A polyglot dictionary of fools
The jester is a complex character, emerging from or overlapping with a raggle-taggle round up of entertainers, advisers, hangers-on, pranksters, wits, ‘naturals’, musicians, poets, troubadours, tricksters, actors, mimes, folk fools, dwarfs and hunchbacks. Did we miss anyone?
They existed in many places over long stretches of time. The words used to name them and their skills evolved over time and what might nowadays imply ‘actor’ may at an earlier time have meant ‘jester’. Or vice versa.
In the main languages covered in Fools Are Everywhere, the lexicon of jesterdom is rich and to a degree messy. It may be equally so in other languages. Yet certain words start to crop up when you’re seeking examples across diverse cultures, and your first words in unknown languages are those which might uncover a new seam of materials to be mined; I soon learned to look for ‘skomorokhi’ in Russian bibliographic references, a word which will certainly be addressed here.
Aims and approaches
This then, aims to create a polyglot lexicon of fools and foolery. We don’t presume to nail definitive meanings, but rather to tease out their subtleties and highlight materials which do a deeper dive on a particular term.
New additions – and new definitions of them – will be featured as we find interesting ideas and incisive explanations, and not in any particular order. The aim is to build a rich, nuanced source of rich, nuanced terms for fooldom.
We will add examples as they turn up in the digging, and once we build up more, we will begin slicing and dicing by language.
No one, what’s more, should now expect me to proceed, as those run-of-the-mill public speakers of yours do, by subjecting myself to definition or – still less – to analysis. Drawing a boundary round someone whose divine power is so vast, or dissecting someone whose worship unites the universe – either would invite heaven’s disfavour.
Folly speaks in Praise of Folly (1511) – Erasmus
Latest additions – served up as they emerge
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