Persiflage refers to the sort of light banter one just breezes through, breezy talk to shoot the breeze, mere raillery: more flapper than sage; more purse than flag; a trifle, a siffle, mere piffle.

I've been trying to decode the meaning of the phrase "more flapper than sage; more purse than flag' for about a day now. I bumped into this expression here . Please help me figure this out.


"More [x] than [y]" is an idiomatic way of saying that something more closely resembles one thing than another. It doesn't mean that the subject is not [x], just that it should perhaps be considered to be closer to [y].

For example, if someone said they were cooking a stew, but the consistency of it was more liquid than solid, you might say "it's more of a soup than a stew". You're not saying that it isn't a stew, or that it is a soup - just that it has perhaps turned out more like a soup than intended.

The text you quote comes from a piece about the definition of persiflage, which means "light banter". The two statements you are asking about are made to try and help define what that means.

A "flapper" is an old-fashioned word (possibly 1920s) for a party-goer. A "sage" is a wise person. I believe "more flapper than sage" is saying that "persiflage" or "light banter" means talking about trivial matters, not serious matters.

Likewise, a "purse" is something carried for fashion, a "flag" is something carried to represent national politics. Again, I believe "more purse than flag" means that light banter is more likely to be about trivial things like fashion than about serious matters like politics.

I can't be 100% certain these are the intended definitions and comparisons of those 4 words, but I do feel confident that this is the intended meaning in the context of the article.

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  • I think flapper in this context is less a Roaring Twenties party girl and more a person who talks too much (i.e. person who flaps his lips a lot). – pboss3010 Mar 2 at 14:14

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