Jokers & Jesters

Ever wondered about the difference between a Joker and a Jester? Wonder no more!

Etymology

The word Jest seems to have appeared as far back as the mid-14th century and is an Englified version of the French word: Geste. In English, the word meant “narrative of exploits”, somewhat bastardizing the French meaning which was “action, exploit”.

And for us language nerds out there, the French word Geste comes from Gesta in Latin and means “deeds” (anyone see the movie. Mr. Gesta? Lol) which comes from Gerere and means “to carry, behave, act, perform“. Makes sense! Jest’s meaning changed from “idle tale” to “raillery, mocking speech” in the late 15th century.

In parallel, the word Jester evolved in the beginning of the 14th century from Jestour, to Gestour that at the time meant “a minstrel, professional reciter of romances” / “Recite a tale” which was the Jesters original function. Jesters seem to have performed their profession for nobles during a couple of hundred years after this, as the term “buffoon in a prince’s court” is found in late 15th century writings.

Joke appeared first in the 1660’s as “a jest, something done to excite laughter” directly Englified from the Latin word iocus. Informally used in the beginning, Joke meant and still means “something not real or to no purpose, someone not to be taken seriously”.

Joker on the other hand doesn’t appear as a term until 1729, where it’s described as “a merry fellow, one who jokes”.

The Jester

According to a reliable source the history of Jesters as comic entertainers stretch all the way back to ancient times, starting as early as the 5th dynasty in ancient Egypt in 2500 BC, to 700 BC in Ireland, to pre-Christian religious ceremonies all over Europe and India!

Jester-like characters were also present in the Aztec Kingdom in Mexico and in The Roman Empire, and of course in the middle ages, which most of us have seen in movies. Popular culture often portrays Jesters as performers wearing coxcombs, bells, baubles, and eared hoods in near proximities to thick, wooden, medieval horseshoe shaped dining room tables in dimly lit castles…

Although the Jester has appeared through history in all shapes, ethnicities and sizes, they all had one thing in common: they were brought in to amuse others. They seem to have had the unique right to mock, and power to degrade high and low society (mostly high).

Yours truly feels that the juxtaposition of being an outsider simply due to external/visual factors such as being short, having a physical abnormality or a speech impediment – and therefore being able to abuse and make fun of literally anyone, feels vexatious, as it reflects the inequity in pre-modern societies; the only free voice was given to a person nobody took seriously, only to the amusement of the oppressors.

The Joker

Online dictionaries’ first explanation for the word is “a person given to joking”. Although, the visual that probably pops up for most of us is that of a popular super villain, or a playing card, or even a symbol in an online slot. The St. James Gazette writes back in 1894 that a nifty person thought that the empty card usually included in the American card packs shouldn’t be wasted – and that came to be the origin of the Joker!

Would you call your friend a Joker? That’s someone who tells jokes and is funny, right? I’m not too sure though, since the word has somewhat of a negative connotation, at least online. Unless one enjoys being called insignificant, incompetent or obnoxious that is…

Now you know the difference between Jokers and Jesters! We’re all about these characters at Casino Heroes this week. Yesterday we released NextGen Gaming’s Joker Gems and today we open the doors to Jackpot Jester 200k from Elk Studios.

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Jokers & Jesters

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