Quite A Mouthful
by Tony Paterniti

Anthony Joseph Paterniti—quite a mouthful.
Anthony Paterniti in elementary school.
Anth to my friends.

Aaaaan-tho-nee! when my ma called me for
dinner—like in the spaghetti sauce commercial.

When choosing up sides for softball, it was
You take Paterniti … No, you take Paterniti …
pronounced Patter-nitti . . . like Nitti the Gangster.

By the time I got to Junior High, my homeroom
teacher was the gym teacher, Mr. Ginsburg.

Anthony? What kind of a name is Anthony?
Tony, he declared—like Yankee shortstop
Tony Kubek, or Cleveland Indians slugger
Tony Conigliaro, or the Minnesota Twins’
league leading hitter, Tony Oliva.

Despite my traditional mother’s objections,
it’s been Tony ever since. It was the year
of the Beatles. I put down my baseball
bat and picked up my guitar and
never looked back.

Still that Paterniti (Patter-nitti) was a mouthful
and it was only the rare European teacher who
would pronounce it correctly, with its music
intact: Paa-tare-knee-tee—with the accents
on the first and third syllables.

Maybe I coulda lived with Patter-nitti (kinda)
but with adolescence, the surname shit
hit the fan. I began hearing the slew
of alternatives that still linger on
to this very day . . .

Like Paternity, Patta-ninny and Paganini—
pronounced in flawless Italian:

Then came the nicknames.

Short for Tony was Tone, and that was OK,
but nicknames for my chameleon surname
exceeded all surrealistic expectations—

Like Pags and even Patches.

As I began to find my way through the fields
of adulthood, I learned to stand up for my
surname—well, the Nitti version at least—
calmly correcting any mispronunciations;
but Anthony was still out of the question
(except where the IRS was concerned).

When I started working at the United Nations
my first supervisor was into numerology and
asked my permission to “do my numbers”
and I said OK.

A small aside . . .

     The main thing with numerology is,
     the first nine letters of the alphabet
     are assigned a number—i.e., a is 1
     and b is 2 and so on—then
     beginning with the tenth letter
     it starts all over, and j is 1
     and k is 2 and so on—
     all the way to the end
     of the alphabet.

     Then you add all the numbers up
     and break them down.

     Two digit numbers are broken down
     to single digits by adding them together—
     thus the number 12 is collapsed by
     adding 1 and 2 to arrive at the
     numerology value of 3.

Well, Carol Stone added the numbers
of Anthony and broke them down to
a single number, then found the
values for Joseph and Paterniti,
then added them all and broke
them down to find my
personal number . . . 3.

She explained that if I had had
a repeating digit—as in the
numbers 11 or 22—those
were considered Master
a great destiny.

And you never break down
Master Numbers by adding
them up.

But I didn’t have any Master Numbers.

So I went home and decided to calculate
Anthony and Joseph and Paterniti
all together before breaking them
down . . . and it added up to 111.

Back at work the next morning
I told Ms. Stone and she looked
at me aghast, saying,

           That’s impossible!
           You’d have to be

Still, despite such a grand augury
it was not until last summer that
I finally came to own my complete
first (and full) name again.

I was playing five supporting roles
in a major, through-composed musical
called Song of Solomon, directed by
Broadway actor and choreographer
par excellence Luis Salgado.

In our cast of 43, I was Tony and
another fellow was Anthony.

And every time Luis called Anthony—
I wanted to answer. The thing is
Luis, with his Latin accent,
expressed the resonance
of my personal name in
a way I had never
heard before—

with a rich, warm first syllable,
a fully pronounced, meaningful
second syllable, and a third syllable
to match the true ending sound of
my surname, Paa-tare-knee-tee.

So now I finally know how to pronounce
my name with power and dignity, and so
I say Anthony with power and pleasure
as easily as I might also say Tony with
all its musical implications, including
the lover in West Side Story, who
just met a girl named Maria.

And you know, I do believe I have a unique
destiny to fulfill, and I am only now opening
my soul to its true possibilities, by stripping
away all the limitations in my previous
self-image, when the resonance of my
Real Self seemed just too difficult
to pronounce.

And what was once a mouthful is now
a heart . . . full and singing—

           Say it loud and there’s music playing.
           Say if soft . . . and it’s almost like praying.

Or, to paraphrase the late great Jim Croce—

           I carry it with me like my daddy did
           but I’m living the dreams . . . that I kept hid.

          I’ve Got a Name!

© Anthony Joseph Paterniti, 2015

PHOTOGRAPH: Tony Paterniti at the Parkside Lounge in New York City, April 27, 2015, where he performed several of his songs and read several ghazals from his book 424 Ways to Find Your Lover. (Photo by Mike Geffner)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For several years, I’ve focused on the writing of ghazals, a 14-line form (seven rhyming couplets) that originated in Persia. Ghazals generally express a personal spiritual theme, challenge, or insight, often with a poetic twist or climax in the final couplet. My ghazals focus on the larger spiritual challenges we face today, including the impact of relationships, the twists and turns of society, and nuances of feeling. The idea of “finding your lover” in my book entitled 424 Ways to Find Your Lover alludes to the process of progressively becoming one with the infinitely resourceful and infinitely human self within. The final selection of ghazals numbered 424—the birthday of both my stepdaughter and grandson (April 24)—so I chose to publish a single larger volume instead of two shorter books to maintain that resonance with these two unique souls. The book’s title is a play on Paul Simon’s song “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” which happens to capture the poignancy, humor, and movement towards inner freedom that characterizes most of these ghazals. The book, an offering of Tony Paterniti Publishing, is available through

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tony Paterniti is an actor, singer-songwriter, and performing poet. He has appeared Off-Broadway and as part of through-composed musical working its way towards Broadway. In 2008, he published a collection of 424 ghazals entitled 424 Ways to Find Your Lover, and has a successor volume on the way. He has also featured on Poet-to-Poet cable TV series and Mike Geffner’s Inspired Word Series, both in New York City.