By Any Other Name
Elliot is very hard for most Italians to say. So much so that I have had more than a few people shake their head at me and say, “non parlo, è difficile”, “I can’t speak, it’s too difficult”. After I realized that it was the end of his name, the ‘ot’, that was tripping up the Italian tongue, I started telling people his name is ‘Elio’.
Since my on-the-fly, cultural renaming of my dog, Elio has received not a single confused stare. Instead he is greeted with a loud, booming, "CIAO ELIO!". One women got all excited and told me that Elio was her father’s name. She continued to tell me that he was a great man and, with a tear in her eye, conveyed how happy it made her to know it was also my dog’s name.
Having realized I actually landed on a real name, I thought I better check into it.
ELIO, pronounced AY-LEE-OH, freakishly fits him to a tee. The name is decidedly Italian (phew) and a male name (double phew). Per one website, Elio is pleasant, friendly, and like-able. He possesses a certain charm and an air of quiet strength. Sensitive and helpful, he aims to please others and hopes be liked in return. However, one should never judge a book by its cover, because Elio is actually rather demanding, can be highly selective and is quite the perfectionist. He is very attached to his family and has a strong sense of duty. Elio is endearing and affectionate and he knows exactly how to go about obtaining the love he needs. He is obsessed with travel and will likely explore as an occupation (whoa).
We have come to learn that it is common, maybe even a requirement, that Italian’s have nicknames. In our home in Abruzzo, for example, there are many men named Mario. Our friend Ray, founder of Famous Ray’s Pizza (yes, the very first one in Manhattan referenced on Seinfeld) is really Mario Di Renzo (pronouced RAYnzo), hence the nickname ‘Ray’. Or, if their first name is long, they might have a shortened nickname, for example, Gio for Giovannella.
So, perhaps it’s il destino at work, or maybe I just lucked out in shortening Elliot's name to a ‘real Italian name’ in an effort to help endear my dog to strangers. And, perhaps the real reason, to not put our new acquaintances in the awkward position of having to repeat ‘AY-LEE-OH-OHT’ with a California-English twang.
Elliot, while in Italy, will have the nickname, or soprannome, of Elio. Not just because it’s easier to say, but because it suits him…an Italian dog, friendly, like-able, demanding and an explorer.