Cleverness is key when it comes to picking out a Halloween costume. Last year's glut of dudes in Joker outfits made for an effective gag on "The Office," but the people who made the choice to go there ended up looking downright boring.

Way cooler, in our opinion, is a costume that uses a play on words to defy expectations. Here are some ideas for such costumes, and the explanations you'll probably have to offer to the sort of dimwits who don't get just how clever you really are.

N.I.N.J.A. (No-Income, No-Job, (No)-Asset borrowers)
Don't worry about the black pajamas and the mask (or the properly origami'd T-shirt) this year and instead go as a N.I.N.J.A. These bringers-of-ruin may not have katanas and the ability to sneak in anywhere undetected, but the No-Income, No-Job, (No)-Asset borrowers did play a significant part in the global economic crisis, and what's scarier than that? We recommend donning a few days' worth of beard growth, a Wal-Mart T-shirt, and a shifty expression. Bonus scare: Buddy up with a friend who's going as a Goldman Sachs executive!

Joker ("The Price Is Right")
Just like there were tons guys smearing white greasepaint on their faces to dress as the Crow on Halloweens throughout the '90s, there's no doubt going to be a zillion Joker costumes still on the street this year. You can show them all exactly how un-creative they are by building a replica of the Joker game from "The Price Is Right" and strutting around in that all night. Sure, it may be met with a little bit of confusion -- though getting a pal to dress up as Bob Barker could cut down on that -- but people will quickly stop asking you to explain the gag when you offer them a chance to win a brand new car! (New car not included.)

(East Kilbride) Pirate
Three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and a seemingly endless succession of annoying "Talk Like a Pirate Day" gags have made the prospect of going as a pirate about as dull as cutting eyeholes in a sheet and calling yourself a ghost. Unless the pirate you're dressed as is an East Kilbride Pirate, that is. Drop the "Aaaargh, maties!" and affect a thick Scottish brogue to talk like the kind of pirates who make up the British American Football League's team from East Kilbride, Scotland. The team's poor showing in the 2007 and 2008 seasons had them bumped from the amateur league's Premiere conference into the less-demanding Division 1. If donning a football helmet (with an admittedly creepy logo) and talking like Shrek doesn't beat being the 19th Johnny Depp or Captain Morgan at the party, we're not sure what does.

Zombie
(Computer)
Much like pirates, the over-saturated zombie market has made this costume a pretty bland choice. But making yourself a boxy, papier mache computer costume is the height of originality, we swear. A zombie computer is one that's been infected by a hacker and used to bombard the unsuspecting with spam. Print out a few business cards with utter nonsense and calls for v1agr4 on them, foist them on strangers all night, and you can be the king of conceptually clever costumes.

(South African) Robot
Spray-painting a cardboard box silver and drawing some buttons on the front is still a pretty lame choice for a costume. But you can impress the hell out of everyone at the Halloween party with how worldly you are by getting some red, yellow and green LED lights and talking about how, in South Africa, robot is their word for stoplight. Apparently the term's usage comes from the fact that, prior to the device's invention, traffic was directed by a policeman, making the stoplight a de facto "robot" cop preventing accidents. See? Halloween doesn't have to be all about scares, candy and ladies in trashy costumes -- we can learn about other cultures, too.

What other double-meaning phrases could turn clichéd costumes on their heads?