Grommelot

Authored by: John Rudlin

The Routledge Companion to Commedia dell’Arte

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  November  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415745062
eBook ISBN: 9781315750842
Adobe ISBN: 9781317613374

10.4324/9781315750842.ch16

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Abstract

Grommelot is the supposedly gibberish or nonsense language invented by the comici dell’arte for use in rehearsal and performance. I say ‘supposedly’ because gibberish is meaningless, whereas grommelot is meaningful. Nonsense can be resorted to anytime and anywhere, often to obscure, whereas grommelot is context specific and comprehensible. Michel Saint-Denis called it ‘the music of meaning’: not nonsense at all, but the distillation of sense into onomatopoeic vocalisation (Saint-Denis 1982). Antonin Artaud was fascinated by it, finding as he did that words were a barrier to meaning rather than an intensifier of it. Other orthographies for this made-up language are ‘grammelot’ or ‘grumelot’; sometimes with one ‘m’, sometimes with two; sometimes in the singular, sometimes the plural. My preference for ‘grommelot’ is based on the following etymology:

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