As I was trying to come up with a subject for this particular letter, I was having a little difficulty. I had settled on Polymath minds, but since it sounded a little too high falutin’, I really was a bit reluctant to use it. And then it hit me. Duh! How about Purpari? Purpari is a very nice Italian name, not very common outside of Italy, although there was one branch that moved to the United States in the very early 1900s; the name has since died out due to a lack of male heirs to carry on the name.
The Purparis are, on the whole, wonderful people, and I am glad to count them as family and family, despite a certain falling out. There is one Purpari that I hold particularly close to my heart—my daughter Sonia.
Anyway, the name Purpari has its roots, as far as I could find, in a small mountain town in the province of Palermo called San Mauro Castelverde. The youngest son moved to Mistretta in 1710, and this branch has been there ever since. During the passage of time, the name has undergone several variations, but as far as can be discovered it derives from one or both of two roots: The first would be the Sicilian word for octopus PURPO. Someone who fishes for octopus is a PURPARE. This would be highly plausible, since San Mauro, although being a mountain village, it is also not that far from the Tyrrhenian Sea, where there are lots of PURPI.
The other possibility would also be plausible, since it comes from the word PORPORA which stands for the scarlet worn by Cardinals in the Catholic church. There were a number of family members who took the cloth. Whichever of the two it may be, it doesn’t change that I heard my daughter being called PURPA several times by her Sicilian classmates…
When I came to New York, I ran into a little bit of difficulties with peoples’ pronunciation of the name. They ran the gamut, and in the end they just asked if they could call me Sister P. . I was a bit disheartened until my friend, Mrs. James, a teacher, told me her students asked if they could call her Mrs. J. What?
The best (or worst) one, though, was my very own sister. I still shake my head on this one. My three-year old daughter and I were visiting my family in California. My sister taught the three-year olds in Church and so, while I was in Relief Society, my sister was busy teaching Sonia and the other kids. I think that even if I ever get senile, one thing I will never forget is what happened next. My dear, sweet, beautiful little girl ran up to me and yelled “Ciao Mamma Poopaloopa!” Her aunt, that conniving sister of mine, taught her to say that. Of course, she’s the one who named her oldest son Bowen Erro. sigh…
Why couldn’t I have married someone with an easy name like Rossi or… James?
©Copyright Mary Purpari April 18, 2014, “P” is for Purpari