I inherited the name Vincenzo from my grandfather. For a little child,  however, it was a suit several sizes too big — so everyone just called me Enzo. From the first day of school, this diminuitive version attracted attention, but not the kind I enjoyed. In a North American context, kids would mispronounce it; twist it into an “enzyme” or an “end zone”. It resonated as an utterance from another cosmos that didn’t fit beside Rick, Steve, Raymond or Ted. Even other Italian boys had rather admissible names in comparison like Tony, Philip, Joe, Gino or Carlo. Other smaller versions of Vincenzo could have worked, but for my taste, Vince sounded like a mafia hit man, and Vinnie reverberated in my head like the star of a popular sitcom series from Brooklyn.

At twelve years old, I spent several days at a relative’s house in New York State. Since the family had no children my age in their home, I decided to make friends with some of the neighbourhood children. It was my big chance to experience what it was like to have an acceptable name. For several days I called myself “Andy” just to savour the sound of something normal.

At twenty five, I finally pulled “Vincenzo” out of the closet. One afternoon, a philosophy professor from the university happened to spot me leaving at the same time so he offered me a ride close to home.  During the course of the conversation he metamorphosed my name numerous times – Valencio, Venecio, Vinicio and Victor. When he finally dropped me off he politely declared, “Well, it was nice getting to know you, Lasagne.”

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