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Too funny by half

Posted by Brian from Shawnee on January 26, 2010 at 17:34

In Reply to: Too funny by half posted by Baceseras on January 26, 2010 at 16:17:

: : : : I cannot find the origin or true meaning of "too funny by half!" Does anyone out there have the answer?

: : : 'By half' just appears to be an intensifier. I.e. the thing isn't just 'too funny', it is 150% too funny. I've only had a brief scan around reference materials and haven't found anything earlier than an 1895 USA citation of it in print.

: : It's interesting that the earliest citation is from the U.S. I've only heard (and read) British people say anything "by half", and it's usually "too clever".

: [I have to differ with Brian from Shawnee; I have heard American speakers say "too [much, or whatever] by half." The Britishism that never has taken hold here is "not half," either by itself or in saying that (for instance) "She isn't half clever!" (Meaning the opposite: she's orffly clever.) - Baceseras.]

Well OK, just because I've never heard anyone say it doesn't mean nobody says it. However, "too clever by half" is identified by as "British" (they cite the Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd edition 2006).

Must be one of those things, like "tarmac" and "gone missing" that have slipped westward across the old pond in this electronic age.