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What's in a name?

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

Updated August, 2021

I learned recently that some of the information I originally included in this blog post about the legal name of my father was not accurate. I also found a couple of typos. So, I felt compelled to update this post for the sake of accuracy.

Revised Post:

I have decided to introduce myself in this forum with a new name. Not that there is really a me here whose name needs to be changed; but I admit to an impulse to label this unit differently. Not legally; but in the context of these teachings.

Some background first:

Growing up, my parents and grandparents (and later, my brothers, cousins, and all relatives for that matter) used to call me Vinnie J, in large part to differentiate this biological unit from all the others in the family with the same (or similar name. Legally, my name was Vincent James III. My father's name was also Vincent. Except he was Junior. Not officially; at least not on his birth certificate. He was also not Vincent James. As I learned only recently, my father's legal name was Vincent Jimmy. And I also learned recently that my grandfather's legal name was Vincenzo. So, technically, even though my legal name included the 'III', I was not really the third Vincent James. (I also had an older cousin who was given the name Vincent James, but he wasn’t given a number [lucky him].)

Naming a child Vincent continued a tradition of naming children after a living patriarch, who in this case was my paternal grandfather, named Vincenzo. My grandfather's grandfather was also named Vincenzo, as was my grandfather's great grandfather. For some reason, my grandfather’s grandfather skipped the tradition when his son, named Onofrio, was born. Perhaps it was because he understood what it was like to be the third in a line of succession of individuals with the same name that he did not want to subject his own son to that indignity. Years later when Onofrio’s wife Anna (my great grandmother) gave birth to their first son, they named him Vincenzo. Vincenzo, however, died as an infant. And when their next child, a son again, was born, he was named (can you guess?) Vincenzo.

Now, back in Italy, for reasons unknown to me, individuals named Vincenzo were often given the nickname Gimí. Thus, Onofrio’s surviving son, Vincenzo, was called Gimí.

However, when the family emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, the name Gimí became Americanized as Jimmy. So, in America my grandfather was called “Gimí,” but it was spelled “Jimmy”. Gimí became Jimmy.

Now here’s where things get interesting. When my father was born, he was given the legal name Vincent Jimmy, rather than Vincenzo. So as not to confuse things at home, my father was called Jimmy Junior (or just Junior). But remember, legally, he was not "Junior", nor was he "Vincenzo".

Now when I was born, somehow the name Gimí, which had morphed into Jimmy, further morphed into James. As you know, people with the name James are often referred to as Jim or Jimmy. But in this case, Jimmy somehow became James. Thus, I was legally named Vincent James III. But again, I was neither the third Vincent, nor the third Vincent James. My name stood alone. (Well, again, except for my cousin. Except I got a number and he didn't.)

Now, perhaps because calling a child Jimmy the third (or the turd, as my brothers liked to tease me) was deemed a little too much, I was referred to as Vinnie J.

These days, my family calls me Vin or Vinnie, without the J, in large part, because as I entered puberty, I asked (i.e., demanded) that family stop calling me Vinnie J. At twelve years old, I was no longer a child, was I?

Later on, as an adult and professionally, I started introducing myself as Vince.

And here at home, I’m usually referred to as Vincent, among other endearing names (note sarcasm).

So, back to the point. Although I once believe that there was a ‘me’ who was named Vincent, along with all its variants, there really is no ‘me’ to identify with. Yes, there are still conditioned patterns that seem, from an outside perspective, to constitute a set of personality and behavioral characteristics (get it?) that constitute a person; but, upon investigation, there really is no ‘me.’ Nor is there a ‘you’. (See my other post for more on this.)

And yet, names are useful. We can’t just go around calling other people “Hey you!” or Hey, nobody!” or when introducing ourselves say “Hi, I’m no one!” (Except if you’re Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.)

So, in a humorous homage to the non-existent character known as Vincent, Vince, Vin, and Vinnie J, in this context the moniker ‘Vinji’ will be used.

So where did the 'ji' come from. Well, obviously it plays off of the 'J' in Vinnie J; But more important, ‘ji’, in Japanese, although having many meanings, also means 'self' or 'character'. Interestingly, it also refers to a home or a temple or monastery, as in "Doshinji" (translated as Great Mind Monastery). The "I" that "I am" is not the character or self named Vinnie J (or Vincent; or Vince), but rather is the ground of being that is always home. So, Vinji! Appropriate, isn’t it?

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