“Scaramuccia” is also the name of a stock clown in the Commedia dell’Arte, a type of traditional Italian theater that features a fixed set of characters or “masks,” whose recurring features are paltriness and cowardliness — a caricature version of the shortcomings of the Average Joe (or Average Giovanni).
People familiar with the Italian language and theater tradition were quick to point out the analogy on Twitter.
The word neatly fits the profile of Scaramucci’s rise and fall. Virtually soon as he was named, Scaramucci started to pick up unnecessary fights. His infamous, highly profane call with a reporter from the New Yorker encapsulates pretty much all of “scaramuccia’s” various meanings, from combativeness to petty grievance to clownish behavior, such as berating co-workers Reince Priebus and Stephen K. Bannon.
It’s precisely that kind of behavior that Scarmucci's theatrical counterpart would engage in. Scaramuccia — whose name is sometimes Anglicized into Scaramouche and is sometimes referred to as “little skirmisher” — is a vainglorious wrangler who often boasts about himself and picks fights for no reason, then backs down as soon as things get serious. He's the kind of guy who, in today’s world, would be more prone to bash someone on the telephone or by email — though not in person — and attack people in weaker positions.
But it is Scaramucci's extremely short tenure at the White House that makes his name particularly fitting. What distinguishes a “scaramuccia” from an actual battle, according to the 19th-century Italian writer Niccolò Tommaseo, is its brevity. A scaramuccia, added Tommaseo, usually brings “few consequences.” And there, at least for now, is where the comparison no longer fits.