints his feathers black,” meaning that a clever person tries to not draw attention to himself. But perhaps I was too clever by half and managed to not post it?

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      2. Cath, what about Inspector Rex (who is as clever as a cartload of monkeys, a seminar-room of professors and a bench of judges) and his Italian counterpart Turrrrrbo? But it seems you may prefer dogs as tortured souls.

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  4. Yes, Chicken Lady, we thought Mollie might be thinking of “as smart as paint.” We had better leave that one out of the Collider, but the Chinese element is welcome. Clearly Chinese mothers have a more nuanced view than Aussie ones, as quoted by Cath, do. And I can imagine that American mothers might be more on the side of being clever and less on the side of hiding one’s light under a bushel.
    Perhaps we need a post on “Things Mothers say.”

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  5. It is a daunting thought. In fact perhaps an entirely new blog thingsmotherssay.wordpress would be necessary. Even then it would have to be divided up into topics. To please Cath, the first could be Things Mothers Say About Dogs. In our case that would be “Outside, you!” and “I don’t want that dog wiping its boots on the table.”

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    1. My mother had very little to say to or about dogs, other than that they belonged outside. She grew up on a farm, and that was what her mother said — “animals belong outside.” All of our chickens, snakes, tadpoles, caterpillars, crawdads, and the like lived on the back porch.

      I think you’re onto something here, and especially the dogs angle. Most mothers undoubtedly had more interesting things to say about them.

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