• unflappable •
ên-flæp-ê-bÍl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Impervious to anxiety, not subject to rash or exaggerated reaction, imperturbable, cool and relaxed in tense situations.
Notes: English is full of orphan negatives, adjectives used in the negative only: inept, inane, etc. We do not speak of 'flappable' people who are easily excited or say that they 'flap' when they get excited. Our lives were 'flapped' around the turn of the last century by the flappers, people easily excited to flap their arms and legs to music like "The Charleston" and "The Varsity Drag". We do use the noun flap to indicate a modest scandal, as in "Were you involved in the flap over the use of the company car last week?"
In Play: Today's Good Word is used in referring to people who are totally unupsettable: "Let's send Lester Kuhl to negotiate the contract; he's as unflappable as James Bond in tense situations." Unflappable people do not make good sports fans: "Arnold is absolutely unflappable; at football games he just sits there with his fingers in his ears when the fans around him are jumping up and down and roaring."
Word History: The verb flap itself seems to be an onomatopoeic blend of flip + clap. The noun flap is itself a blended element in flab: flap + slab. Similar words appear in Dutch flappen "to strike, clap" and German flappen "to clap", but we can only trace the English root back to Middle English flappe "slap". The sense of unflappable is probably related to 19th century British slang when flapper referred to a young bird or a young girl, who flapped her arms or lips more than necessary. (Today's Good Word was brought to you courtesy of the unflappable Brenna Pearce of Calgary, Alberta—and that's no flap-doodle.)