Italian Nicknames (Soprannomi)

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Have you ever noticed that Italians are great at giving nicknames to people?  Now, I’m not talking about normal nicknames like  Bill for William, Rich for Richard, Sue for Susan, etc.  No, Italians are much more descriptive than that!  The nicknames can describe a person’s appearance, or where they’re from, or a reference to their occupation. 

Roma because he hails from Rome.

Ciccio (fatty) for obvious reasons 🙂

Giostra (ride) because as a child he LOVED carnival rides.

Testa pelata (bald head) – again very descriptive!

For whatever reason,  when Italians bestow a nickname on someone, it is always very unique!  I have never really understood why, though, a particular individual was given that nickname over another with the same qualities.  There had to be more than one bald-headed individual in town, but only one was dubbed La Testa Pelata!  And these nicknames, even if they were given as a child, stick with someone for life.  Even their offspring are referred to as the son/daughter of …! 

I have to say that my favorite examples of “nicknamedness” come from the town in Italy where my parents come from.  They seem to be particularly good at creating them!   One such example was the nicknames given to the mayor and his wife.  While driving through town one day, my aunt pointed out that “Bill and Hillary” were out for a drive!  Now who thinks of these things?  It was priceless!

The other nickname that has stuck for a lifetime was actually bestowed upon my uncle.  My grandparents had immigrated to the United States in the late 1920’s with my father and his older sister.  While in America, my uncle was born.  After a few years, they returned back to Italy with the new child in tow.  Once they arrived back, my uncle was immediately given the nickname “Baby“!  At 80 years old, he is still affectionately known as  “Baby“!

Occasionally, the nicknames bestowed are not always pleasant ones.  One often wonders if the person who has the nickname even knows that they have been dubbed with such a name.  An example of this one came, once again, in the town where my parents are from and they were describing an older women (ok, maybe not that old, but in her 50’s) as “mille miglie” (a thousand miles)!  After listening to the description of this woman, I quickly came to realize that she had “been around the block” a few times and thus given the appropriate nickname.

Makes me wonder what nicknames I have been given….hmmm….hopefully it’s something like “l’americana” or the like!

6 responses »

  1. You are so right!

    I love every single one of your blogs! Thanks so much for them, they are so fun to read! I read every single one of them, even if a bit late!

    :o)

    • Thanks so much, Linda, for your kind words of encouragement!!! I have fun writing whatever happens to pop into my mind about this amazing country. It always offers lots of inspiration 🙂

  2. Nel dialetto delle mie parti si dicono “stranòm” e al paese di mia madre c’era un fotografo che si era guadagnato sul campo con la sua professione il soprannome di “ghignéra” (da “ghigno”…non era poi un bravissimo fotografo :asd:).
    La cosa divertente e che quando vado a trovare con mia madre i suoi parenti al paese, le persone vengono prima nominate con il soprannome, poi con le varie parentele e alla fine, se è proprio indispensabile, con il nome di battesimo 🙂

    • Si, i “stranom” in dialetto sono anche piu belli! Purtroppo, non ero capace a scriverli 😦
      Devo proprio dire che gli italiano sono proprio forti a fare i soprannomi!!! Incredibile!

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