Thursday, February 18, 2010

Alafraganza and Alfraganus

I've been listening to episodes of the Gunsmoke radio show here. It's funny how you get used to the same two or three actors voicing all the bit parts. For principals, you've got Matt, Chester, Kitty, and Doc (who is Floyd the Barber from the Andy Griffith Show, btw). But this week's down-and-out sodbuster sounds suspiciously like last week's shifty gambler.

Given the fact that sets are no object on a radio show, it's surprising how the same places figure in almost every episode: Matt's office, Doc's office upstairs, Front Street, the Texas Trail, where the first thing you hear is always Kitty's "Hello, Matt!" . . .

Sometimes they venture into one of the other saloons in town: the Long Branch (which happened to be the name of the bar in my hometown) or the Alafraganza.

That last one is a bit of a mystery to me. It's a fitting name for a saloon--a bit of exoticism to set the brand apart--but where does the name come from? How do you even spell it?

The only google hits for the word relate to the Gunsmoke show. There are no suggestions for alternative spellings.

It's possible the show's creators made the name up out of thin air, but today I read in a commentary to the Inferno that Dante's knowledge of Ptolemaic cosmology probably came via a work by the Persian astronomer Alfraganus. There's a pretty strong correspondence between those names, but can a connection between them be established?

On the other hand, that -ganza ending looks like the ending of extravaganza--also a good theme for a saloon. Is this a blend of some kind? If your bookstore was offering 70% off ancient Persian astronomy texts, would it be an alafraganza?

Update: Is there an expert on Italian out there who has an opinion on this word? Google Translate offers "going between wings" for "ala fra ganza."


Christopher said...

Well, in Spanish "alafre" means "miserable" and "ganzua" means "picklock", but in Spanish the adjective succeeds the noun. Got me there.

Maro said...

Fraganza is fragrance in Italian. A La means "in the manner/mode of" in French. So was the saloon "In the Manner of Fragrance"? Or, in a broad English translation, "How It Smells" or "How It Stinks"?

Boomer Boulevard said...

I think your theory involving Dante is the right one. John Meston was the principal writer on Gunsmoke and he hid all sorts of subliminal references in his scripts. Many of the script titles included historical or literary references, such as Ozymandias.

He was a sly writer. And a great one.

Bob Bro

Pat Hatherly said...

"in the fragrance" is the translation I got when I spelled it as a la fraganza and translated it from Italian to English.