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In a sentence describing some children having some fun in a playroom:

They would flounce, caper, and gambol all the time.

What are the differences between those three actions?

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  • What confused you about what the dictionary said?
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 21:15
  • @tchrist - My dictionary gives me bunch of translations for each one of those words and many of them overlap, so I still don't know the essential difference between those words. Plus, my dictionary gives me ALL possible meanings of those words, while in the context of the sentence that I brought up in my question only some of those meanings, I guess, should be considered, however, my dictionary doesn't tell me which meanings in my case I should consider and which ones I should drop.
    – brilliant
    Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 21:23
  • “Translations”? You’re using a bilingual dictionary? That won’t do at all.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 21:25
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    Why is this separate from your last question? since both derive from the same source: "They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun. They leaped like deer on the moon." - Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron . . . I'm flagging this. Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 21:36
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    I don't believe @StoneyB was showing off or deriding you, but your last comment brings up one other persistant problem: non-native speakers taking such rebukes as personal attacks when they are meant to be hints on how to ask better questions. When people ask, "What does the dictionary say?" we aren't demanding perfection in your attempt to form a question, we are simply saying, "First tell us what you've already figured out, and then we'll gladly help fill in the rest of the puzzle." Without context, though, it's hard to get even a toehold on a good answer – best to add as much as you can.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 23:12

1 Answer 1

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Copied from the dictionary:

  • gambol: To leap or spring, in dancing or sporting; now chiefly of animals or children.
  • caper: intr. To dance or leap in a frolicsome manner, to skip for merriment; to prance as a horse. Also with about, away
  • flounce: intr. To make abrupt and jerky movements with the limbs or body; to throw the body about; to plunge, flounder, struggle. Also with about, up. Usually said of bulls, horses, or aquatic animals. to flounce it, said of a woman dancing.
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  • Thanks. Now I see how "to flounce" is different. However, I still don't quite see the difference between "to caper" and "to gambol". Is it like in "to caper" the element of happiness is kind of prevalent, while not in "to gambol"?
    – brilliant
    Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 21:31
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    @brilliant - 'gambol' is almost always used of innocent play, while 'caper' may (but doesn't have to) suggest something awkward, grotesque, inappropriate. 'caper' still preserves, for many writers, its original association with the goat (caper is Latin for goat), which has in some contexts a sinister reputation. Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 23:16
  • @StoneyB - I see. "Caper" meaning "goat" in Latin is quite a precious insight here. Thank you.
    – brilliant
    Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 23:32
  • @StoneyB I’m not sure that cutting capers in the street is particularly sinister, but something about this quote just might be: “He would cackle with laughter and caper, if any jest was made, or even if Frodo spoke kindly to him, and weep if Frodo rebuked him.” The cackling doesn’t help. No, no points for guessing the ref. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 0:52
  • @tchrist O, nice. . . Specifics I had in mind were RIII "He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber / To the lascivious pleasing of a lute", and Huckleberry Finn, where the King is described as capering in the pornographic version of the performance. Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 1:10

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