the sharpest pencil in the box


Senior Member

I’m not always the sharpest pencil in the box, but I’ve got a knack for knowing when people are trying to pull my leg. And so far as I could tell, Graham—or whoever he was—was on the level.

This is from the novella Einstein's Shadow. Does "the sharpest pencil in the box" here mean: the smartest people?

Thanks !
  • Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    "He's not the brightest light on the Christmas tree."
    There are a number of similar expressions used to say someone is stupid. Good examples of the rhetorical figure called litotes.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    And these are almost always negative in actual use. You say someone is not the sharpest pencil in the box, not that they are the sharpest.