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  • --Preamble---

    Joke popular in 70s/80s London:-
    "What's a Pow?" " A backward Wop."

    Wop? W-ithO-utP-assport: put down as 'Nationality' at US Immigration checkpoint(s) - not clear whether usage already current at Ellis Island, or one that developed later. Wops, by definition therefore, applied to all 'nationalities'.

    It came subsequently to cover exclusively Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Spanish, Mexicans and Hispanics. Although other varieties of derogatory term were to be used, Dago, Grease-ball and Border Nigger being among these.

    Curiousity, naturally, drove me to seek out terms of this ilk, in the spirit of share and share-alike, for the English. The only one I have dug out so far, but I have hopes, is one still in use in Australia, but démodé in the US, viz. Limey. Well. How very very derogatory THAT is!

    "Hey! You! Yeah. You! So-clued-up-about-what-causes-scurvy-pre-medical-research-era-that-you-get-your-sailors-to-eat-LIMES-for-the-concentrated-quantities-of-Vitamin C- therein."

    At this point in my reflections, I was on my highly indignant high horse.

    But... perusing The Racial Slur Database (I swear I am NOT making that up) Germans may use Ami, shortened form of Scheiss-Ami, for Americans; Australians may use Blockhead, said to literally describe headshape, for Macedonians (did YOU know there were any in Australia? I didn't) ; and Asians may use Bruised Banana for other Asians with pretensions 'to act black'. My research in this area can be said to be ongoing, although I've not the faintest idea how I'm ever going to use any of it.

    Now for the story.

    --------THE LITTLE EYETIE ------------

    My parents came to London, England, mother in 1956 and father one or two years later. Food rationing, set up under the 1939-1945 conflict, had only just ended: 4th July, 1954. How ironic then that so many Italians went into the 'food provision' services. And the English did not let them forget that they were the losers. Andrea Ci says "Whose side were you guys again?". In my memory, a variant on this was usually prefaced by "Oy..Eyetie!"

    My father's mother, my grandmother, came over for my parents' wedding, all the way from the Costiera Amalfitana. She was already very unwell and, unfortunately, died shortly after, there in London. So, when I arrived, I was given her name.

    And what a dog's dinner the English made of it.

    "MAK/ 'LAR/ TA"

    The only time I would hear my name properly pronounced would be at family reunions, either abroad or in London itself - there was a sizeable contingent of London Amorellis. Among the latter, the exception was zio Tony - of course, being Pakistani by birth it was but to be expected. You can see him in the London Amorellis Photo, in the middle, proudly at the top. And it actually was not a problem at all. He could pronounce everybody else's name, so when he aimed an indistinct mumble in my direction I would be fairly certain that he was addressing me.

    My parents, not content with saddling me with an unpronounceable and, frankly, embarrassing name, then went on to definitively mark me out as a little Eyetie. I am not suggesting that they should have dyed me blonde: that would have been implausible.

    However, they could have avoided the piercing of the ears. Nobody, but nobody, of my age in 60s London, had the things. And can you make out the bracelet? Ditto for that.

    Oh... the earrings and bracelet were provided by adoring family on the Costiera; my parents, then, could never have afforded such things. Every summer, at every visit to one or other of my father's relations, another gold gewgaw would be produced to add to the collection. I have some photos ('stendiamo un velo pietoso'; trad. approx.: let's just try and forget about those) where I bear a grisly resemblance to those glittery gold Madonnas, with the light fairly bouncing off me.

    Well. I am all grown up now. I live in Italy. In a sense, I am finally 'home'. I even have a national holiday - everything is closed, just like on Christmas Day - in MY honour: the 8th December Festa dell'Immacolata.

    Image: photo stuck on a sheet from one of Son2's old copybooks and doodled about with (by me!) using Caran d'Ache pencils, the ones you can lick (and I did) to get a more intense colour. Pray notice my rather tight smile. I had wanted to go on the donkey ride.
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