January 06, 2013
zany (noun)
\ZAY-nee\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : clown2 : a silly or foolish person
How do you use it?
"And what a zany an old chap must be, to light a bonfire when there's no youngsters to please." (Thomas Hardy, _Return of the Native_)
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Who do you think first used the word "zany" in English?

You may be more familiar with the adjective "zany," but "zany" was first introduced to English by William Shakespeare as a noun. In Shakespeare's play _Love's Labour's Lost_ (written around 1594), one of the characters looks for a zany who "knows the trick to make my Lady laugh." That was the first known use of "zany" in English, but the word had been part of Italian plays long before that. In Italian plays, the "zany" was a character who mimicked everyone else on stage. That goofy pest was always called "Zanni," a nickname for "Giovanni," the Italian form of "John." When English speakers adopted the character, they took his name too, and gradually transformed it into the modern word "zany."
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