That would be me, Mrs. Moglie. Married to a native Italian, Mr. Marito.
Mother to a daughter in high school, Ms. SmartyPants and a son in middle school, Mr. Uometto.
Employed at a private British School as an English teacher and Coordinator of Children's Studies.
Part of a small, but growing Protestant church in Frascati, a small town in the hills just outside of Rome.

This is where I sometimes gripe, complain and grumble about the things I dislike, have yet to get used to or simply don't understand about bella Italia.
I do, however, have many people, places and things that I dearly love and I am more than aware of being blessed by each and every one of them.
Also - a few helpful posts for visitors to Rome or for newly arrived ex pats. Check the side bar for tags. I've even some recipes that I've borrowed, tweaked or invented. One thing I've come to love about Italy is how it's changed the way I eat - slow food !! Although ... I do miss Taco Bell ... and Jack in The Box ... and KFC ... and ::sigh::
Thanks for stopping by !!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Anchovies, Friday and a Saint Named Gregorio

I'm not the biggest fan of (Italian) pizza, but I do like it every now and again. On the other hand, Ms. SmartyPants eats pizza every single blessed day at her high school bar during one of her morning breaks. I know not how she does it. Mr. Uometto, too, would gladly eat it every chance he got if his middle school were to sell such delicacies, but sadly, they do not.  

Occasionally, I'll forgo the convenience of having pizza delivered to our front door (an average wait of one and a half hours for a cold & greasy pie) and instead make my own version of pizza slash bruschetta. I like to think it tastes like a Stouffer's microwave pizza, but it's been so long since I've had one of those, it's very possible that Brain is playing tricks on me. I use thick slices of pane casareccia, drizzle olive oil, add the dryest mozzarella I can find (real fresh Italian mozzarella is quite wet, milky and with a touch of sourness), add various toppings (spicy salame, diced tomatoes, black olives, basil, etc.) and then finish with another drizzling of olive oil. Then I put everything under the broiler for a few minutes. Tada!

Since Mr. Marito's favorite pizza is the Napoletana, I try my best to make him a miniature version of this mozzarella, sauce and anchovy dish. And now, we've come to the first main point of this post (there are two): ANCHOVIES. In Italian, there are two ways to refer to anchovies. Sometimes they go by acciuga (singular) and acciughe (plural) and sometimes by alice (singular) and alici (plural). Alice (AH-LEE-CHEH [alitʃɛ]) is what I'd like to bring to your attention. You may be wondering, "So what's this big deal over anchovies?" The big deal is this - While this is the word Italians use to identify anchovies, it also happens to be the word they use for the girls' name, Alice, as in Alice in Wonderland. The spelling is the same, the pronunciation is the same - the only difference is, sometimes it refers to your favorite pizza topping, other times it refers to your friend's daughter. Weird, you say? Well ... not really. I'm actually quite able to call out to one of my students by this name without even once thinking of small salt-cured and oil-packed fish. Good job, Brain! It's only when I stop to think about it that I get a slight case of the giggles. Can you imagine calling your child Anchovy? You see what I mean. 

And this brings us to the second main point of this post: Italian names. I'm going to split this into yet another two-parter. First of all, if you live here and perhaps even if you're just visiting, something you'll quickly notice is the seemingly strange occurence of meeting multiple persons with the exact same name. I actually know quite a few people with the same first and last name. I've a feeling that this is quite common in many (usually non-English speaking) countries, but in the US, especially where I grew up, right next door to a military base, first names as well as surnames were many and varied. If I gambled, which I don't, but if did, I'd be willing to bet my first born child (sorry Ms. SmartyPants, but it would be a sure win!) that the expat in Italy reading this post knows at least one, if not a handful of Alessandras, Chiaras, Francescos, Anna Marias, Matteos, Saras, Andreas and so on. In fact, I think it's safe to say that if you know one person by a certain name, you know another two or three. This idea of an entire nation of people sharing the same smattering of names may be because Italy, like many older countries, is, generally speaking, traditional ... and finally, we've come to the very last point of today's post. 

I recently read an article stating that the Pope has "declared war" on the practice of giving "strange names" to children. He's encouraging parents everywhere to refrain from the popular fad of international celebrities and instead "give names found in the Christian calendar," that is, names of Catholic saints. The Pope is rather important here in Italy, so, needless to say,  much weight is placed on his opinions. As a Protestant, I'm more like, meh ... to me, he's just another guy in a dress (there are lots of them here ... monks, priests and bishops, I mean ... why? What did you think I meant? *snicker) This is not to say all Protestants would agree with me, but more often than not, the Pope tends not to play a huge role in the life of the average Protestant. Anyway, back to the point. So, this article continues by giving a short summary of various countries' lists of forbidden names. Did you know about this? I didn't even know that names could be forbidden! Brain reminds me of a girl I knew in middle school. A combination of important people in her mother's life gave way to a rather original name: Arthur, Jonathan and Monique = Artjonique. You can love it or hate it, but you must admit that it's pretty clever ^.^ The two Italian examples given were: Venerdì (Friday) and Andrea. The second, Andrea, was rejected by the Turin Registry because it is strictly a boy's name in Italy and the judges feared that this name, given to a girl, could "limit her social interaction and create insecurity in the day to day life of the child." So, naturally, the courts changed her name to, the more acceptable and feminine, Emma. Of course.

