Where Do the Italians Get So Many Last Names and Can They Loan the Spanish a Few?

When was the last time you heard of someone named Medici, Buonarroti, da Vinci, Brunelleschi, DiMaggio, Mussolini, Pirandello, Berra, Vespucci, Fellini, Pesci, De Niro, Coppala, Vivaldi, etcetera (or rather, Eccetera, which is also probably a family name in Italy).

The only Italian surnames that seem to repeat a lot are Russo/Rossi (meaning “from Russia” or “red hair”), Ricci/Rizzo (meaning “curly”) and Esposito (meaning “exposed”—i.e., abandoned by your parents).

Meanwhile, the world is drowning in people named Smith, Jones, Miller, Khan, Garcia, Santos, Chang, Wang, Kim, Lee, Nguyen, Suzuki, Cohen, and “Hey Asshole!” which apparently is very common in New York.

Incredibly, Italians seem to be immune from the anthropological law of history and evolution called Random Lineage Extinction, a law which can best be illustrated by this famous example:

In 1790, nine British sailors who had mutinied on The Bounty sailed to Pitcairn Island, bringing with them eleven Tahitian (Polynesian) women. Of those nine original family names from The Bounty (such as Fletcher Christian’s), only four survive today (source: http://www.pitcairners.org/settlements3.html). The rest succumbed to Random Lineage Extinction.

Had they been nine Italian sailors instead of British, there would now be 29 original family names.

Had they been Spanish, there would only be four or five family names, but everyone would have 19 interchangeable middle names.

Had they been Chinese, there would only be three or four family names but there would have been billions of descendants on little tiny Pitcairn.

Had they been Native American Indian, everyone would have a unique, colorful last name like “Laughs-at-Pain” or “Sighs-without-Smoke.”

Had they been African-American, the pronunciation of each last name would have changed and simplified to the point where eventually everyone would have just a single initial for a last name (e.g. Spencer Christian’s descendants would be named: “Chrissan” then “Krissin” and eventually just “Spencer K” or “Spencer X” if they felt rebellious against the Man).

Had they been Afghani, they would not have known how to sail to Pitcairn after mutinying against Captain Bligh. (Afghanistan is a landlocked country.)

Had they been French, they would have assimilated into Tahitian culture and also never reached Pitcairn. The only trace they would leave behind would be an annoying and completely unwarranted superiority complex among modern-day Tahitians.

Had they been German, they would have killed off their descendants as “racially impure,” causing labor shortages which could only be overcome by importing guest-workers. Consequently, everyone would be named either Ozturk (meaning “pure Turk”) or Yilmaz (meaning “unbeatable”), the two most common surnames in Turkey.

And if they’d been Australian, everyone would be named Bruce and there would be no poofters.

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