Definition: The real definition of the "panache" is a tuft of pretty feathers, especially on a helmet. That's actually the literal translation from the early French word "pennache" from which panache is descended. The definition that most of us use, though, is to indicate just a bit of style and swagger.
The most important aspect of panache is that it is just a dash of style. Modern Bowie has panache. Early Bowie had extravagance. Knowing when to quit is the line between cool and douchebaggery. People who perform in eyeliner and fishnet shirts should be very wary of this line.
Originally, panache was seen as a bad thing. It was the title character in the play Cyrano de Bergerac that gave the word its more positive connotation. As he dies, Cyrano says:
Yet there is something still that will always be mine, and when I go to God's presence, there I'll doff it and sweep the heavenly pavement with a gesture - something I'll take unstained out of this world... my panache.
Use in a Sentence: Paul Stanley's hairpiece doesn't really give him panache, so much as it makes us wonder if secretly wants to be Tim Curry from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Use in a Song: Beastie Boys, "Shazam!"
Our apologies for the commercial in front of the tune, but every other version of "Shazam" on YouTube had embedding disabled.
If there is any hip hop group that can honestly be said to have panache, it is definitely the Beastie Boys. As a group, they have always been sure to stay well back from the ridiculous excesses that seem to drive hip hop and often makes it a laughing parody of itself. In short, they're cool. They've always been cool, and they will always be cool.
We don't feel comfortable saying that the Boys have never put out a bad album, but we do feel pretty confident in saying that they do so rarely. 2004's To the 5 Boroughs saw the group strip their sound down quite a bit from Hello Nasty, and the result seems more personal, sincere, and downright real. Currently, it's our favorite Beastie release.
"Shazam!" is a short track form the latter part of the album. It gets double points for the title because comic fans will note that Captain Marvel's secret word turning him into a superhero always has an exclamation point, even in the book's title. Mike D lays down our word of the day in the following flow.
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I'm in the lab all day I scrabble all night I got a bedazzler so my outfit's tight When it comes to panache I can't be beat I got the most style from below 14th street
Can the garishness of a bedazzled outfit indicate panache? Well, too much is too much, but way too much is just right. Hannibal Lecter said that, and if we can't trust him and the Beastie Boys, who can we trust?