In Italy, it is not unusual for a family to have nickname or “Soprannome”, like we
sometimes do here for a person’s given name (e.g. Rick for Richard). Per Mario Ridulfo
of Palermo, the Ridulfo that inhabited the high part of the city of Corleone between
the “cascades of the two rocche" and the river were called “crocchi”. Mario also
remarks that as young child growing in Corleone and going about town he was frequently
asked: "a cui apparteni" (who do you belong to) to which he would respond "I am the
son of Giovanni Ridulfo" and they would say: "ah crocchi...".
is that the crocchi represented the hooked stick used to pull down the branches of
fruit trees to easily pick the fruit.
The Ridulfo that lived in the lower/northern part of the city were called the "rutuna",
of which I have heard two possible meanings. One is “the great hay wheels” like shown
at left. The other is that rutuna is the rope used to strap the hay onto a horse
or donkey for transport, like shown at right.
Like some nicknames, the origin of Soprannome can often be a bit obscure or mysterious.
Sometimes kid’s nicknames come from the way their younger siblings mis-pronounced
their real names, or when a son has the same name as his father, the son is called
something different to tell them apart. For the Italian Soprannome, some derive from
a family’s specific location or occupation. Sometimes they may come from a particular
event. And while trying to determine the exact derivation, meaning or origin of a
family's Soprannome can be difficult, what it is sure is that every family had one,
to distinguish them from the others. Even today, for example, they distinguish the
Ridulfo in Palermo as "Palermitani", the Australians as “Australiani”, the Americans
as “Americani”, and so on.
My Ridulfo Branch is so notoriously bad at staying in touch by e-mail, RSVPing for
the annual reunion, etc., that I (affectionately) often refer to them as the “Read-Only”
Family, and this just may end up being our “Soprannome”.