84. Saint Gigi

Because I share my name with the 1958 movie and about a million poodles, everyone wrongly assumes I’m French. But my name gets a very different reaction when I’m in Italy. People ask, “Why do you have a man’s name?”

It turns out I’m named after my father and my great-grandfather, both Luigi. Gigi, and many other variations, is a common nickname for Luigi in Italy. Here is my father on the topic, writing on his saint’s day, La Festa di San Luigi, June 21, in 1985:

“When I was a young man in Gaeta, people that hardly knew you would wish you a happy saint day. Everybody knew the day. Almost everyone had a Luigi in their family circle. The name had a few variations: Don Luigi for the landowners and the rich. Luigino for the young children who were still playing in their gardens and were not allowed out to join the neighborhood’s ‘delinquents.’ Gigino was suited for people, still young, who imitated Tarzan in every which way [my father’s description of himself as a teenager in the 1930s]. Only close friends would use the name of Gigi in calling you, if your name was Luigi. If you were called Gigetto, everybody knew you came from some exotic place like Rome or Livorno.”

The two Gigis I’m named after, my great-grandfather and my father, in the front row. In the front row at right is my grandmother. I think I’m a dead  ringer.

Outside of my family, my favorite Gigi is Gigi Buffon, the goalie of the Italian World Cup soccer team in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. He is known for one thing in our family: his passionate, emotional singing of the Italian national anthem at the beginning of the game.


One thought on “84. Saint Gigi

  1. Of all things, I discovered your website on Nextdoor. What fun. I would so like to crash the Italian get together on the 13th at the library, although I’m pretty sure there’s not a drop of Italian in my mixed blood. What is Italian for wannabe? Perhaps the hint of a “Roman nose” would get me a pass. My latest has been to take up Italian on Duolingo, but I will never speak Italian. I am beyond hopeless. Hope you are enjoying the holidays with your daughters and others you love and care about. Ciao.


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