Primo, Segundo, and Terzo: A Lesson in Simplicity

I remember my Dad telling me years ago about a family he knew. If I recall correctly, they were distant relatives of ours. Regardless, the interesting thing about them is that they had three sons. That fact was not unusual itself, but their names stood out. They christened their boys Primo, Segundo, and Terzo.

For those of you lacking in the knowledge of all things Italian, let me fill you in. Those names translate into English as First, Second, and Third. In case you haven’t immediately noticed, the Italian versions of those monikers flow much more sweetly than the English. Still, being called Segundo can’t be all good.

Primo is not all that unusual for an Italian male. Now, that’s a good name. Being called First is usually a wonderful thing. The major exception would be a call from the draft board.

Naming Your Kids Out of Order

My Dad didn’t say so, but I assume this family named the boys in the chronological order in which they were birthed. Unless they had a crystal ball, it pretty much stands to reason. Otherwise, they may have had a son named Fifth (or whatever the Italian version of that might be—Quinto, I presume). Plus, I would think naming your kids out of order could really be confusing—especially for the neighbors.

If there were an upside to naming your kids in numerical order, it would be the simplicity of it all. Your offspring would be prenamed for you. Once the pattern was set, it would be downhill from there. Think of the hours you spent looking through lists of baby names. You could spend that time picking out nursery furniture instead.

In case a baby girl sneaked in there, all you’d have to do is change the ending vowel to an “a” to be gender specific. The Romance languages are convenient like that.

For some reason, of the three, I like Terzo the best. I’m not sure why. It just sounds good. Speaking from an Olympic standpoint, he would win the bronze. It’s certainly not as good as gold or silver, but at least he placed. There’s something earthy and humble about bronze as well. I just like it.

“I only have two sons…”

Since I only have two sons, I could nickname them Primo and Segundo. I could also nickname the girls Terza and Quarta, but I doubt the baby would go for that. Quarta just doesn’t seem as appealing as the others. I guess I could ask them.

I sometimes wonder if Segundo’s nickname was Avis (think about it). Sorry. I realize, as humor goes, that really Hertz. What can I say? That had to be the German in me. Sometimes it pops right out there. I’m half Italian, but you know how intrusive the Germanic can be.

This may all sound like so much drivel to you, but think how important it is to baby Decimo (Tenth). I suspect he doesn’t appreciate being snubbed by the likes of a John or Mary. Have some compassion for goodness sake.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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