4.0142 Forms of Address (1/60)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 29 May 90 18:35:39 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0142. Tuesday, 29 May 1990.

Date: Mon, 28 May 90 18:41:42 -0200
From: onomata@bengus (nissan ephraim)
Subject: last names


Concerning the discussion about the use of last names vs. first names.
In Italy, the use of the first name in the workplace or at school is
expanding from the upper-middle class. Small bourgeois and especially
proletarians stick to the last name. There are still some proletarian
wives, or wives in couples with a proletarian background, who call, or
refer to, their husband by his last name.

At the Jewish school in Milan, the first name was and is usual for pupils
(from the kindergarten to high school), whereas teachers are referred to
by their last names. Instead, at state-run schools, the last name is
the rule (except at the kindergarten), albeit the use of the first name
is expanding in high schools. I remember that the wive of the owner of
the firm that moved my belongings from Italy to Israel (and kept some
valuables) used to refer to her husband by his last name: they were
people from Verona (thus, in the North-East), with an evident
lower-class background, and were non-Jews. I also remember this use
among Jews: in an interview with the widow of Leone Efrati ['e-fra-ti:
the stress is on the first syllable, whereas in Hebrew it would be on
the last], broadcasted in a Jewish program on the state-run TV, she
referred to him as "Efrati". During the 1930, this boxer represented
the pride of the proletarians and small bourgeois from the Jewish ghetto
in Rome, in front of the racist campaign; anyway, the fans of his
opponents used to consider the fight as between Aryans and Semites. It
ended when the Fascist authorities forbade him to fight (and win) any
longer. An illiterate, he left for the United States, but then went
back to Rome. Of his American gains, the last thing left to him was an
impermeable skin jacket; once he saw a man throw himself into the River
Tiber. After he saved him, he covered the man with his jacket, and
asked him to bring it back to his home address, but he never got it back.

Then, once under the German occupation (the Jews were deported in phases,
but the city was not held long enough to deport all of them), two local
Fascists saw him in the street while he was walking with his child,
threatened them with a revolver, and brought them to the Gestapo
headquarters in Via Tasso. The boy (who survived the extermination camp
where they were deported, whereas his father didn't), later recalled
having seen there also some belongings of an uncle. Anyway, I related
this to point out that in places as far and disparate as the Trastevere
ghetto of Rome and Catholic Verona, proletarians used the last name even
when wives addressed their husband. There are still people around that
stick to that use.

In Israel, instead, the first name is usual at school, and at primary
school pupils are used to refer to their teacher by her (usually it is
she) first name. Undergraduates refer to docents by their last name,
with exceptions in addressing instructors, or an advisor (even of
undergraduate projects). The singular of the second person is usual, in
Hebrew and Israeli Hebrew, to address interlocutors, but in court, "kvod
ha-shofet" (literally: "the honor of the Judge", that agrees with the
3rd person) is usual. Ultra-orthodox people, both Ashkenazic and
Sephardi, refer by "kvodo" (his honor) to people they are unfamiliar
with, or (often) to superiors. Some people for whom Hebrew is a second
language used to reproduce the addressing forms of their first language
in Hebrew. This use was found among some Europeans, but also among
speakers of Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), as in Ladino the 3rd person is used
both as a form of respect, and as a form of contempt.

Ephraim Nissan onomata@bengus