• zany •
zay-nee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun & Adjective.
Meaning: 1. A ludicrous buffoon, a person who stupidly tries to be funny. 2. Ludicrously buffoonish, idiotically clownish. 3. Outrageously funny, off the wall.
Notes: Since coming to English, zany has accumulated a panoply of related forms: zanily, the adverb, zaniness, the noun, and, of course, comparative and superlative forms, zanier and zaniest.
In Play: We shouldn't forget that today's Good Word is basically a noun, and the adjectival usage is derived from it: "With an office full of zanies like this one, who would expect to get anything done?" Of course, the adjective by now has thoroughly ingrained itself into the language as well, so we are free to use it as we please: "Mom, what a zany idea—I should clean up my room again this month?"
Word History: Today's Good Word has journeyed around Europe from the ordinary to the ridiculous. It comes directly from French zani, but originated as Italian zanni. The Italian word is an eponym of Zanni, the Venetian variant of Italian Gianni, the nickname for the common Italian name, Giovanni "John". This is the name of servants who act buffoonishly in the Commedia dell'Arte. Zanni, seen in the picture to the left, is known for wearing a mask with a long nose or beak. (It wouldn't be a zany idea to thank new Alpha Agoran, Gianni Tamburini of Italy, for suggesting a Good Word that originates in his own name!)