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309888.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:18 am Reply with quote

A particularly un-fruitful topic for me, and like The Great Exhibition last year, I had such high hopes.

Perhaps our historians may have some good anecdotes.


The fool of QI.

Or Qi, was called Baldy Chunyu. He is generally portrayed as being a not-very-funny smartarse.

He was once given a gift to give to the king of the aggressive Chu people, who were mounting attacks on the Qi. The gifts were measly and Baldy told his king that he once hilariously saw a man sacrificing a pig’s trotter and a cup of wine, hoping for “cartloads from the low ground and full hampers from the high”. The king realised that Baldy found it funny that someone would give such a measly sacrifice for a large reward, and significantly increased his gift to the Chu. The Chu withdrew the same night.


The fool Sibelot is said to have attacked everyone in the court of Henry III with his marotte; everyone, that is, with the thankful exception of the king himself.

Greek fools

In Greek mythology, Zeus tells the world that he will send a rain storm which will only make the fools wet; in response, the only wise man in the town buys an umbrella. In other words, the only wise man was the one who recognised his own folly. When it turns out that he is the only dry person around, he is attacked by the mob.

Twisty Pole

According to Qin historian Sima Qian, Emperor Qin Shihuang wanted to lacquer the Great Wall of China. Everyone could see it was a stupid idea, but no-one dared tell him. A fool called Twisty Pole applauded the plan of the Emperor's son to coat the entire length of the Great Wall with lacquer. To think of lacquering the wall, said Twisty Pole, was an act of genius, because all the enemies would slither and slide as they tried to climb over it. The only problem might be building a drying-room large enough to hold the wall while the lacquer dried to the requisite sheen. The Emperor could see his folly.

Funny names

Other Chinese fools include Moving Bucket, Openly-Flawless-Jade, Newly-Polished-Mirror and Going-Round-in-Circles.

French fool

No-one at the court of Philip VI of France was brave enough to tell him that his fleet had been destroyed by the English. The job fell to an unnamed fool. “Those cowardly Englishmen, those chicken-hearted Britons! How so?” “Why, because they had not the courage enough to jump into the sea like your own sailors who went headlong from their ships, leaving the enemy who dared not follow them”

Fool at Hastings (apparantly we've covered him)

Taillefer the fool was supposed to have initiated the decisive charge of the French cavalry at the battle of hastings. The Normans were supposedly uncertain, after seeing the English army when the minstrel ran towards the English juggling with his sword and lance and insulting the English. He either injures or kills a single Englishman before being engulfed, however his bravery inspires the French to victory.

St Barts

St. Bartholomew's Hospital was founded by Rayer, the jester or minstrel of Henry I who, in 1120 went on pilgrimage to Rome and became disillusioned with his life as a jester.

s: Fools and Jesters at the English Court by John Southworth

309898.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:29 am Reply with quote

The Feast of Fools could be fruitful? Perhaps for the Christmas show.

This was a precurser to today's Christmas festivities. It was widespread throughout Europe, especially in FRANCE (where it must've been pretty dull, seeing as all the peasants were hibernating), and was celebrated with transvestisism, the crowning of a fool-pope, and general buffoonery.

Its blaphemous nature was accepted by the church for centuries until it was stamped out in the 13th and 14th century, though even today, some towns in England (perhaps also on the continant?) crown a boy-bishop.

Priests would take part. Chambers describes the scenes as "largely an ebullition of the natural lout beneath the cassock". The clergy would wear womens clothes, or their own vestments inside-out, would replace incense burners with sausages, or the incense itself with smell socks and would generally dance around the church.

Various attempts to stop the festivals were made before it was finally stamped out; Pope Innocent ordered Polish churches to stop in 1207, and in Sens in 1444, local laws limited the numbers of buckets of water that could be thrown over the fool to three (an early example of councils "banning christmas"?)

The feast was often celebrated on or about the feast of the Circumcision (1 Jan.) link to FORESKINS

s: F&J (see above)

309926.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:56 am Reply with quote

When it turns out that he is the only dry person around, he is attacked by the mob.

Quite right too, the smartarse.

I agree, not much to work with there.

309936.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:08 am Reply with quote

Egg, I did the Southworth book in Series E ... and gave up halfway through, because nothing much caught fire. But there are still one or two possibly useable snippets at post 163825 onwards.

I did rather like this:

St Chrysostom defined a fool (and therefore, we might say, a comedian) as “he who gets slapped.”

and this:

Sometimes fools aren’t foolish enough (as producers of panel shows might confirm, perhaps): the Roman satirist Martial wrote in complaint about a recent purchase: “”He has been described as an idiot. I bought him for twenty thousand sesterces. Give me back my money, Gargilianus; he has wits.”

309941.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:12 am Reply with quote

Dammit. Wish I'd have remembered that, would've saved me a very dull train journey home.

333258.  Fri May 09, 2008 7:38 am Reply with quote

Question: What is the difference between an idiot and a moron?

Answer: 30 IQ points.

In the early 20th century, these were both terms to refer to mentally retarded people:

70-80 Borderline deficiency
50-69 Moron
20-49 Imbecile
0-20 Idiot

Now not used, of course, but according to wiki, in a number of US states "idiots" are not allowed to vote.

s: vns

333281.  Fri May 09, 2008 8:01 am Reply with quote

With a klaxon for "How did Bush get in, then?"
"Except in Texas."


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