Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's In a Name?

I remember as a child wondering about my last name, Brodioi. Why couldn’t I have been a Smith or Jones? I remember young bullies teasing me about my last name and pronouncing it funny and laughing about it. As a six year old I guess that really bothered me.
Also, I really felt bad for my grandpa because his name was Hyppoliet August Brodioi. He got his mail as H. Brodioi and for some childish reason I thought that he was probably ashamed of his name too. That could not have been further from the truth. As I grew to my early teen years I realized that he was a strong man who was proud of his name and his heritage.
Now looking back I realize that the ones who made fun of me were basically insecure as to who they were and were simply using me to cover their weaknesses.
Over the years I have found that most people miss-pronounce the name with an Italian ring to it.
Now, finally, I see the humor in that Italianization of Brodioi.
I wouldn’t say that my grandma disliked all Italians but she did seem to hold them to a different standard.
I always wondered about that? I thought maybe there might have been some political problems between Belgium and Italy that troubled her?
On 3 July 2006 this question was answered in a very simple manner.
While looking at the Lusitiana’s manifest for their voyage I realized that they were traveling, cramped and crowded for 6 days, with the majority of the names on their page of the manifest being primarily young single men of Italian descent. I figure that in that six day journey my grandma probably had about enough of young macho Italians to last a lifetime.
I took the liberty to Google many of the names to see if any had become either famous, or infamous, but so far no matches have occurred. Who knows??
Looking back I am tremendously proud that I am not a Smith or Jones but a Brodioi, or actually Broidioi...
Nothing wrong with Smith or Jones but their base is so broad that tracing family is really tough to do. Now Brodioi is a different animal altogether.
I now realize that the uniqueness of the name is one of the things that I love about it. My wife has adapted to it well and is very proud to wear it. Our children also adapted well and seemed to not have the problems I encountered.
Here is something that just happened and I find it really thought provoking. Just this week our grandson graduated from kindergarten and as we were in attendance at the school I was looking over the hand out program. I noticed that his last name was spelled Broidioi in the manner that my grandparents used as they entered Ellis Island. I asked my son about the spelling and he said that it was probably a misprint. I thought this was amazing that an error could correct another error that was made one hundred years ago. Imagine the odds against that?
One funny and positive example of the uniqueness of Brodioi occurred during my military basic training. Drill instructors are normally not the most fluent individuals. My drill instructor never pronounced my name the same was twice during eight weeks of training. He never asked but his pronunciation attempts always had an Italian flavor. Many times I think that he intended to put me on KP or some other undesirable duty but simply gave up on my name and instead called on “Smith” and “Jones.” My unit had two each of these.
Now I am glad that my parents never allowed our name to be “Americanized.”
While I am proud to be an American, I am also proud of my European heritage. My grandparents came to America to start a new life, not to cut themselves off from their past life.
I will do my utmost to insure that our “across the pond” contact is never lost again.


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