Jolly Japes and Jackanapes


A conceited or impertinent person. It is uncertain whether the -napes is connected originally with the ape or with Naples, Jackanapes being a Jack (monkey) of (imported from) Naples, just as fustian-a-napes was fustian from Naples. By the 16th century, Jackanapes was in use as a proper name for a tame ape.


Jack-a-Napes. The nickname of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk (1396-1450), who was beheaded at sea (off Dover), possibly at the instigation of the Duke of York. The name arose from his badge, the clog and chain of an ape, which also gave rise to his name ‘Ape-clogge’.

I was actually looking for “japes” in Brewer’s today, not jackanapes, but these definitions were too marvellous to pass up.

So to my original purpose: the concept of japes as in ‘jolly japes’, supposedly enjoyed by those at boarding school. Also known as larks. What were they? Were they fun? Are they worth writing about in an interesting and modern way, perhaps with an unexpected twist that might turn a few brains inside-out? My gut says yes. My head whispers that writing about boarding school is elitist old tripe. It’s been done to death by writers far superior to me. It’s irrelevant to today’s readers, hopelessly off the pulse and utterly unrealistic. Rather like magic, Greek gods and vampires.

*wanders off to consider old diaries with thoughtful expression on face*

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