above: “What were they thinking?” department: This monument to those fallen in WWI in the Lake Como town of Gravedona shows someone whose parents named him “Troppotardi” – “too late”.
An article in Il Corriere della Sera points out that Italian law aims to prevent children being given “ridiculous, shameful, or embarrassing” names by their parents.
The official whose job it is to decide these things (the Public Prosecutor of the Commune where the birth is registered) sometimes has to sort out perplexing problems, such as whether to allow an Italian child to be given an American name taken from a soap opera. Good question. The other day I heard a mother in Lecco calling her small daughter Karen. She pronounced it CAHR-en – not ugly, but strange-sounding to both English and Italian speakers.
The article also mentions that it is illegal to give masculine names to females and vice-versa, which has stymied some parents who wanted to name their daughters Andrea. Pronounced an-DRAY-uh in Italian, it’s a masculine name, the equivalent of Andrew. In English it’s pronounced ANN-dree-uh, and is feminine.
An Italian colleague who moved to California discovered just how much trouble this can cause. He made a health insurance claim for a decidedly male complaint. When the check didn’t arrive, he called the insurance company to inquire. “This is obviously a fraudulent claim,” they told him nastily. “How can someone named ANN-drea have a prostate problem?”