Part two in stories I’ve gleened from my Nonno on my last trip to Perth. This one comes from a time before the Second World War just after Mussolini took control of Italy.
It was a great time of nationalistic furvor. Everyone wanted to be part of the new Italy and associate themselves with it’s perceived great future. On the island of Pag in what was once called Dalmatia, just off the coast of Croatia, those who claimed Italian decent were doing just that. Mazzanti Valentich was among those who saw that maybe it would be wise to be seen pro-Italian (though he was no lover of Mussolini or Fascism). Like most Croatian and Dalamatian names, Valentich ended with ‘ich that, no matter the blood, didn’t give the ring of Italian truth. He had decided to change his name to Valenti, a far more Italian sounding name and was encouraging his friend Piumetich to do the same.
Piumetich was a big man, tall, barrel chested and strong. As a steveadore down on the docks of Pag he was well known for his loud voice and his equally good nature. He was so well know that he was given the nick-name Piuma which in Italian meant ‘feather’.
“How can a man such as me be considered a feather?!” He would cry with mock indignation until he decided one day to do just as his friend Mazzanti had suggested and change his name and took himself down to the Town Hall to change it.
“How about Piumeta?” The clerk asked Piumentich who indignantly cried that now instead of being plain Feather he would be called Little Feather (Piumeta roughly translating to ‘small feather’).
“Do I look like a small feather to you?” Piumentich stood his full impressive height, his barrel chest sticking out and think forearms crossed in front of him. It would have made an impressive sight and it seem the clerk tried placating the quarrelsome dock worker. Piumona was suggested which also roughly translates as ‘big feather’. This sounded better, until you realised that Piumona was a slang phrase which also meant ‘more silly’!
So while Valentich dropped the ‘ch’ and became the more Italian sounding Valenti, Piumentich stayed Piumetich and is decendant probably still are to this day.
As a side note, while checking translations for the names above, I found while Piumona may be’ big feather’ or ‘more silly’ in slang, in an Italian dictionary it is a ‘duvet’. I wonder what the burley but kind waterside worker would have though about being a big fluffy feather-down quilt. I also wonder if his wife would have agreed.