Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The "House Wolf"

I was casually looking into words in the Camunian dialect on Mauro Fiora's Italian-Camunian translator. In standard Italian (Tuscan), the word for "wolf" is "lupo." Lupo can be a surname, and there are many surnames with "lupo" in it. For example, the surname "Cantalupo," generally of Neapolitan origin, means something like "singing wolf" (canta-lupo), probably regarding the wolf's howl. Of course, not many people in the Western world hear the howls of wolves any longer, but it was probably pretty common in past centuries.

The surnames "Calufetti" and "Caluffetti" are very definitely of Camunian origin. In the Camunian dialect, the word for house, home, or household is "ca." The word for wolf is "lùf" or "lüf." Therefore, before Romanization, the name was probably "Caluf" or "Caluff," which would mean something like "house wolf." This may have been either a reference to a domesticated wolf or to a family dog. If it was a wolf, then this surname may be so ancient, that a guess as to how old would be impossible. The Camunian culture goes back eight or ten thousand years.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary: Dogs were domesticated from gray wolves about 15,000 years ago. They must have been very valuable to early human settlements, for they quickly became ubiquitous across world cultures. Dogs perform many roles for people, such as hunting, herding, pulling loads, protection, assisting police and military, companionship, and, more recently, aiding handicapped individuals. This impact on human society has given them the nickname "Man's Best Friend" in the western world.

The origin of a surname, like Calufetti, can easily be lost without the aid of some type of reference to the original language that it came from. Caluf sounds like a word in the Camunian dialect. Not Tuscan, not Venetian, not German, not Slavic; but a word from a unique language, tied into the Lombard language. I would venture to guess that this word predates the linguistic influences of Etruscan, Roman, Langobard, and probably even Gaulish.

I had initially looked up "wolf," and discovered the world to be "lùf," then quickly made the connection to the surname. We are today connected to our ancient past much more than we think. Even though I'm not what is called a "dog person," I still instantly feel the connection from my ancient memory to the dogs who look more like wolves, like German Shepherds. Even in surnames, as we see them in the modern world, reflect a centuries-old tie to the past.


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