I recently read an article in Times of India, which dealt with the names of Brazilian footballers. It reminded me of a book I had read when I was in school. The book was written by Mr. Edison Arantes do Nascimento, I know this name doesn’t ring a bell. He is also called Pele. The book I am talking about is My life and the beautiful game. This post has nothing to do with Pele’s book, But it has everything to do with names.
As a kid I never understood why somebody would change his name to Pele. There were more information to come, as I grew older I started to follow football(soccer) religiously and came across many more names like Dunga, Garrincha and more recently the likes of Kaka, Robinho and so on. I only got more curious when I saw the names of Brazilian Volley ball players.
It always had me wondering, What is going on? How can people have single names? It was after a bit of investigating I realized people in Brazil use their nicknames at times instead of their full name.
The naming system in Brazil originated from Brazil’s days as a Portuguese colony. In the Portuguese tradition, people normally have four names. Two given name and two family names. Normally one of the two given name is a name of a saint. The last surname is the father’s family surname and the first surname is the mother’s family surname. I actually like surname system. It is fair to retain mothers surname. But it also makes the names longer. For more information on Portuguese naming tradition
Normally kids struggle to remember/memorize names. With this system it is hard for kids to pronounce their own names. This is where the nicknames come in handy. But people continue to use these nick names instead of their full names.
With this set up, there can be instance were more than one person has a same name. In such cases sometimes second name is used to distinguish between people. If you look at the current Brazilian team, there are two Gilberto, Gilberto and Gilberto Silva. Other times , an ‘inho’ (small)or an ‘ao'(big) is tackled to a name. There has been instances were a persons native place is also added. There was a time when there were Ronaldo, a little Ronaldo and a little Ronaldo from southern Brazil in the Brazilian team.
When the Ronaldo in the left of the above image made it to the Brazilian team there was already a defender named Ronaldo in the team. So he was named Ronaldinho. When another Ronaldinho(one on the right of the image came into the team) he was name Ronaldinho Gaucho(Based on the area in Brazil from which he came from). When the first Ronaldo was done with football(soccer), Ronaldinho became Ronaldo and Ronaldinho Gaucho became Ronaldinho. Although the current Ronaldinho is often listed as Ronaldinho Gaucho.
This nick name system can be a little confusing when the name changes as in the case of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, but I would prefer this system any day. It’s much easier to memorize and utter a name like Kaka than using his real name Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite. By the way the name kaka was given to him by his younger brother who couldn’t pronounce his elder brothers full name. To be honest neither can I pronounce it correctly.
In Brazil mostly it doesn’t matter what name is written on the birth certificates. Nick name is all-pervasive.