Sunday, March 11, 2007

What's in a Name?

Today's lesson in Cubanism: Names

Note: this originally started as an email to my coworkers about my constant use of nicknames for people. Little did I know I was writing writing, not just sending an email.

The Cuban experience is very similar to being in some sort of witness protection program. NO ONE goes by their real name in Cuban Community, because their real names are too damn long. Take my family for example:

Domingo Guzman Abreu-Fuste: Mingo, Mingollo, Viejo (old man, what my mother called him), Papi (to his children and grandchildren)

Deisy Cristina Dominguez Abreu: China (pronounced Cheena because of her Asian eyes), Mami, Tita (to her grandchildren), Vieja (that's my father called her)

Pedro Julio Abreu: Pete, Chini (pronunced Cheeny,he's his mother's son for sure), Tio (to his nieces and nephews).

Maria Caridad Abreu Rehrig: Ia (I could never pronounce Maria, still can't), Pearl (she was my grandfather's little precious pearl), Perlita (little pearl in spanish), Titi Mari (to my brother's kids), Auntie Mia (to her friend's kids).

Daisy Christina Abreu: Chris (to my siblings and their friends), Cristi (to my parents and their friends), Daisita (I'm a junior), La Nina (to my family when they are talking about me behind my back), Cha-Cha (to one of my parents friends), La Cristi (another friend), Daze (to the world), Daisy-Baby (to Cat), D (to my college friends), Titi Chris (to my nieces and nephews).

Also not included are the number of endearments my parents have/had for my sister and me. They include: Mi Nina (my girl), Melindy (my pretty), Tatico(?), Chuchi (??), Mimi and the dreaded Gordy (as in Gorda, as in fat). My maternal grandmother was known as Mami Pupa. My sister's children call my mother's brother Uncle Tio (Uncle Uncle), which I think is much better than Great Uncle Lucas, don't you?

As for those in my extended family (read, people that I was not related too, but I saw more than my blood relations), if they have real names, I never knew them. A lot of them just went by their last names (Perez, Gonzalez, Lopez), because that's not confusing. Not like there were other people in town with the same last name right? I grew up around people who went by the following: Guapachichi, El Mapo, Lingita, Macuco, Regalao (means gifted), El Nino (like the weather system), Congo, El Mono (the monkey), Panchito, Pachi, Cuca, Nene, Tete, Lassi ...I could go on here people.

As you might have guessed, this phenomenon carried over into my generation. I attended high school with people who went by Santi, Pupi, Humby, Mandy, Hangi and Cuba...that's just the boys.

If you didn't know someone's name or were talking about a stranger, then Fulano or Mengano was sufficient. Females were known as Fulana or Mengana, children were Fulanito or Menganita.

I hope this has been an enlightening class. Next up: Voodoo, White Magic & Catholicism: a Match Made in my Mother's Medicine Cabinet.

1 comment:

Ia said...

To continue your lesson, and of course, make it more confusing, Guapa used to call me Jamaiquina (Jamaican), why? I don't know. Our Maternal Grandfather whose name was Paulino, went by Memo,or Memo Papita (he used to sell papas rellenas on a little cart way before we were a thought in our parents' minds). Our Maternal Great Grandmother Escolastica, went by Tita. Our Paternal Aunts & Uncle were Mimi (Victoria), Nena (Zita) & Quecho (Oscar). It was feast or famine with these people...they either went by nicknames or their full name. Our brother goes by Pedro Julio & of course I am Maria de la Caridad with people outside our immediate family who live in Cuba. El NiƱo is a.k.a. Jose Manuel & it goes on. See why they use nicknames??

I think you missed La Iguana, El Cojo Timba. Daddy was great at remembering these & had some great ones he made up.