In his book ‘How to Be an Alien’ George Mikes writes,
In England it is bad manners to be clever, to assert something confidently’ as ‘the Englishman is modest’.
I wouldn’t say much has changed in this respect since the book was first published in 1946 – the British code of behaviour still strongly disapproves of any displays of one’s intelligence. In other words, if you’re smart, keep it to yourself.
It should now come as no surprise that the English language (or at least British English) has far fewer words and expressions for ‘intelligent’ than, as we have seen, it does for ‘stupid’. Let’s have a look at them.
1. Bright is used especially about children and young people (you may have read Evelyn Waugh’s Bright Young Things or seen the film based on the book).
She’s the brightest student in the class and loved by all the teachers.
2. Brilliant means ‘extremely clever’.
Albert Einstein was one of the most brilliant scientists of all time.
However, it can also be used sarcastically to mean the opposite!
(At the airport) You left the tickets at home?! Brilliant! What are we going to do now?