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Too clever by half

Posted by Joe on January 04, 2009 at 17:18

In Reply to: Too clever by half posted by Fred Helmholz on January 04, 2009 at 09:28:

: "Too clever by half". It would seem that the current meaning is that the excessive cleverness has undermined the result that the cleverness was intended to achieve. So what's the origin or am I wrong about the current usage?

Ovid in London, a ludicrous poem, by a member of the University of Oxfordý - Page 39

Aye, rejoin'd his bright spouse, he's too clever by half, For he makes such
attempts that I never can laugh - Thus meaning to shew her good man was a calf.

The New Monthly Magazineý

Page 161
Too good by half," " too clever by half," is a frequent phrase among those who
are sneakingly conscious of being silly or worthless. ...

Bentley's Miscellanyý - Page 283
by Charles Dickens, William Harrison Ainsworth, Albert Smith - Literature - 1844

Punchý - Page 69
by Mark Lemon, Henry Mayhew, Tom Taylor, Shirley Brooks, Francis Cowley Burnand, Owen Seaman - 1842

... For I know you accomplish'd young ladies Are sometimes too clever by half !
You sing with a thrilling expression, That makes all your auditors tremble, ...