June 9, 2012

Mi Chiamo Charles

I've written before about how I'm fascinated by how names work in foreign-language environments, both in conversation and in liturgy. Whenever I've been living outside the states since being in the Order, I have always been prepared to be the version of my name in the local language. It seems, however, that the tendency among the friars is keep one's own name in his own proper language. I noticed that this is certainly true in the curia in Rome where there is a plurality of native languages. Even before I arrived there was a Charles, a Carlos, and a Carlo. There are two Marks and a Marek and a Peter and a Piotr. So there I will surely be Charles.

But also here in the very Italian friary in Assisi, I seem to be Charles and not Carlo. At Italian school I am Carlo; Professoressa Carla translated all the names she could, first thing. What's funny are the associations the Italian friars seem to have with the name. For one of the student brothers, it seems to be Charles Bronson. So when he sees me he says, in English, "Charles...Charles Bronson...tough guy!" Another of the young guys seems to immediately think of Charles Ingalls, 'Padre di Mary e Laura,' as he explains to me, often bursting into a rendition of the theme from the TV show when he sees me. La casa nella prateria, did I know of it? he asks.

I guess it just shows the reach of American entertainment.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I have rarely found a teacher who will not translate a student's name into a foreign variant. On the other hand, I have done much work abroad -- 24 countries. Professionally, no one translated my name. (In one case, that worked against me. I completed my PhD in Russia and at the pre-defense, one of the department profs told me to re-read the dissertation and make some small fixes because although there were no real errors, it occasionally had a foreign ring to it. So, I had a very erudite native speaker friend read it. He said there was nothing wrong with anything, but the foreign sound came from my name on the first page -- after that, anything that was idiolectal (and would be fine for a native speaker) was associated with my foreign-sounding name and colored the internalization of the wording. Go figure! I think he was probably right.) Which is all a lot of words to say that, in my experience, foreign language teachers are an odd lot; what they do as far as naming students does not seem to carry over anywhere else.

Good luck with italiano!