I'm creating a XVIIth century Italian fictional character who had a vision: he believes he saw elements of a symbolic language he's now trying to decipher. People make fun of him. They call him ...

If you can think of a (probably derogatory) nickname for someone who has visions, please let me know.

Also he went to a Jesuit college in Rome. Is there an ancient Italian slang term for Jesuits?

Thanks much.

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    I believe you should avoid the ordinal suffix th when using roman numbers, which are assumed to be ordinal when they refer e.g. to a century, or to a dynastic suffix: you would write Louis XIV, not Louis XIVth. – lupalberto Jun 1 '16 at 17:19
  • As in "The Adjective Gothique in the XVIIIth Century", Wm. C. Holbrook, Modern Language Notes, Vol. 56, (Nov., 1941), for instance? jstor.org/stable/2911405?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents – JeanB Jun 3 '16 at 12:08
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    Hmm... that's interesting. It may be that rules in English are different than the ones in Italian. If I had used the equivalent Italian suffix when I was in school, that would have been marked as an error. I did research a little before posting the comment, and it looked like Roman ordinal numbers worked in English just as they do in Italian, but I may be wrong. – lupalberto Jun 3 '16 at 13:39

If the people mocking him are knowledgeable enough, they might liken him to Father Athanasius Kircher, SJ, who in those years was perhaps one of the preminent codebreakers and one of the first scholars to attempt deciphering Egyptian hyeroglyphs. This is not necessarily a slight; possibly the modern equivalent of calling someone an Einstein. It might be a compliment or a slander, depending.

Another likely candidate for a likeness would be Borrino, vulgar name for Joseph Francis Borri, Esq., a pictoresque and at times unsavory quack that graced the second half of the seventeenth century. Not universally known, though. To dub someone a Borrino gesuita should have been slight enough to warrant a death duel (Borrino hasn't a very nice sound in Italian even if one didn't know it was used as meaning little Borri).

At that time, "jesuit" was a not too affectionate nickname for the members of the Society of Jesus, for they were expected to "find Christ in all things".

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  • Great answer. Just a nit-picking: when you say «"jesuit" was a not too affectionate nickname», do you mean “jesuit” verbatim, “gesuita” in Italian or the equivalent in still another language? – DaG May 30 '16 at 17:09
  • Thanks Iserni. Yes, Kircher is part of the story as well. Borrino is a bit far fetched for popular slander, but I like the sound of it. Of course, calling someone "jesuit" today can be derogatory in some context; how about "gesuita" in 17th century Italy? – JeanB May 30 '16 at 19:18
  • more at the beginning than at the end of the century, I think. You might also look at the names of comedy characters. They were quite popular and well-known. As a category, Jesuits were sometimes called "black vests", but I do not know whether this had already started at that time. – LSerni May 30 '16 at 19:36

Strologo, also written Stròlogo or Strolago, is a vernacular form of astrologo (astrologist, soothsayer), often used with a pejorative meaning (see also the verb strologare, which Wiktionary translates to rack one's brains). Google N-Gram shows that it was already in use around 1600-1700.

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  • For instance, this google books result from 1688 puts "Giacomo Andrea Zolla, known as il Strologo" in a list of "cutpurses, tramps, and other lowlife infesting the city of Milan". – Federico Poloni May 30 '16 at 19:27
  • Very interesting. But Strologo applies to predictions of some kind. What about just visions? The idea is that the character would be mocked for saying he saw something (apparition, ghosts, etc.). PS: it would be great to get more translations from that Google page you point to. – JeanB May 30 '16 at 19:54
  • In your google books link "Gridario generale delle gride, bandi, ordini, edit..." I see terms like il Menacù, il Genouefino, il Bagolino, il Cuoco, il fiolino, il Pedocchio . What do they mean? And are "gride, bandi, ordini" in the title the "cutpurses, tramps, and other lowlife" you mention ? I could use such terms as well. – JeanB May 30 '16 at 20:07
  • @JeanB No - the title means "public proclamations and orders". The cutpurses are in the previous page: "Borsaroli, Vagabondi e altri Malviventi, quali infestano la città di Milano". The others are indeed nicknames. Pedocchio means louse; Cuoco is cook; Fiolino is Lombard (i.e., the dialect of the region near Milan, so not 100% appropriate if your novel is set in Rome) for little son; Menacù is, probably, Lombard for ass-wiggler, Bagolino looks like a Lombard nickname for someone who chatters a lot. – Federico Poloni May 30 '16 at 20:24

I would say "Visionario" it is often used to indicate a person with some weird magical powers or with some weird ideas...

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  • Thanks. It doesn't seem pejorative though. I was hoping for something more wry, colloquial or slang. – JeanB May 29 '16 at 0:19

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