• dapper •
dæ-pêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: 1. Neat, trim, jaunty, spiffy, snazzy, spruce in appearance; smartly groomed and dressed, 2. Lively, sharp, quick. (Applied to males only.)
Notes: The comparative of today's adjective is more dapper and the superlative is most dapper. This word is used most often in the phrase 'Dapper Dan', referring to any dapper man. Dapper men generally have closely cut hair and often use a bit of oily hair tonic to hold it in place. This is why Ulysses Everett McGill (played by George Clooney) in the Coen Brothers' film, 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' exclaims, "Well I don't want Fop, dammit! I'm a Dapper Dan man!" when he finds a store that carried Fop pomade, but not his favorite brand, Dapper Dan.
In Play: The meaning of today's adjective is very narrowly focused on a very neatly dressed man with an air of self-confidence that shows in his posture and walk: "Quentin looked quite dapper in his sharply creased pants, spit-polished shoes, and sprightly gait." The word does carry humorous connotations, though, making it easy to play with: "Lloyd dresses so badly he makes Rodney Dangerfield look dapper!"
Word History: Today's Good Word was probably borrowed from Middle Dutch dapper "quick, strong", from Proto-Germanic dapraz "heavy, source also of German tapfer "brave". Dapraz was based on PIE dheb-r-/dhob-r- "thick, stocky, firm", via the intermediary sense of "unmovable, standing firm". Modern Dutch dapper "brave", Russian debelyi "thick, fat" and dobryi "good", are apparently derived from the same PIE word. The latter probably developed from the former back when fat people were considered wealthy and good candidates for marriage. Latin faber "craftsman" and fabre "skillfully", underlying the English borrowing fabricate, seems to have come from the same PIE word. The phrase "Dapper Dan" comes from a 1921 song of that name written by Lew Brown and Albert Von Tilzer, who also wrote 'The Girl in the Gilded Cage' and 'I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad.' He must have been a mama's boy.
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