A gaper is a stone head, often depicting a black man, on the front of a building in the Netherlands. It was used to indicate that this building is a pharmacy.

The literal translation of gaper would be "yawner"; the figure is always displayed with an open mouth, and sometimes you can see a pill he has taken resting on his tongue. In fact he wasn't yawning, but opening his mouth to take medicine.

The existing "gapers" in Amsterdam are almost all of Moorish appearance but this wasn't always the case and earlier ones, now in museums, show white Dutch faces as the gaper. The gaper represents the assistant of the travelling apothecary, the forefather of today's pharmacist. The apothecary would attend market days all over the country and his assistant would play the character of an ill man. After taking the pill, the assistant (often a Moor) would all of a sudden feel much better and perform a dance.

Later, when pharmacists opened shops instead of travelling through the country, the symbol of the Moorish man (often depicted with a pill on his tongue) would tell the illiterate audience that this was the home of a pharmacist.

Nowadays these symbols are rare, outside museum collections, fewer than 50 can be seen on buildings, some have now lent their names to cafes such as the Gevulde Gaper in Amsterdam.

External links

* (in English)
* (Dutch only)
* (Dutch only)

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  • Gaper — Gap er (g[=a]p [ e]r), n. 1. One who gapes. [1913 Webster] 2. (Zo[ o]l.) (a) A European fish. See 4th {Comber}. (b) A large edible clam ({Schizoth[ae]rus Nuttalli}), of the Pacific coast; called also {gaper clam}. (c) An East Indian bird of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gaper — 1630s, agent noun from GAPE (Cf. gape) (v.). Gaper delay in traffic control parlance attested by 1995 …   Etymology dictionary

  • gaper — uolinis stirnešeris statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Serranus cabrilla angl. comber; gaper; garrupa rus. каменный окунь ханос ryšiai: platesnis terminas – paprastieji uoliniai ešeriai …   Žuvų pavadinimų žodynas

  • gaper — gape ► VERB 1) be or become wide open. 2) stare with one s mouth open wide in amazement or wonder. ► NOUN 1) a wide opening. 2) an open mouthed stare. 3) a widely open mouth or beak. DERIVATIVES …   English terms dictionary

  • gaper — noun Date: circa 1637 1. one that gapes 2. any of several large sluggish burrowing clams (families Myacidae and Mactridae) including several used for food …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • gaper — adj. [ON. gapa, yawn, gape] 1. An invertebrate that gapes. 2. (MOLLUSCA: Bivalvia) In oysters, used to denote a dead or dying individual with gaping valves and some remaining meat; see gaping …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • gaper — /gay peuhr/, n. 1. a person or thing that gapes. 2. Also called horse clam. a large clam, Tresus capax, common on gravelly and coarse sand beaches. [1630 40; GAPE + ER1] * * * …   Universalium

  • gaper — noun a) One who gapes; a starer. b) A fish, taxonomic name Serranus cabrilla. Syn: comber …   Wiktionary

  • gaper — n. person who stares with an open mouth; person who yawns …   English contemporary dictionary

  • gaper — 1) pager 2) grape …   Anagrams dictionary

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