Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The story of an Italian nickname

I recently met, online, Carolyn Pieri, the wife of a distant relative. Her husband and I have the same great great grandfather, Giocondo Capocchi. Carolyn shared an interesting story of how her husband’s father Julius Pieri, born in Chicago in 1917, earned the nickname Toby. Julius’ father Giulio Pieri was born in Montecarlo, Italy, in 1884 and came to Chicago in 1907.

“It was his (Giulio) habit to sit with the other Italian men in the fresh air markets,” Carolyn said, “where fruit, vegetables and fresh breads were put into large wooden bins. He would often bring his son along. Young Julius would amuse himself by playing hide and seek by hiding in the empty wooden bins. The other men would laugh and point, ‘Ah, a Topo! I see a little Topo!’ (Topo is the Italian word for mouse) The American men, not understanding Italian, mistook them as saying Toby, and that is what the younger Julius went by for the rest of his life. He even named one of his sons Toby as well.”

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