What's In A Name ?

Italian surnames can be glamorous such as deLaurentiis which evokes visions of a good movie followed by a delicious dinner garnished with Petrosino - parsley. They can be colorful such as Verdi - green, Bianchi - white, and Russo - red or Nero - black. An ancestors trade can be found in the surname of Ferraro for blacksmith, the equivalent of Smith but much more romantic, Barbieri - barber or Martelli - carpenter. That person strutting around like a rooster could very well be named Gallo and the left handed pitcher the Indians covet is probably named Mancino.

Days of the week give birth to names such as Martini, Tuesday, and Sabatino, Saturday. LaVecchia - the old one, can only claim respect. A lesson in Italy’s geography is provided by Calabrese, Salerno, Romano, Napilitano, Lombardi, Siciliano and Genovese. Italian surnames can evoke emotions: Pace,- peace, Sforza - fierce, Amato - loved. Howard Hawk visting Italy could very well have gone by Howard Falcone.

One of my favorite surnames is Passalaqua, pass water. I’m sure this was reserved for persons having an overactive bladder. Would any self respecting urologist bear the name Passalaqua? Another favorite of mine for somewhat obvious reasons is Mastrantonio - Mister Tony.

But what about Rugare? It turns out that as far as Italian surnames are concerned it must rank among the blandest. Rugare is the verb meaning to wrinkle. Not colorful, informative or picturesque. The closest it comes to generating any emotion is in an expression used when someone gives annoyance - “non rugare”. I guess that’s what was happening when someone would refer to me as Rugare.

Rugare was a concoction of Ellis Island - the original spelling of the family name was Rugari which it turns out was just as bland. Rugari is a medicinal plant , probably very effective in curing a pain in the ass which I know some of my relatives suffered from.

A Google search of rugare yields countless results having an African connection. Rugare is a suburb of Harare the capital of Zimbabwe and Rugari is a location in Rwanda. Now that raises some interesting questions.

If I were looking for something glamorous in my genealogy I would seize upon the surname Versace. (Gianni Versace was a fashion designer and occasional photographer from Calabria, in southern Italy. He is most well known for starting the famous Versace clothing line. He was born to a family who owned a tailoring store in Reggio, Calabria.)

Maria Sophia Versace was my grandmother. She immigrated from Sinopoli, Reggio Calabria. Sinopoli was a small peasant village - hardly the scene for a tailoring store. Did some of her family migrate to the more urban city of Reggio? More questions and no answers.

What’s in a name? In the end its what you make of your life and how people remember Rugare - hopefully not with annoyance.

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