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What's in a name?



I have decided to change my 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. Not right now anyway; 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 name. Legally, my name was Vincent James III. So was my father’s name. Except he was Junior. And I had an older cousin with the same name, but he wasn’t given a number. This continued a tradition for naming children after a living patriarch, who in this case was my paternal grandfather, named Vincenzo. (I later learned that his grandfather was named Vincenzo, as was his great grandfather and his great 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. Unfortunately, years later when Onofrio’s wife Anna gave birth to their first born son, they named him Vincenzo, and, well, here we are.)

Now, back in Italy. For reasons unbeknown to me, individuals named Vincenzo were often given the nickname Gimí. Thus, Onofrio’s first born son, Vincenzo, as called Gimí.

However, when the family emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, the name Gimí became Americanized as Jimmy. Now here’s where things get interesting. When my father was born, he was given the legal name Vincent James, rather than Vincenzo. James, of course, is the formal version of Jim or Jimmy. And although James was not a translation of Gimí, it became commonly attached to those with the name Vincent. Look it up. Most Vincent’s of Italian descent born in American have the middle name James.

So, in America my grandfather, was called “Gimí,” but it was spelled “Jimmy”. When my dad, Vincent James Jr. was born, he was referred to as Jimmy Junior. When I was born, I was legally named Vincent James III. 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? Professionally, I become known as Vince. And here at home, I’m referred to as Vincent, among other endearing (written sarcastically) names.

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?); but, upon investigation, there really is no ‘me.’ Nor is there a ‘you’. (See my first 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. By the way, ‘ji’, in Japanese, which is usually found in the form of a suffix and although having many meanings, also means ‘self’ or ‘character’. So, Vinji! Appropriate, isn’t it?


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