Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon

File:Gabriela arrependida II.jpg

Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, originally titled Gabriela, Cravo e Canela, is a 1958 novel written by Brazilian author Jorge Amado. It tells the love story of Gabriela, also know as Bié, and Nacib, a business owner of Syrian origins. Their story is told against the backdrop of 1920s Brazil, with its political struggles, men who keep the law with their guns, and men who wish to change it all with democracy. The book gained international recognition after it was adapted for television in 1975, later being transformed for the big screen. Gabriela was a much loved telenovela, watched by millions, and has been brought back this year with a new cast but with the same captivating story. I wasn't born when the telenovela and the film were made, but I have been watching along this time, and I've been charmed by the characters and the complex plot lines; there are no over-the-top dramatics or bad acting so common in soaps. To top it all off, Gabriela is sprinkled with unusual names, which seem to fit 1920s Brazil so perfectly. 

The Women

Gabriela - Derived from Biblical Gabriel (strong man of God), it works well in many languages. The spelling with only one L is typically Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, but it is not so noticeable a change to put off English speaking parents.

Olga - Many would be surprised to find Olga (holy, blessed), a name with strong Russian associations, being used in Brazil in the 20s. But Brazil was for much of its history a melting pot of different cultures, so to see Olga make an appearance should raise no eyebrows.

Malvina - Invented in the 18th century, from the Gaelic for 'smooth brow', Malvina has a distinct Brazilian vibe, although it would not fit in with Brazil's current naming style.

Gerusa - Pronounced Jeh-ROO-Sah, this is one of the character names that better fits the time period. It is possible that it is a variation of Hebrew Jerusha (possession), an Old Testament name. The religious connections would certainly fit in with the strong Catholic faith of most Brazilians.

Teodora -  No wild guesses needed for this one. Teodora is the the Portuguese form of Theodora (God's gift). I'm personally charmed by the boyish nickname Teo that may be derived from it. 

Doroteia - Another no-brainer. Doroteia is simply the Portuguese form of Dorothea (God's Gift).

Marialva - Very southern in style, it is the name of a town in Paraná, which got its name in honour of the Marquis of Marialva. The name may have originated from the tale of Maria Alva, the girl with goat feet. The story goes that Maria Alva was a beautiful girl who fell for the local shoemaker. Before agreeing to marry him, Maria asked him to make her a pair of shoes. To cut a long story short, he found out she had goat feet, told everyone in the village about them, and Maria threw herself out of a window.

Lindinalva - An interesting name. It is likely a mush-up between Linda (beautiful) and Dalva (very light), which is in relation to the planet Venus, sometimes referred to as 'Estrela Dalva'.

Quinquina - A nature name related to Peruvian bark, used for centuries to cure illnesses.

Florzinha - A pet form of Flore (flower), Florzinha translates to 'little flower'.

The Men

Nacib - It could likely come from the Arabic Nasib (noble), and it has a definite Middle-Eastern flavour. Perhaps it isn't exactly wearable for most, but it has a nice sound, look and feel to it.

Mundinho - Pronounced as 'Moon-Dee-Nyo', it literally translates to 'small world'.

Tonico - A pet form for Antonio, the Portuguese form of Anthony, it usually means 'small Antonio'.

Josué - Not to be confused with common José, Josué is the Portuguese form of Joshua (yahweh is salvation). Many would be tempted to pronounce it ho-SU-ay, but that would be Spanish. Portuguese pronounce their Js just as we do in English, although every name website, for some reason, thinks that the Portuguese pronounce Js as Zs. Not true. Josué is something like Joh-Zuh-EH.

Jesuíno - It has a similar sound to Josué, but this time the stress rests on the I (pronounced as a long E). Although it seems to have no known meaning, it is likely linked to Jesus. 

Osmundo - Portuguese form of the English Osmond (God & protector).

Coriolano - An elaborate Italian surname full of potential. Its possible origins may be traced back Coriolanus, a Latin cognomen meaning 'from Corioli'. It is also the name of a Shakespearean play about the life of Caius Marcius Coriolanus.

Melk - Its meaning is 'king', but in Dutch it is the word for milk. Interestingly, there seems to be a beautiful city in Austria by this name, originally called Medilica in the 9th century.

Clemente - From the Late Latin name Clemens (merciful, gentle), it is more common to see it as Clement. This name, too, links in rather well with Brazil's Catholic faith. 

Berto - A nickname for Roberto, the Portuguese form of Robert (bright fame).

Image: Gabriela Arrependida II by Gruchalski123