not half as clever

mimi2

Senior Member
vietnam vietnamese
Please explain the sentence:

"You are not half as clever as you think you are."

Thanks.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This would be said to someone who clearly thinks they are cleverer than they are - or more likely, it would be said of someone else, "He's not half as clever as he thinks he is."
    It would usually mean that this guy has tried to do something but has made a mistake that is very obvious to those with more wisdom and experience.

    There is a similar expression, "He's too clever by half," which means more or less the same.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Charles Costante said:
    It literally means what it says, that the person is less than half as intelligent as s/he thinks he is.
    Perhaps literally is a bit of an overstatement? I wouldn't associate any real assessment of cleverness with this expression. I understand it as more like he's a smartarse.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    panjandrum said:
    Perhaps literally is a bit of an overstatement? I wouldn't associate any real assessment of cleverness with this expression. I understand it as more like he's a smartarse.
    Much as I am prone to exaggeration Panj, in this particular case I actually do mean literally. Encarta defines not half as much less than half .
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Indeed, I accept the literal definition of not half.
    But I suggest that the use of not half in not half as clever is idiomatic, not metric. You would hardly expect me to have found out what IQ this guy thought he had and to have made a reliable assessment of his actual IQ?
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    panjandrum said:
    Indeed, I accept the literal definition of not half.
    But I suggest that the use of not half in not half as clever is idiomatic, not metric. You would hardly expect me to have found out what IQ this guy thought he had and to have made a reliable assessment of his actual IQ?
    Panj, the examples that Encarta gives with that definition are:
    She's not half as busy as you are.
    This isn't half the fun I thought it would be.
    which are also idiomatic.
    It would be a bit difficult to measure business and fun also, but much less than half is what it gives as the definition.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Panj's understanding of not half is similar to mine.

    Not half as clever as he thinks he is to me means they overestimate their own intelligence. Nothing like as clever as he likes to think he is would convey the same meaning.

    I've thought of wider uses of not half:

    Imagine a hot day in London. Difficult to believe, I know, but it happens.

    a. Hot, innit?
    b. Not half!

    When b replies "not half" b doesn't mean <50% hot. In fact it means they are agreeing with a.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In that case, I shall be twice as careful if tempted to say not half as clever in future:)

    OED gives me a little more latitude:
    not half: a long way from the due amount; to a very slight extent;
    in mod. slang and colloq. use = not at all, the reverse of, as ‘not half bad’ = not at all bad, rather good;
    ‘not half a bad fellow’ = a good fellow;
    ‘not half long enough’ = not nearly long enough;
    also (slang), extremely, violently, as ‘he didn't half swear’.
    In the not half as clever context, I would settle for not nearly as clever.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    cirrus said:
    Panj's understanding of not half is similar to mine.

    Not half as clever as he thinks he is to me means they overestimate their own intelligence. Nothing like as clever as he likes to think he is would convey the same meaning.

    I've thought of wider uses of not half:

    Imagine a hot day in London. Difficult to believe, I know, but it happens.

    a. Hot, innit?
    b. Not half!

    When b replies "not half" b doesn't mean <50% hot. In fact it means they are agreeing with a.
    This is slightly different to not half as. It would fit into the first meaning given by Encarta as follows:
    not half

    1. not at all
    Mmm! This cake's not half bad!

    2. much less than half
    She's not half as busy as you are.
    This isn't half the fun I thought it would be.

    3. U.K. used as an understatement to indicate enthusiasm (informal)
    Just look at them - his new girlfriend can't half dance!
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Charles Costante said:
    2. much less than half
    She's not half as busy as you are.
    This isn't half the fun I thought it would be.
    I think we must have found an antipodean* difference of interpretation.
    She's not half as busy as you are, has no sense of metric in my mind. To me, that means She's not nearly as busy as you are.

    *Edit - or AE/BE, I should say.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    panjandrum said:
    I think we must have found an antipodean* difference of interpretation.
    She's not half as busy as you are, has no sense of metric in my mind. To me, that means She's not nearly as busy as you are.

    *Edit - or AE/BE, I should say.
    Since Encarta is an American dictionary I would say that is correct. I don't think it's antipodean though. Australians and New Zealanders would probably translate it as not nearly as, but it would seem it can be translated literally as well.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    panjandrum said:
    Maybe when our AE friends have struggled out of bed and finished their breakfast we'll get a view from over there:D
    Most of them would probably translate that as not nearly as. That doesn't make the Encarta dictionary meaning invalid though.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    No breakfast yet, so don't expect much. But we're doing a champagne brunch for someone's birthday, so I'm not planning to be articulate after breakfast, either.
    My AE point of view:
    I suppose that not half as clever implies that he is less clever by >50% than, or less than half as clever as, he estimates himself to be. I don't think anyone here thinks that closely about it: less than he thinks he is (or Charles C's not nearly as) is about right.

    I can't imagine cirrus' example happening here:
    a. Hot, innit?
    b. Not half!

    even though we have plenty of people who say "innit." I don't hear anyone using "not half" that way.

    As for this one from Panjandrum,
    There is a similar expression, "He's too clever by half," which means more or less the same.
    I interpret it differently: he is too clever for his own good (50% more than he should be, I suppose), and it's going to get him into trouble one of these days.
     

    nycphotography

    Senior Member
    American English
    "<something> [is] not half as <blank> as <something else>" is an idiomatic construction that's a little stronger than "not nearly"... I take it more as meaning "NOWHERE NEAR".

    Generally, it means "ok, I'll grant you that <something> is a LITTLE <blank>, but <something else> is a lot of <blank> and <something> is NOWHERE NEAR as much.

    She's not half as cute as she thinks she is.
    She's not half as hot as that other girl.
    He's not half as important as he thinks he is.

    and so on.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Kelly B said:
    [...]There is a similar expression, "He's too clever by half," which means more or less the same.
    I interpret it differently: he is too clever for his own good (50% more than he should be, I suppose), and it's going to get him into trouble one of these days.
    This gets us back close to the point about measuring. If we are to take the original statement (You're not half as clever as you think you are) literally, then there has to be some measure of clever that you can apply, you have to assess how clever "you" thinks he is, and you have to assess how clever "you" actually is:D

    I'm happy to know, now, that non-BE speakers have taken on this awesome challenge.

    I think I'll stick with the OED definitions, which allow me to choose between:
    a long way from the due amount;
    to a very slight extent;
    not nearly.
     

    Bhanu

    New Member
    English--North America
    It simply means that he is not as smart as he thinks he is. It is like when someone is bragging about how smart he thinks he is and then someone talks behind thier back and says, "He's not half as smart as he thinks he is," they are saying he's not that smart.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    "You are not half as clever as you think you are."
    AE viewpoint= You are far from being as clever as you think you are.

    Also, AE sometimes, but far from always, uses clever as a synonym for intelligent. There was another thread in these forums discussing the different overtones of clever in AE and BE. Clever can frequently imply a sort of sneaky, or less than forthright, thinking in AE.

    I don't detect that overtone in Mimi's original sentence.

    Finally, there is, alas, Encarta. I use many dictionaries. That is not one of them. Encarta began with MS's purchase of a few encyclopedias, which were not among the best available. I don't know the source of their dictionary. It may be the same as the other reference works. In any event, it's not, in my opinion as a daily user of multiple English dictionaries, anywhere near authoritative.
     
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