British Dopers: Word usage question

Sounds like a plan. “Clever” does convey a tone of “witty”, so if that’s not what you’re going for it mightn’t fit.

What ever happened to winsome and thee?

You’re a cheeky sort of devil.

But that bloke in Notting Hill is deliberately written to sound like a slightly posh, out of touch twit. I’ve never uttered the words ‘clever chap’ in my life. ‘Bright chap’ yes, ‘bright guy’ yes, even bright bloke, if I want to get down with the people, but not ‘clever chap’.

Actually, I think that would be quite appropriate, depending on the audience.

Not necessarily the case at all. “smart” is used frequently enough in UK english to mean both “well dressed” and “clever”. Context is everything.

For the situation described by the OP I reckon “smart guy” or “clever bloke” would ring true to me. (UK citizen on nodding terms with posh people)

Context is everything, indeed. Of course “smart”, in the American sense, has become common in British English. But put next to the very traditional word “chap”, it doesn’t sound right. A stuffy person would say “bright chap”, clever chap" or whatever; a young person might say “smart guy”. Neither would say “smart chap” unless they were some hideous trendster going for retro po-mo irony.

The OP’s example is about 35. Is that old or young? To me, it is young enough to be unlikely to use “chap” unless old-fashioned or using it in an ironic manner.

Fully agree, “Smart guy” works, “smart chap” doesn’t.

He is using it in a bit of an ironic manner. He’s definitely not a hipster–he’s cool, but not trendy. And since he’s living in America and has been for several years, he does slightly err on the side of “Britishness” because he finds that people respond to that and kind of expect it.