You are so vain!

Tedwonny

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I've checked this word a few times. "Vain" means "(disapproving) too proud of your own appearance, abilities or achievements" (from Oxford advanced learner's dictionary).

But, interestingly, the few times I've come across this phrase used by educated native speakers and authoritative bodies (e.g. BBC radio, 6 min Eng) all share something in common. The context is almost always when 'someone is looking at themselves in the mirror, fixing their hair and checking if each part of their face is alright'. Then, the guy will get this narcissistic "you're so vain!".

Really? Did I get it wrong or are the dictionaries wrong? Those who are checking themselves often in the mirror (me included) aren't 'too proud' but we just want to make sure we look okay, like the last minute before going into an interview room. We are CONCERNED about our looks but we aren't proud.

So, I'd like to know
1) Does you are so vain mean you are too proud of your appearance?
2) Is there another word to refer to someone who cares so much about his looks? Perfectionist is too general.


Thanks a lot

 

Raymott

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You've only checked one dictionary? I can't see why 'vain' doesn't cover all the examples you've mentioned.
 

Tdol

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If someone else feels the need to comment on it, then you might be spending too much time in front of the mirror. If you were spending what they see as the right time to take care of your appearance, then they probably wouldn't say it. However, vanity is hard to measure as it is very subjective.
 
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Skrej

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There's a difference between a quick look in the mirror to make sure everything's okay, versus spending more time than necessary to accomplish the check.

A quick glance in the mirror to make sure you don't have anything stuck in your teeth isn't vain. Spending 10 minutes unnecessarily re-combing your hair for the fifth time that morning just because you admire how soft your hair feels is vain.
 

Rover_KE

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Is there another word to refer to someone who cares so much about his looks?

Taking vanity to its extreme, you'll hear 'narcissist', named after Narcissus in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool.
 
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