Wilmer Ricciotti


What's in a name?

Hooray! I have finally decided to write down the answers to the most frequently asked questions about my name.
Whenever somebody asks such questions, he'll be redirected here without further notice...

How do you pronounce Wilmer?

I pronounce it [ˈvilmer] (or better [ˈvilmɛr], if you are one of the few people who can tell the difference), where the final [r] is trilled, albeit lightly.
It is ok to pronounce the "W" as in English (i.e. [w]).

Where does your name come from?

In my parents' intentions, it should be a German name. But seriously, it's more accurate to say it is a very old Germanic name, supposedly meaning glorious will.
You won't find many Wilmers in Germany (although there is a borough of Berlin called Wilmersdorf). Well, you won't find many Wilmers anywhere, but chances of finding one (including actor Wilmer Valderrama, as I was surprisingly told in Starbucks once) are higher in Northern and Southern America.
Wilmer can also be a family name.

Are you German?

No, I'm Italian.

Are your parents German?

No, they are both Italian. But in my mother's region of origin, it is relatively common to use uncommon names.

Do you know anything about your family name?

A lot, actually. Ricciotti is a derivative of riccio, meaning "curly-haired".

My first recorded ancestor, born in the first few years of the 1500, didn't have this name. He was known, after his birthplace, as Francesco dalle Fratte ("of Fratte", a small village not too far from Urbino). He was a cattle trader, and was frequently selling beasts in the market of Ancona, where I was also born.
His son Andrea and grandson Giulio, who continued the family business, came to be known as porchettaro. Porchetta is a roast pork delicacy from central Italy, and it appears that Andrea and Giulio were primarily known for making and/or selling it.

The family name appeared, in the singular form Ricciotto, as the nickname of Giulio's son Battista (born October 16th, 1588), who was the last person in the family to be called porchettaro; we can guess he was curly-haired, but we do not know for sure. Battista lived most of his life in the vicinities of Ancona, as did all of his descendants in my branch of the family.

Then, the family name was unexpectedly carried on by the children of Battista's granddaughter, also called Battista, born in 1644, presumably because of her husband's premature death (if this hadn't happened, my family name would probably have been Badaloni). After that, the name was passed on for another ten generations without any other surprises.

The above story comes from the work of my (very) distant relative Giovanni Ricciotti, who spent a dozen years browsing ancient parish and legal records. A more detailed account (in Italian) can be found on his website. Giovanni is also the author of an interesting book on the history of porchetta.

Should I want to mention you in a Latin text, how do I proceed?

(This is actually a question I asked myself in the past; but somebody else might be interested, who knows?)

In Latin it is perfectly acceptable to use indeclinable foreign names. However, if you find yourself unable to distinguish "Wilmer" (genitive case) from "Wilmer" (dative case), you've got several options:

  • You can attach a declinable determiner to my name, as in ille Wilmer or Wilmer ille, both meaning "(the) Wilmer". Change ille to illius, and you'll then get "(the) Wilmer's"; change it to illi, and it'll become "to (the) Wilmer". You may even write illo Wilmer to signify "by means of (the) Wilmer", whenever it makes sense to say I was used as a medium.
  • Clearly, if to you I'm not "the" Wilmer, you can always say Wilmer quidam (some Wilmer, a certain Wilmer). Quidam is another declinable determiner which allows you to make the grammatical case clear.
  • If you end up using too many determiners, perhaps you should adopt a Latinization of my name instead. Since the letter "W" and the sound [v] were unknown to the ancient Romans, in your Latinization you should replace them (somewhat confusingly) by the letter "V" and the sound [w]. My favourite Latinization is Vilmērius, -i [wilˈmɛːriʊs], but Vilmer, -i [ˈwilmɛr] (inflected like puer) has the advantage of retaining the natural stress on the first syllable.

What if I want to use ancient Greek?

That's surprisingly easy (if you know the language, at least) because Greek, unlike Latin, has a definite article which is used in front of personal names all the time. Should you also want to create a Hellenic form of my name, beware that Attic Greek (the most important literary dialect, which is also the main ancestor to modern Greek) lost the sound [w] during its prehistory, and never had the sound [v]. Thus, my suggestion is to try something like Ὁ Ὀυίλμερος.

Do I have to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet to read your page, seriously?

You have to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet anyway, seriously.