caparison

Don’t dress up much? Why not put on something really smart, just for the sake of caparison? Oh, come now, try… even if you look so good your significant other won’t let you out without a chaperone.

Caparison is not, I should say, lest there be any doubt, related to comparison. On the other hand, it is related to chaperone. The latter word is also – and with greater historical basis – spelled chaperon; it comes from a French word of the same spelling meaning “hood.” Its sense is one of protection, and it came to its modern usage through application to an older woman who would travel with a younger one to protect her (just think of Maggie Smith’s character Charlotte Bartlett in A Room with a View). But the same hood came to be called caparazon in Spanish and caparação in Portuguese, and so by way of older French caparasson we came to this English term caparison for a cape for a horse. And from that we come to other decorative clothing for other beasts (us included) for special events.

And why shouldn’t it be a word for haute couture? We can see that it has paris at heart. It’s a word for the fancy-dress ball set (and I don’t just mean those ball-ended tassels hanging on the horse’s cape)! If the time to cut a caper is on, or if at the end of the night you wish to cap a risen sun with one last waltz (or tango), what better mode of attire than one expressed by a word perhaps best known today in the works of Shakespeare? It’s an uncommon word for uncommon events, and it so nicely drapes a vowel between each pair of consonants, like a lovely garland. Just do remember not to overdo it – try two-r‘d and you may end up with craparison.

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