Today is the feast day of San Cono, patron saint of the Italian town of Teggiano.
Legend has it that the medieval saint was born with a cone-shaped head, so his pious parents, seeing this as a divine sign, decided to named him Cono, Italian for “cone.”
The baby name Cono is traditional in Teggiano, but rare in other parts of Italy. It was brought to the U.S. in the late 1800s via Teggianese immigrants, most of whom who settled in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Cono hasn’t been popular enough to appear on any recent SSA baby name list, but it made the list regularly back in the 1920s:
- 1933: 5 baby boys named Cono
- 1932: …
- 1931: 6 baby boys named Cono, all 6 born in New York
- 1930: 6 baby boys named Cono
- 1929: …
- 1928: 5 baby boys named Cono
- 1927: 5 baby boys named Cono
- 1926: 5 baby boys named Cono, all 5 born in New York
- 1925: 11 baby boys named Cono, 6 born in New York
- 1924: 7 baby boys named Cono, 5 born in New York
- 1923: 11 baby boys named Cono, 8 born in New York
- 1922: 12 baby boys named Cono, 10 born in New York
- 1921: 8 baby boys named Cono, all 8 born in New York
- 1920: 14 baby boys named Cono, 13 born in New York
- 1919: …
- 1918: 8 baby boys named Cono, 5 born in New York
- 1917: 6 baby boys named Cono
- 1916: 11 baby boys named Cono, 9 born in New York [debut]
According to a 1998 Wall Street Journal article specifically about the Conos of Williamsburg, “there might be more men named Cono in Williamsburg than in any other place on earth, outside Italy.” And even more than that if you count middle names and confirmation names.
In Williamsburg “there are delis, pizzerias and restaurants with Cono in their names. There’s a Cono club, located in an old synagogue on Ainslie Street, the heart of the neighborhood’s Cono population, and a Cono festival each fall.” Plus a feast day parade every June, of course.
One big drawback to having such a (locally) common name? Confusion:
Over the years, the Conos have come up with ways to differentiate themselves: An elderly Cono would be called “Conucio,” (pronounced co-NOOCH-ee-o). A youthful Cono is affectionately called “Conocino” (co-noo-CHI-no), or little Cono, to distinguish him from his father or grandfather.
Plus, people unfamiliar with the name are continually asking how to pronounce and spell it.
But one prominent Cono, tax attorney Cono Namorato, likes his name in spite of all this:
Mr. Namorato…says his name has become one of his “biggest assets” in attracting clients. “I get referrals from all over the country,” he says. “They don’t know how to spell my name, but they know the guy named Cono who does tax work.”
Have you ever met anyone with the name Cono?
What do you think of the name?
- Baker, Kevin, Seth I. Kamil and Eric Wakin. Big Onion Guide To Brooklyn: Ten Historic Walking Tours. New York: NYU Press, 2005.
- Gasparino, Charles. “Many Brooklyn Italians Favor Cono as a Name for Their Sons.” The Wall Street Journal 10 Nov. 1998.
- Gonzalez, David. “Still Taking to the Streets to Honor Their Saints.” New York Times 6 Jun. 2010.