COMMARES. Kids, you may have recognized the word “cumma’s” that I used in yesterday’s post as Neopolitan dialect. If so, you won’t be surprised that it comes from the Italian word “commare.” (The spelling is my own transcription of what I hear, but I checked with Mary Jane, and she thinks it’s a good approximation). The long “u” sound in “cumma” is a typical change in Neopolitan dialect. A similar change led to the word “gumba” from “compare” (a male counterpart of “commare”). In a way, your grandmother lived in Syracuse, New York as if she were living in a village in Italy. Her social circle was a small group of friends, She checked in with them by telephone most mornings. They were referred to as “Cumma X” or “Cumma Y.” As this website reports, “Cumma” can be used as a title before the name. “Cumma” can also indicate a degree of closeness. One meaning is “godmother.” And finally, “Cumma” refers to a woman who likes to talk and gossip. The opinions and judgments of the “Cummas” were an important part of your grandmother’s life.

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