August 23, 2010


Another in the ‘Sentence Series’…

The cleverest person I know is…

Sorry, I’m still laughing. Okay, I suppose I shouldn’t really be laughing. I guess we all consider ourselves as being clever. And I’m sure, there is someone in YOUR life who you think is clever. However, just when you think that that person is clever, they do something that makes you re-evaluate your judgement!

When I come across this word in class, most of the students don’t really know what it means. I basically tell them it means ‘smart’. I’ll provide a few examples if necessary, but for most of my students, knowing the EXACT difference between ‘clever’ and ‘smart’ is not necessary. Like the difference in meaning between ‘know’ and ‘understand’. As long as they “comprehend” the fact that the two words are similar, that is enough for them.

That being said, below is http://www.dictionary.com‘s definition of clever:

clev·er   [klev-er]
–adjective, -er, -est.

1. mentally bright; having sharp or quick intelligence; able.
2. superficially skillful, witty, or original in character or construction; facile: It was an amusing, clever play, but of no lasting value.
3. showing inventiveness or originality; ingenious: His clever device was the first to solve the problem.
4. adroit with the hands or body; dexterous or nimble.
5. Older Use .
a. suitable; convenient; satisfactory.
b. good-natured.
c. handsome.
d. in good health.

Well, that sums things up, doesn’t it? Again, I still have to laugh. Who would I know that is the ‘cleverest’ person in my life? I honestly can’t think of anyone – not even myself!

Definition 1. mentally bright; having sharp or quick intelligence; able.
Okay, so there are some people who I believe are mentally bright. They are able to grasp concepts and ideas. They are able to think on their own. They are able to come up with solutions to problems. They are able to brainstorm. Then again, is this the all-encompassing definition? One may be able to solve a difficult math problem, but when it comes to ‘quick intelligence’, sometimes they fall a bit short. They need to think about it, take their time… so, for someone to be able to fill all these requirements, I believe is very difficult.

Definition 2. superficially skillful, witty, or original in character or construction; facile: It was an amusing, clever play, but of no lasting value.
I won’t go into the meaning of ‘superficially’, because I think that is pretty obvious – at least to me! I have known and do know people who, on the surface, are witty or original ‘characters’. However, I don’t believe that all of us are skillful, witty, and original by nature.

Sure, there are many people I would consider to be ‘quick-witted’… someone who can make a snappy, quick remark to something being said. However, they’ve learned these phrases somewhere along their life. They didn’t just wake up one day and start using a phrase that everyone knows now! How they deliver that phrase, okay, can be original.

Definition 3. showing inventiveness or originality; ingenious: His clever device was the first to solve the problem.
Now this one is a little more tricky. I agree with this definition that there are people out there that show inventiveness or ingenuity. We call these people ‘inventors’. Go figure. There are also many people who own patents for their inventions. However, just because something is invented, and the person has the ownership (patent) to that invention, I don’t think qualifies that person as being clever. Unless the ‘invention’ gets some kind of use by the public at large, then the ‘invention’ is not necessarily clever.

However, there have been many people over the eons of human existence who have been true inventors. Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, George de Mestral, to name but a couple. Their inventions have been improved upon (in some cases) over time. In some cases, the ‘improvements’ could be considered clever.

Definition 4. adroit with the hands or body; dexterous or nimble.
So what people or careers would fall under this definition. Surgeons, dentists, clothing designers, artists, computer hackers, athletes… There are a lot of people who fall under this category. Hell, you and I can fall under this category, as long as there is one other person is can’t do something YOU can do! My grandmother taught me how to knit. Many people in Taiwan don’t know how to knit. And why would they? It doesn’t really get cold enough in Taiwan to warrant knitting a Lopi sweater! Does that mean that I am more clever then them?

Definition 5. Older Use.
a. suitable; convenient; satisfactory.
b. good-natured.
c. handsome.
d. in good health.

When I think about the word ‘clever’, quite honestly, I don’t really think about using that word to mean ANYTHING in Definition 5! The definition does state ‘Older use’, but doesn’t say just how long ago, this ‘clever’ was used in these manners.

To sum up, again, looking over these definitions (present-day and older usages), I still have to laugh. Now that I’ve looked at each definition a bit closer, I’m not laughing so much at people in particular. The word ‘clever’ has so many definitions, that it now appears that practically everyone I know, is ‘clever’ in their own way.

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