Following the story of the first Italian family mentioned in this article, I was led to another more detailed account. The case, an actual court case, in question is of a mother in Genova who wished to name her son Venerdì, that is, Friday. After more than two years of appeals in various courts, the final decision was made: The parents' choice to name their son Venerdì was rejected on the basis that it was "ridiculous". Instead, his court appointed name was to be that of the Catholic church's designated saint for the day of the child's birth: Gregorio. *eh-hem The child's mother had tried, in vain, to convince the courts that this name, this word, was one she very much liked, that she simply liked the sound of Venerdì, that it came to her one day and seemed to "deposit itself into her soul". She had no idea of the negative connotations it held as the courts claim. The judges there are convinced that, in the Italian public's mind, it would only conjure up images of the "savage" in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. In one court's decision, they were quoted as saying that the word, Venerdì, evokes, "sadness and penitence and in the public's view it carries unlucky or negative connotations." (Traditionally, in Italy, Friday is "unlucky" - superstition reigns here) The mother then tried to remind the courts of other traditionally Italian names that derive from the days of the week, that is Sabato (Saturday) and Domenica (Sunday). Ms. SmartyPants once even had a teacher by the name of Pasqua (Easter). The courts paid her no mind, saying, that the name Venerdì, "would be susceptible to mockery and scorn, capable of causing grave harm to the bearer of such name." The mother's reply to this final decision? "Very much to the contrary. Venerdì is a happy child and with his name, he brings joy. If anything, the name Gregorio is sad." 

I'd have to agree with her. At any rate, the child is known to friends and family by the name given to him by his parents while legally, he is known by his state appointed name. And what about "Anchovy"? That's ok? Weird. 

Links to the articles in Italian: 
Nomi Illegali per Bambini (Illegal Names for Children)
Vietati i Nomi "Strani" ("Strange" Names Forbidden)


Aonymous Coward said...

I was born catholic but this is too much. So what parents can't name there kids how they want now? In Bari "Jennifer" is popular now. The pope should forbid that name too.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong I don't beleive the state or the Pope for that fact should have any say about what two grown up adults call their child, but I do think two grown up adults should take the naming of their child seriously.My name is Nicola which in the UK is fine but here in Italy it's a boysname! It's caused me so many problems over the years. Immagine calling your credit card company up, they don't want to speak to you because the name on the card is a male name! So please parents to be please think very carefully before giving your child an "extravagant" name.

Rob cru said...

This is absurdity. They waste tax payer's money for two years to meddle with personal choices. Why don't they spend some of this money and time on real issues like crime, rubbish reaching uncivilised proportions, criminal politicians, pampered state workers,..... I'm proud to be Italian/Australian but what is the pointin this "war" over names?Is this why I pay taxes?

Mrs. Moglie said...

Hi all, thanks for the comments !!

So ... Whether I agree or not, I'm willing to accept laws established by those who hold the right and credentials to make them. What I find questionable in this case is the sheer subjective and superficial ruling that the name Venerdi is ridicolo. By that standard, one could say that Alice is just as, if not more, ridiculous. Laws are to be upheld consistently and responsibly, often based on precedence - Sabato, Domenica - and not at the whim or fancy of personal taste.

In the US if a woman calls herself Steve, she may receive some initial surprise from the credit card representative, but after a brief explanation, she shouldn't encounter any difficulties. The problem here, generally speaking, is the prevailing too-narow mentality that doesn't allow for the "untraditional" or "extravagant". Italy is the 14th most industrialized country in Europe and has expectations of interacting in a modern and global community - it's not at all to the country's benefit to object to names simply because they're traditionally male or female, or because they have the possibility of being perceived as ridiculous. Using this unclear and subjective standard, many foreign names given by immigrant parents will have to be denied. The reason why people like Nicola face difficulties here is a mere question of taste - it would hold merit (and my support) if these name laws were based on moral issues, like the American couple denied because they
wanted to name their child Adolph Hitler, or basic practical issues, like the Chinese couple who tried, but failed, to name their child @ - it's not a valid letter in any language. So, as long as the law promotes and encourages prejudice towards unconventional names, Nicola, will continue to face these needless difficulties.

Are we to name our children according to the potential tastes and preferences of foreign countries in the eventuality that our children may one day go and live there? We live in the 21st century - the only thing ridicolo in Venerdì's case is the ruling, itself.