Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Name Games of Italy

A bambino by any other name...will still poop its pants. 
That Italy is a male-chauvinist society is fairly common knowledge. I often bring into the blog the latest in keeping women feet on the pedals of their SUVs and on their cellphones to mamma [after all, going barefoot even in summer is barbaric, and pregnant? No one can afford kids anymore].  But in the name game, as one commentator told the press, Italy isn't in the 20th century, they're in the 1800s.  Well, as of today, all that changed.  Thanks to a dynamic couple from Milan, who refused to take "No" for an answer when told that their child could not bear the mother's last name. [For purposes of this post, I'll ignore the obvious - that even women's last names eventually lead back to a patriarch somewhere].
An Italian friend who had four kids 40 years ago with the woman who would become his life partner, was told that because they were unmarried, he would have to list on the birth certificate, 'Padre Sconosciuto' - Father Unknown.  Fast forward to our Milanese couple in 2012, and they were told that their offspring, if the were to sport the mom's name, would have to be listed the same way.  Outraged, and with the rest of the world on their side, they took their case to the European Union - and won.
Not so long ago, Italians decided that women could, indeed, change their own names.  But the laws drew the line on the kids.  I always liked the fact that women kept their own last names in Italy - but I've seen plenty of times, when the father is not part of their lives, how strange it is for the kids and their mom to have different identities altogether.  Gladly, that's not the norm.
So, Italy, one hyphen at a time, is allowing for names to be joined, for women to take their partner's last names, for children to take hers.  The last bastion is, in naming them strangely like Wednesday Addams, or Apple and such.  In one instant, and I believe it was a person who wanted to call their kid Adolf Hitler, or something like that, the judges intervened and refused to allow the name to go through. 
Moreover, middle names still cause problems.  I was actually not admitted to hospital once because I had filled out all the forms in the spaces provided: LAST NAME / FIRST NAME. Not thinking of my (largely unused) middle name.  When they took one look at my i.d. card, they said I'd have to start all over from scratch, months away, in order to get admitted properly.  I took the papers out of their hands and swiftly added my middle name to them...offering politely, that I had no idea what they were on about.
What would the Italians have done if they had gone the route of the Spaniards, and offered up a half dozen last names for every child birth?  Most of whom hail from the matriarchal side of the family?  I shudder to think of the bureaucracy that would ensue.

A few more fun posts on the Name Games of Italy:
Italian Name Origins
How (not) to correct your dual last names 
Fun Italian names


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