In the Middle Ages, people were known by their baptismal names, e.g. Giuseppe, Giovanni, etc. until the year 1000, when a second name was added to avoid confusion.
To distinguish individuals, the name of the father (patronymics) might be added, e.g. Giovanni son of Bernardo became Giovanni di Bernardo or Giovanni Bernardo; or to identify someone from a certain area (toponymics), e.g. Leonardo di Ser Piero from Vinci was the great Leonardo da Vinci
My name plagued me throughout childhood…too long, too difficult to say, perplexing. I heard it all: Yank-a-nelli, Innch-a-nelli, the kid from around the corner and the biggest insult…“the Italian kid” when they had no idea how to pronounce it. Most of my friends had easier names like Dick, Falls, Potts, Sullivan and Terry. Even many Italian-Americans had simple names…Pascale, Delano and Rossi. I had nicknames like “Chilly” and “Nooch.” A College professor once called me Ed Yank-a-Nelly, so throughout my college years, I was known as “Ed Yank.”
My college art teacher thought my name originated from the Latin words janus, for gate, and coelis, for heaven, and simply meant, “gate of heaven.” God bless him! I liked it!
However, an Italian scholar told me that the name Giovanni, Johnny, jani or ianni in Italian, was common, and that my name might be a derivative of John. He also explained that vezzeggiativo meant using an ending to make a word pretty…e.g. uccio attached to the word cara…. caruccio, means dear or pretty one. So iannuccio could signify dear or pretty John. “Ini”, or “illo”, in Neapolitan dialect, means small. Iannuccilli could mean little, or dear, John… dear, little John. I liked that too. So kind, so mellow.
But people more than a definition or pronunciation lend honor to a name. There are many Iannuccilli’s … bankers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, realtors, craftsmen, skilled laborers, developers, etc. whose forefathers originated in a small town just south of Rome, Roccamonfina, where successful Iannuccilli’s still labor harvesting a large portion of the world’s chestnut crop.
I have sons, grandsons and nephews who carry this great name, rich in tradition, rooted in history; no apology necessary.
And today, as of 4:29 AM, I have carried the name for 70 years!