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What is a word for someone who comes across as "airheaded" but is really quite the opposite?

I will add that the person is not deliberately trying to act stupid, they just come across that way when they speak. Without knowing them, you would assume this person holds no intellect.

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closed as not a real question by Ed Guiness, tchrist, Kristina Lopez, Andrew Leach, kiamlaluno Feb 1 '13 at 16:44

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

She's Crafty. – Callithumpian Jan 31 '13 at 13:41
@Callithumpian I don't think OP specified a gender. – JAM Jan 31 '13 at 14:35
OP hasn't specified a lot of things: gender, whether or not this is part of an act, or even what is meant by "airheaded." Does that mean forgetful? Not very smart? Dresses with mismatching socks? – J.R. Jan 31 '13 at 17:18
How about an example of a person or a character who seems air-headed but is actually a genius? – coleopterist Jan 31 '13 at 18:59
@coleopterist: Two former co-workers of mine spring to mind, as well as two of my mom's uncles, but, unfortunately, space won't allow me to elaborate and do those four men justice. As for somebody more famous, I might offer actress and musician Zooey Deschanel as a candidate. Or were you merely suggesting a rephrasing of the question? – J.R. Jan 31 '13 at 19:11

You could say that person is understated or not obvious. Phrases would include easy to underestimate, easily undervalued, flies under the radar or even "There's more to her than meets the eye."

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Understated seems a good fit. – Ed Guiness Jan 31 '13 at 13:38
I'd argue, understated suggest subtlety, whereas the OP seems to be suggesting a deceptive appearance. The subject in question does not come across an understated way, but in a completely different way. – CJM Jan 31 '13 at 15:44
@CJM: Interesting how you and JAM (see JAM's comment to Eric's answer) are interpreting the O.P.'s question in opposite ways. (To me, that suggests it's time for the O.P. to elaborate.) – J.R. Jan 31 '13 at 17:25
@Robusto - why the feminine? Just curious. – JAM Jan 31 '13 at 19:32
@JAM: Why not? It's an example instance. I could have said John, or Sue, or physics, or armadillos and you wouldn't have tried to edit it. – Robusto Jan 31 '13 at 19:59

I don't think you'll find a single word to fit the bill. You might say the person 'appeared deceptively airheaded'.

Another possibility is '[the person's] looks belie his/her intelligence'.

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+1 for looks belie intelligence – Kris Feb 1 '13 at 15:51

The term absent-minded professor may address your concept. It is defined by Wikipedia (a questionable authority) as

a talented academic whose focus on academic matters leads them to ignore or forget their surroundings.

It is often used to refer to someone who may be brilliant in some things, but gives an appearance of being scatterbrained.

Another term that is related is idiot savant. American Heritage defines it as

An intellectually disabled person who exhibits extraordinary ability in a highly specialized area, such as mathematics or music.

This literally refers to someone who is actually very limited but has a single high level of skill. It is sometimes used colloquially to refer to someone who is smart but is acting like an idiot.

(It should be moted that the term idiot, along with other archaic terms for developmental disabilities, such as moron and imbecile, are often considered pejorative and offensive in US English.)

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You could say of such a person that there's "more than meets the eye."

You could also say that the person's "appearance is deceiving."

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  • Misleading;
  • Confusing;
  • If used in a sentence you could say "unexpectedly quiet".
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Hi EM-Creations, and welcome to English.SE. I'm afraid that I don't think any of those convey the meaning requested in the question. – Steve Melnikoff Jan 31 '13 at 13:51
I feel they do, misleading certainly. – EM-Creations Jan 31 '13 at 15:35
Yes, if you described a person as being misleading, it could indeed include the behaviour described above -- but it could also apply to many other behaviours. It's a little vague; most of the other answers here are a lot more specific. – Steve Melnikoff Jan 31 '13 at 15:40
It is vague, I agree but it's not incorrect. – EM-Creations Jan 31 '13 at 16:53

Vulpine, foxy or cunning may help you out. They hint at a deceptive cleverness.

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These terms suggest that the person is deliberately misleading, and this does not appear to be the OP's intention. – JAM Jan 31 '13 at 14:38
@JAM: I'd like the O.P. to weigh in on that. I've known different people who played this one way or the other - some came across as airheads naturally and inadvertently, even though they were actually rather brilliant in spite of themselves, and I've also known people who often came off as airheads, but only as part of a ruse. (It's worth noting, perhaps, that I wouldn't label those in the latter category as cunning; they were more like comedians.) – J.R. Jan 31 '13 at 17:13
coughs, gives look – Kit Z. Fox Feb 1 '13 at 13:01

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