1

The Source

  • With his Savile Row suit, crimson necktie, and plentiful gray locks, he cut a rather elegant if dubious figure, a look he described as dignified depravity.

I have two questions regard to the text above:

  • 1) what is the meaning and usage of if in the text?
  • 2) I cannot understand the context of cut a rather elegant if dubious figure, a look...
    • did he cut a figure or look, or look is an attributive noun modifying the word “figure”?

The dictionary defines the phrase as:

Cut a figure To convey a particular image. An adjective is often used between "a" and "figure." As the dog ran around while covered in a blanket, he cut a funny figure that entertained the kids.

2

This constructions says that his appearance is elegant, even if it is also dubious. It shows a contrast between two different aspects of his appearance, but implies the first one mentioned (elegance) is more important.

A simpler example:

The piano player's technically brilliant if unemotional performance impressed the audience.

We might prefer a performance that is both technical and emotional. In this case the player displays only one of these qualities, but it is still enough to impress the audience.

On your second question,

did he cut a figure or look, or look is an attributive noun modifying the word “figure”?

Look is being used here in the sense of "appearance", as is figure. So they're two different words being used to refer to the same thing.

Look in this sense often means the appearance you have because of the way you dress or present yourself.

For example,

An orange tie with a purple coat isn't a good look for you.

There's a similar usage that's very common recently related to how the things we say make others think of us:

Questioning the honesty of the judge wasn't a good look for the mayor.

  • Good explanation, but what about the word “look” in the next sentence, Is it a modifier for figure? – Bavyan Yaldo Sep 22 '18 at 4:38

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