Zuko
Posted: 02 August 2010 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I realise this is right on the margins of ontopia…

What is the ethnicity of the name Zuko in the movie Grease? Is it a made up name?

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Posted: 02 August 2010 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I can’t speak to the origins of the name, but it predates the movie at least to the 1971 stage show.

Zuko is also the name of a character in the 2005-08 animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Ontopia: I like it.

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Posted: 02 August 2010 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I would guess it’s a respelling of the Italian name Zucco.

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Posted: 02 August 2010 06:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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...or it could be a shortening of Zukowski.

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Posted: 04 August 2010 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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A very sketchy and unscientific search of US Census data shows Zuko’s not born in the US as being born in a mix of mostly Austria and Italy with a smattering of Japan, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

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Posted: 04 August 2010 09:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Well that doesn’t narrow it down much but thanks.

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Posted: 05 August 2010 05:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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But we’re talking about the movie Grease, which is set in a heavily Italian-American section of NYC.  I’m pretty sure Italian is more relevant here than Czech or whatever.

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Posted: 05 August 2010 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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And of course, Austria borders Italy.  The conversion of cc to k can be plausibly explained as a Germanization of the Italian spelling.

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Posted: 05 August 2010 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Furthermore, large chunks of Italy were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for quite a while, so I imagine there was Germanization of Italian names as there was of Slavic ones.

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Posted: 05 August 2010 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Let’s remember that the name Danny Zuko comes from the 1971 stage musical, and did not originate in the movie.  The writer, Jim Jacobs, based the story on his experiences at Taft High School in Chicago and indeed the play was first produced in Chicago.  There is a sizable Slavic population in Chicago and I’m sure Mr. Jacobs was familiar with shortened Slavic names where the “ski” or the “wicz” was dropped.  Also remember that in the movie Sandy’s last name was Olsson but in the play it was Dombrowski and she wasn’t Australian!

I’d say that because of John Travolta’s popularity as Vinnie Barbarino and as Tony Manero, he naturally Brooklyn-Italianed it up for the movie, leading to the impression that since the name ends in a vowel it must be Italian.

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Posted: 06 August 2010 06:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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You’re right, I had completely forgotten about the prior stage musical and knew nothing about the Chicago origin, so I hereby withdraw all my earlier comments.  Thanks for the important background information!

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Posted: 06 August 2010 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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And, of course, the co-creators, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, might have heard of Mr (or Dr) Zuko, stage name of magician Logan Pritchett.

Logan became well known in magic circles outside of Arkansas as he frequently attended national and regional magic conventions and sold magic effects there and through the mail. He was the recipient of many magical awards and honors including winning the magicians’ “Oscar” for best comedy act, first runner-up in impromptu magic, received the Order of Merlin from the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1974, was also named as an Ambassador of Goodwill by the I.B.M., was the first non-Texan to be awarded the Royal Order of Willard by the Texas Association of Magicians., and was invited to perform at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California.

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