Words are important to me. If you’ve seen my show, you’ll know I use a lot of them. Finding the right word for a joke or an idea is a fun quest for me. Mark Twain said (didn’t he always say something pithy?), “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
I love words. I enjoy reading about word origins. In fact, I have a section of my bookshelf devoted just to words, wordplay and etymology.
So, what about the “juggling” words?
The word Juggle has a long story. At its root, the word starts in Latin as iocus, meaning “joke”. Ioculus means “little joke”. Ioculus came into Old French as joculare, meaning “to jest”. Joculare became Jongleur. Just a few short steps more to become the word Juggler.
Jugglers didn’t always juggle. Juggler or the middle and old French “Jongleur” referred, for many years, to what we would call a Jester. The jester would have many “tricks up his sleeve”, including acrobatics, magic, juggling, music and jokes. Basically, a Jongleur was a person who could use most any means to entertain. Yes, they could juggle (as we would call it), but they were always capable of a little bit more. It wasn’t until the age of specialization that juggler became someone who threw things in the air.
For a time, juggling had a decidedly bad reputation. It was synonymous with the bad sort of trickery. It still survives in the phrase “juggle the books”.
One of the skills jugglers acquired was the ability to separate people from their wallets. Sometimes, jugglers and pickpockets would work together – the performer gathering the crowd and the thief working the pockets. This caused St. Bernard (no, not the dog – the saint) to remark, “The man who delights in the tricks of the juggler will soon have a wife whose name is poverty.”
Well, I delight in the tricks of the juggler. And like the Jongleurs of old, I try to do shows with a varied mix of entertainments – some juggling, some jokes, some magic, some fire and a bed of nails.
My wife’s name is not poverty. Her name is Kobi.