The Court Jester

Robin Hood or The Princess Bride? Which one inspired The Court Jester?

Well, if you look at the image, you see that Danny Kaye (born דוד־דניאל קאַמינסקי—that’s Yiddish, even if it looks like Hebrew) starred in The Court Jester, and since you know that it was released in 1955, decades before The Princess Bride, you reach an easy conclusion.

Why, then, are there so many similarities between The Court Jester and The Princess Bride? And what does this all have to do with linguistics? The connection is a familiar linguistic conundrum: on noticing that Greek and Latin, say, share a lot of similarities, does one conclude that Greek came from Latin or that Latin came from Greek?

Neither! The correct conclusion is that both of them came from a common ancestor (Proto-Indo-European, or PIE, in this case). The same applies to The Court Jester and The Princess Bride. The former, as you can see from the movie poster, not only starred Danny Kaye but featured a number of other actors that everyone except me is familiar with. (Actually, I do know Angela Lansbury. More or less.) It’s an entertaining musical comedy, clearly a take-off on Robin Hood but not a direct parody. The story is fun, the songs are worth hearing, and the acting is amazingly acrobatic. Go see it. And see how many connections with The Princess Bride you can spot—not just the famous “Vessel with the Pestle” and the “Chalice with the…” whatever it is. Oh, just go see it!

Categories: Linguistics, Movies & (occasionally) TV