Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Italians are noted for their nick-names, the names that stay with you throughout your life. No matter how tall or short, young or old you are, your religion, job and even looks have and played into the name you got despite change, in all you do, it still stays with you.

Dad had a friend, the family friend who wasn’t Italian. He was a Finn, thus the name: ‘Joe the Finn’. Joe the Finn was a genius who like so many I’ve known who died poor but happy. He was a horse player, and that was his outlet in his life, giving him joy.

You would find Joe under a car wiring a broken tailpipe, under the hood, replacing a carburetor with a large coffee can. Once they cut off his electricity and he managed to keep it on by using copper pennies somehow to complete the connections again. He was big-hearted and was ready to help. The family in turn welcomed Joe to dinner on a spur of the moment’s arrival. He once gave me a silver dollar just because I said: “Hello Joe the Finn!”

There was 9.5, my aunt that I named that. The reason was she lost the top of her forefinger to a vacuum cleaner once. I happened to be learning fractions in the fourth grade and noticed her hand. When she left I referred to her as 9.5 and the name stuck! Being she was an in-law, mom loved the name.

Then there was ‘oo Communista’, the left-wing husband to my father’s cousin, the ‘Smelly Lady’. They had no baths or tubs or even showers in many instances in Brooklyn (oo Brookileen) so they applied a face or wash cloth to clean themselves. You can imagine how often they washed and got lazy! Well this lady smelled of week old garlic, sat with her hands clasped on her large belly and smelled while her husband would be in deep discussion about the ills of capitalism and the workings of the government.

Even my grandmother had a moniker, ‘Zia’ Francesca, known for her ability to help out others, with money, advice and connections. (No, not Mafiosa, but priests, cops and lawyers and sometimes even doctors.)

My son, #1 Son Anthony even got into it, naming a friend of mine named Jim Pantileone: ‘Jimmy Pants’!

Some of the characters that were named over the years were: Testa del fungo, (fungus head) poltiglia, (mush) molto affamata (very hungry) and miserabe or miserable and the ever present in everyone’s circle of family or friends: Stoonada.

I had names for my four sisters: there was Salami Breath, La Senorena, Motor Mouth and The Pet.

Me? I was known as: Regalo del Dio al mondo!


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