Banks in a small Italian town with too many Mario Rossis are using nicknames to tell customers apart. If the lovely lake region of Bellagio, near Como, has a fault it could be that locals tend to stay in the region and pick the same first names.
In the town of about 3,000 people, two thirds share the same two last names, the local white pages show about 1,300 of them have the last name “Gilardoni” and about 750 are called “Gandola.”
Often given for professions or physical characteristics (how would you like to be known as “nitpicker” or “saw mill?”), the ones used by local banks in Bellagio are also in dialect and have sometimes been handed down for generations. It’s not the first time Italians have resorted to nicknames to tell each other apart, they appear in the phone book of one Sardinian community.
Bellagio’s predicament is an indication of the trend that Italians are back to using traditional saint’s names for their kids instead of foreign names. National statistics bureau ISTAT found (.pdf) that if there are about 30,000 traditional names, half the time parents pick names for their children from just 30, the most popular currently are Francesco for boys and Giulia for girls.
Image used with a CC license, thanks to berniecb