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Vincenzo - Better Known as Jim

Updated on October 22, 2012

What's In A Name


My mother's brother Jim was given the name Vincenzo at birth. A few years back a conversation ensued between my aunt and I with regards to the name Vincenzo. I had told her that our friend's son and daughter-in-law had just recently had a baby boy and had named him James Vincenzo. This I knew was to honour both sides of their family - the husband's British side and the wife's Italian side. My aunt thought this was rather funny and wondered why they would call him "Jim Jim".

Wondering where she got this strange idea from I proceeded to tell her that as far as I was concerned Vincenzo meant "Vincent" in English. She retorted that "every Vincenzo she had ever known had always gone by the name of Jim"! Strangely enough I just yesterday finished reading a novel about an Italian family - a local story - and the protagonist's name was Vincenzo. You guessed it; somewhere along the way in the story I saw reference to the fact that someone was calling him Jim. All of this got me thinking!


An Italian Thing?

I used to think it was an Italian thing. My grandmother was named Maria Giovanna, which would translate in English to Mary Joanne. Well that makes sense, except that everyone called her Jenny. Both my mom and her one sister were also called Maria - my mom Maria Adelina, better known as Del and my aunt, Maria Anina, better known as Mary. Who decided who got the privilege of using the first name "Maria - or Mary"? Doesn't matter because every time I went to the doctor or the hospital with my mom they would call out the name "Maria" because of course that is on all of her official records. We would just look around like dummies waiting for Maria to appear before we eventually caught on and jumped up.

Thank goodness the third sister, and the oldest, was named Aida Constance, simply going by the name of Ida. No one to confuse her with. I guess it pays to be the oldest. Their other brother was called Joe - well he was really Giuseppe - but Joe was always who he was to us. What happened to my grandfather whose name was Luigi? I thought most Italians always named their first born son after the father. Obviously I was wrong.


Back To The Name Jim

It's not just an Italian thing, as I eventually found out, because my husband Craig always called his brother Grant, you guessed it, "Jim"! In fact Craig's name was Wallace - yes!; Wallace Craig - and I have to tell you that I am supremely grateful that they ended up calling him Craig; needless to say, so was he! Not only that he had a brother-in-law named Bev, whom he always referred to as George. When I came into the family I became royally confused and sometimes called him both names, until I finally settled in on George. I thought after all - "surely his name is not Bev - I must have heard that wrong". So George it became for me too.

So what is it about this name "Jim"? I went looking and see that it is derived from the hebrew name Ya'agov or Jacob and was the name of the two apostles in the New Testament - James the Greater and James the Lesser. And since the 13th century this name of Jim became popular in England and Scotland where it was used by many kings. So, take your pick. Biblical or Noble?

All I know now is that the Italian version of the name Jim is Giacomo - it is NOT Vincenzo, just as I always thought. So I now wonder what would have happened had they named my uncle - Giacomo? Would my family have called him "Vincent"? Hmmmmm!!! You see my dilemma!


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    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Yes, I knew Italians often named their daughters "Maria" first - it's a custom for sure. This conversation with my aunt about my uncle Jim got me going and I was having fun with the rest of the names. Italian women in Italy always went by their maiden names too. I found that out when I was doing my genealogy. In researching I had to loo for my grandmother under the name Maria Giovanna Sabatino - rather than Lanza. That actually made the research more interesting and easier to trace back to their parents and grandparents. In researching on the British side it could get very frustrating because of the lack of their maiden names. : )

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Hi lyn! In my Italian Book of Knowledge, most Italians (Sicilian) named their first born after one or the other of the baby's "grandparent," second child after it's parent......I was so ingrained with this namesake thing, it never occurred to me, to name my first born anything else......but after his father....I skipped the grandparent tradition.

      One would be surprised to discover how many Italian women are given "Mary" as their first name ( after the Blessed Mother) and go by their middle name throughout their life......Families with 4 daughters were known to name their girls.....Mary Grace, Mary Rose, Mary Anna etc.....and refer to them by middle names....It is interesting to learn how various ethnic groups determine names for their children....

    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Oh Anne, I love it. How much fun is that!!! What's in a name indeed! thanks for commenting - hope your head has stopped spinning now. : )

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi lynda. My head is spinning after reading this hub, but I had to as my dad and one of my brothers are James´s. My Dad was always referred to as James by everyone, but my brother as Jim, to everyone outside the family. Heartys dad was always referred to and know as Tom even though his name was Edgar, and his Mum was known as Wendy but her real name was Dorothy Emily. Here in Spain Jose Vincent becomes Pepe and so on an so forth..very confusing no matter which part of the world you come from. I´m now going to lie down until my head stops spinning LOL ;)

    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Oh - well, and thank you for reading and enjoying it! : )

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this wonderfully written insight with us.

    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Whonu - I had fun doing it and got the idea after reading this latest book - which reminded me of that conversation with my aunt. : )

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      An interesting hub you have written, craiglyn, and really more common in its seeming mystery. I have wondered why Richard is always called Dick and James, Jim.. John, sometimes Jack, as well as many others. Thanks for sharing this bit of info, and it is well received.