Village idiot

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The village idiot in strict terms is a person locally known for ignorance or stupidity,[1] but is also a common term for a stereotypically silly or nonsensical person or stock character. The term is also used as a stereotype of the mentally disabled.[2] It has also been applied as an epithet for an unrealistically optimistic or naive individual.[3]

The village idiot was long considered an acceptable social role, a unique individual who was dependent yet contributed to the social fabric of his community.[4] As early as Byzantine times, the "village idiot" was treated as an acceptable form of disabled individual compatible with then-prevailing normative conceptions of social order. The concept of a "village savant" or "village genius" is closely related, often tied to the concept of pre-industrial anti-intellectualism, as both figures are subjects of both pity and derision.[5] The social roles of the two are combined and applied, especially in the sociopolitical context, in the European medieval/Renaissance court jester.


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  2. ^ Siegel, L.J., 1970: The Justifications for Medical Commitment--Real or Illusory. Wake Forest Intramural Law Review, 6, 21.
  3. ^ Culebras, A., 1997: The village idiot. European Journal of Neurology 4, 535–536.
  4. ^ Oliver, M., 1989: Disability and dependency: a creation of industrial societies? In Disability and Dependency (Len Barton, ed.), Routledge, ISBN 978-1-85000-616-9.
  5. ^ Dols, M.W., 1987: Insanity and its treatment in Islamic society. Medical History 31, 1-14.