genuine peasants, or any one of a host of factions;... corsos

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What does "corsos" mean in the following sentence?

A few figures worked in the surrounding fields; God knew who they were. They might be genuine peasants, or any one of a host of factions; fascisti, mafia, corsos, partigianos, communisti... or even Germans.

---From Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

Thanks in advance.
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is presumably related to an Italian term for some grouping, known at the time the book was set (1944?).
    The rest of the terms in the list are familiar to me, but not this one.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    This is not really a question about English, since those are all Italian words, but mafia is directly borrowed into English and the other three are obvious (partigiani = partisans), so the author apparently expects an English-language reader to pick up what corsos might mean.

    English has borrowed the French word maquis in both of its meanings: (i) a kind of scrub (vegetation) typical of Corsica, and (ii) resistance or underground fighter, presumably because they hid in the maquis vegetation.

    I would guess then that corso is the Italian equivalent of maquis in its transferred sense "resistance fighters". Oddly, it has the English plural ending -s: the genuine Italian plural would be corsi. He's done the same with partigiano. It seems a strangely unnecessary half-Englishing.
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