Zany. We probably all think of it as “comic, acting like a buffoon to entertain others.” But did you know that it was actually originally a person (so a noun) in a comedy? Yep! A zany has been a comic performer since the 1580s. But you may be wondering where the word itself came from.

Interestingly, it’s just an anglicized spelling/pronunciation of the Venitian Gianni, a nickname for Giovanni–the Italian equivalent of “John.” Much like the English “Jack,” it was just a very common name that was given to a sort of “any man” character (think “Jack of all trades”).

So, in these comedic performances the name Gianni or Zanni/Zany was given to a comedic character meant to make the hero appear in a positive light.

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