In researching stuff, I often come across other stuff. Stuff that’s pretty funny or intriguing. The latest is about the various Italian Academies that existed from the Renaissance on for a couple hundred years. These were gatherings, usually in patrician homes or other ridotti (technically “annexes”) where the literati met to discuss poetry, literature, grammar (my students would be astounded to hear that!), philosophy, the classics in Greek, and so on. Some topics: (these come from Bassanese’s book on Gaspara Stampa):
“Can love exist without jealousy?” “Can a man fall in love by hearsay rather than sight?” “Can a courtesan love selflessly?” “Is nobility a quality of the soul or the blood?”
These academies had some pretty spectacular names that I kept marveling at as I came across them. Here are a few I found in Pompeo Molmenti’s Venice: Part III Vol. II:
Discordanti, Instancabili, Sviluppati, Immaturi, Ordinati, Animosi, Assicurati, Marittimi, Fileleuteri, Arditi, Fioriti, Peripatetici, Imperfetti, Tassisti, Immobili, Delfici, Abbagliati, Paragonisti, Intriciati, Silenti, Suscitati, Imperterbabili, Infuocati, Pacifici, Filaleti, Dodonei, Separati, Infaticabili, Filadelfici, Industriosi
Now, if I throw these into Google Translate (which can be a very amusing exercise in itself) here’s what we get:
Discordant, Tireless, Developed, Immature, Sorted, Animosi sure, the Maritime Fileleuteri, Arditi, Flowery, Peripatetics, Imperfect, Taxi drivers, Real Estate, Delphic, Dazzled, Paragonisti, Intriciati, Silent, Raised, Imperterbabili, Infuocati, Pacifici, Philaletheians, Dodonei, Separated, Tireless, Filadelfici, Industrious.
I hope my Italian and Venetian readers out there will help with translations. Somehow I’m thinking that Google Translate isn’t quite accurate.
But what’s the deal with these names? These are supposed to be scholarly societies gathering with the purpose of fostering learning and discourse. Well, I finally came across an answer. Isaac Disraeli (father of Benjamin) wrote an anonymous chapter in the book Curiosities of Literature titled “On the Ridiculous Titles Assumed by Italian Academies.” He claims that the Academies chose such silly names on purpose to obscure their true purpose, to “rid the air of pedantry” and to “burlesque themselves.” I love that they were poking fun at themselves and their erudite conclaves. Some other societies mentioned were the Sleepy, the Lazy, the Insipids, the Blockheads, and the Thunderstruck.
If you were going to name your Academy, what would you choose?