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The other day, when my wife was unwell, I happened to mention to a relative in Norfolk that she wasn't 'feeling too clever'. He instantly knew what I meant.

But it made me wonder how far this idiom extends. I'm sure I have heard it used in other parts of Britain, but is it universal throughout the Anglosphere?

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    Here in the U.S., it's unknown as an idiom. If you used it like that, we might interpret to mean your wife had just some something silly (or dumb) and then had recognized her error. Something akin to the modern facepalm. I don't expect the Canadians to know it either. But maybe the Aussies and Kiwis do?
    – Dan Bron
    May 2 '15 at 20:02
  • Is it really an idiom? Dictionaries give it as a synonym of 'well' or 'healthy' in negative. Oxford Dictionary: oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/clever item 2 [PREDICATIVE, WITH NEGATIVE] British informal Healthy or well
    – alx
    May 2 '15 at 20:14
  • @javaNoobs "Not feeling that clever", while I've never encountered it myself (as I said), has shades of an idiom to me. You're right that the single word "clever", itself, is probably better categorized as slang or dialect or argot or what-have-you (that's what your ODO entry means by "British informal"), but I'm wondering if the four-word phrase "[not] feeling too clever", as a whole, is used often enough to qualify as an idiom (meaning: one whose form is set, not one whose meaning is un-derivable from the meanings of its constituent words).
    – Dan Bron
    May 2 '15 at 20:19
  • Lovely expression, it sounds quintessentially British. I wonder how it came about, surely a play on well and its different meanings: to be in good health, and to do something competently (with intelligence).
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 2 '15 at 20:27
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    @DanBron That is how it is mostly used i.e. I'm not feeling too clever; or often my stomach doesn't feel too clever.
    – WS2
    May 2 '15 at 20:28
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It's certainly still used here near Manchester (but less than was once the case).

Oxford Dictionaries give the sense, labelling it as an informal British usage:

clever 2 [PREDICATIVE, WITH NEGATIVE] British informal

Healthy or well:

I was up and about by this time though still not too clever.

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    So, it's not an idiom. Just rare usage in some locations.
    – alx
    May 2 '15 at 20:15
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    To my amazement I found it in the OED - meaning 4b. ‘Active’ as opposed to ‘infirm’; having ordinary healthy activity; in health, well. dial. Examples from 1746. 1815 Massachusetts Spy 14 June I somehow did not feel quite clever, but hoped for the best. 1887 W. D. Parish & W. F. Shaw Dict. Kentish Dial. Clever, in good health. ‘How are you to-day?’ ‘Well, thankee, not very clever’, i.e. not very active; not up to much exertion. 1937 E. Partridge Dict. Slang 158/2 Not too clever, indisposed in health..is common in Australia and New Zealand.
    – WS2
    May 2 '15 at 20:24
  • I'd interpret your statement as meaning you still had a bit of "morning fog on the brain" - not thinking clearly yet, rather than not feeling healthy or well. Of course with context I'd realize that "up and about" referred to out of bed after an illness rather than out of bed in the early morning.
    – Jim
    May 2 '15 at 22:08
  • It's ODO's example, which they interpret as matching their definition. Not mine (though it's the only way I've heard it being used). Can you find an authority saying it's used on your side of the pond? May 2 '15 at 22:28
  • @ javaNoobs The inclusion of a broadened sense in a dictionary does not necessarily mean that everyone would agree that what was once an idiom has now become a literal usage. Is 'a heavy smoker' idiomatic? May 2 '15 at 22:45

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