I have a feeling I will be calling my nephew Harry. If someone objects strongly to that I’ll call him something else, but there’s a strong desire in me to call him Harry.
The name Henry William comes from my paternal grandfather. He may have been a terrible and often absent father to his children, but he was a terrific grandpa to me and my brother. I was the only girl in the family for a very long time, and I often think he was grateful for a little bit of estrogen.
What’s odd about both sides of my family is that they both seemed to dislike talking about the past. For my mother’s family it was largely due to feelings of disappointment in their adopted country’s treatment of them. Being Japanese, my mother’s family was interned during World War II. My mother was actually born in an internment area. For my father’s family I think it has largely to do with self-disappointment. It turns out that what we knew about our grandfather and his rift with the family in Italy was a lie.
Back to my point. I am very fuzzy on the details, but I had always known my grandfather as William Francis. But legally his name was Henry William. I forget the actual story, mostly because the parts that were told to me had so few details that I’ve never really been able to put them together. My suspicion is that his mother, an American, came from Italy to have her son in the US. Grandpa was born and given an American sounding name, and then they went back home to Italy. Odds are I have this absolutely wrong, but there we are.
Which brings me over to . . . how do you get Harry out of Henry? I haven’t the foggiest idea, but King Henry VIII was called Harry by those closest to him.
And then William. How did they get Bill out of William? My guess is this: William gets shortened to Will. Travel across the North Sea from England to some vague area in Germany (Hamburg?) and the W becomes a V. And the low countries in the area, once occupied by Spain aroundish King Henry VIII’s time . . . in Spanish the V is pronounced as a B. William = Will = Bill.