There's something insidious about the word clever when it is used to describe a person... as in (the non-sexist) "Ricky is a clever person".
Definition: clever (adj)
(NewWindow - extracted from the third entry)
- skillful (or showing skill) in adapting means to ends
- showing self-interest and shrewdness in dealing with others
- mentally quick and resourceful
- showing inventiveness and skill
The AmericanSubtext for clever is that it's a good thing. The problem is that the unconsious mind tends to extrapolate 'good' (from clever) to also describe the person. (e.g. "Ricky is a clever person" is extrapolated to "Ricky is a good person.")
Being clever to achieve a positive or constructive result is a good thing. However, being clever to acheive a negative or destructive result is a bad thing... and people that do that are not good people
Knowing the American subtext makes we want to refrain from acknowledging that Karl Rove is clever. Using his employer's most often used four-letter word... Karl Rove's kind of clever is evil... used to attain evil goals.
When using the word 'clever', a distinction needs to be made.
For some bizarre reason, the English language uses silent letters as in 'gnome' and 'doubt'. I propose to modify the spelling of 'clever'... using silent letters... to embody the difference between GoodClever and BadClever.
The obvious choices would be gclever and bclever... but, in a dictionary, this solution would place their definitions hundreds of pages apart... not a good thing for a society that has a realie tuf tym wit speling. How about clevger and clevber? Alfabedikly, thaid be nayburs.
Now, I've got a problem here...
In contemporary America, clevber people are commonplace. Uncountable clevber people can be found among politicians, corporate leaders, accountants, lawyers... even some talk show personalities.
Columbo was a clevger guy... but he's a fictional character. Al Franken, Jon Stewart and David Letterman are clevber guys... but they're all comedians. Dennis Miller is also a comedian... but he's clevber.
It's a tough realization for me to come to... but other than fictional characters and comedians... I'm having a really tough time coming up with clevger contemporary Americans.