Obscene Onomastics in Medieval Trickster Tales

Obscene Onomastics in Medieval Trickster Tales

By Louise O. Vasvári

Destiempos: Revista de curiosidad cultural, no.15 (2008)

Introduction: Names or nicknames of tricksters, who often appear in both oral culture and in literature in the guise of servants or fools, are infused with what Bakhtin called the grotesque debasement of language to the bodily lower stratum. This grotesque carnivalesque language, characteristic of the speech of the marketplace, emphasizes excrescences of the human body, especially the phallus, but also the nose, which often stands for it, as well as all the apertures of the body and hence the often interchanged activities of eating, copulation and excretion. It blurs, as well, the frontiers between categories of the human, the animate, and the inanimate. In this paper I shall exemplify the use of carnivalesque debasement in naming conventions of trickster figures, both in literary and subliterary texts from antiquity to the present, with primary emphasis on the medieval and renaissance periods.

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