Monday, April 4, 2011

What's in a name

Emma came home for a quick visit on the weekend. She brought a friend, a roller derby friend, to go shopping at the mall. Emma introduced me to this young woman using her roller derby name: HELLBAT. Looking at this wee girl, you would never think that she would go by such a surprisingly lethal name. Her real name was much lovelier. I didn't ask her permission to talk about her in my blog, so I will not divulge her identity. However, her surname was Italian. I asked her what her name meant and she told me she didn't know... in fact hadn't even questioned its meaning in her 29 years. As soon as she left I looked it up on the web.

Later, when I talked to Emma I told her I thought it was odd that Hellbat hadn't wondered about her own name. Emma said that I was the odd one - in fact she began to list a number of oddities that I apparently possess. But, honestly... your NAME? It's who you are - your essence, your being. Why wouldn't you be curious about that? (To that end, I'm getting rid of my tax preparation poll at the right and asking a question about genealogy - please take 2 seconds to respond)

Bill asked me to a Sabres hockey game for our first date (yes, there is a connection here). When he first met me he had only ascertained two things about me: that I was Canadian and that I liked a cocktail or two (we met at Jimmy Mac's, a local watering hole in Buffalo). He managed to get my number and figured that the best way to lure me on a date was to dangle the prospect of gold seats (it was the old Aud) and the New York Rangers. I took the bait. Once the game started I watched very little of it. I spent a considerable amount of time explaining the game to Bill. It was the first time that he had truly understood icing and offside. We spent the rest of the time reading the game roster and guessing the country of origin of the players. Reijo Ruotsalainen - clearly a Finn, Kjell Samuelsson - obviously a Swede - we covered the entire team. It didn't occur to me until months later that Bill and I shared this (bizarre?) interest in surnames. One of the first things I ask people when I meet them is about their ancestry. Bill does the same. I guess it is a little weird and probably a little invasive to some.

Anyway, back to Hellbat. I surmised that her Italian last name was a form of the verb" to overwhelm". I texted Emma and she relayed the information to Hellbat. Emma's texted response? "This pleases Hellbat".
I laughed out loud.


  1. You're right it does literally mean to 'overwhelm', but it also translates into 'to run something into ruin'. The etymology is Italian and was adopted by the Italian descendents of former Spanish nobles whose original name sounded very similiar but meant something completely different in their native Catalan. The nobles' last name derives from the name of their ancestral village found in the heart of Catalonia justs outside of Barcelona. For the sake of keeping with the spirit of this post.. the name of the town ends with 'rats' and begins with the first four letters of this friend's last name. They are listed in records as being of Sephardic origin until the end of the 15th century.
    Cousin Hellbat:)

  2. Maybe Andrea should change her name from Hellbat to Hellrat

    Hellbat Dad

  3. lol @ Hellbat Dad!!