Two years ago, Mina Lobo started the tradition of the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal, and it’s been going strong ever since. Click on the above button to go to the A to Z homepage for the full list of participants.
My theme this year is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, names from The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio’s classic work from Medieval Italy. This is one of my favouritest books of all time, filled with so many awesome, memorable characters and stories. For having been written in the 14th century (and featuring some stories set in even older eras), it’s surprisingly fresh, modern, and relevant. Only a few stories are badly-dated today, like the horrid story where the “moral” is to learn to beat your wife so she never acts uppity or contradicts anything her husband wants, does, or says.
There are so many neat names in these 100 stories, many of them no longer used (or at best rarely used) since they’re so archaic. They really help to paint the picture of Medieval Italy, with all these names true to the setting. Some of the names I couldn’t find etymologies for, and so either had to make an educated guess or say I simply don’t know.
As with last year’s theme of modern, invented Soviet names, I’m featuring both a male and female name on each day, in the interest of fairness. There are three names featured on the J day, since I realised after writing the post that there’s a single J name in The Decameron after all, and I didn’t want to waste half of a good post or a chance to exonerate the unfairly-maligned Queen Jezebel.
Since there are some letters which typically aren’t found in Italian names, some of the letters will be wildcards and just feature interesting names I like. A few letters are half and half, since I could find one name starting with that letter but not another. As much as possible, I tried to select lesser-known names instead of familiar names like Gianni, Giovanna, Adriano, Margherita, Bruno, and Lidia. Nothing wrong with those names, but lesser-known names deserve more of a spotlight.
It was also very important for me not to use names from the same story, as much as I might like several names from a story. So, for example, since I used Gabriotto, I wasn’t able to use Andriuola/Andreuola, and since I’d already used Osbech, I couldn’t use Antigono as well. And though there is a single W name, William, it seemed like cheating to use such a common, well-known name, particularly when King William doesn’t even have an Italian name.
You’ll learn about names including:
Some letters were surprisingly hard to find many, or any, names for, such as V and O, and other letters, like R and M, didn’t have nearly as many female names as male names to choose from. Other letters, like A, G, and L, had an abundance of names from which to choose.
I love, love, love The Decameron, and hope this little taste of some of the stories will inspire you to get acquainted with it too. There are lots of translations to choose from, but the one I read first was an older translation with lots of illustrations, and the one I own is by Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella. I highly recommend my translation, since it translates all the great dirty puns and off-colour language my first translation prudishly, intellectually dishonestly left out.