- Sopranos Slang Words
- The Sopranos Italian Slang Phrases
- Sopranos Words Defined
- The Sopranos Italian Slang
- In The Sopranos, red meat plays a crucial role in the psychological trauma of Tony Soprano, so words like 'gabagool' and 'super-sod' (soppressata) carry a bit of narrative heft throughout the series.
- The television series The Sopranos is. Even harder than if somebody showed up in New York today speaking in 1920s New Yorker “Thoity-Thoid Street” slang and accent.
Slang you never heard before watching the sopranos. Here's one that stuck in my brain. When Benny and Chris show up at Feech's with a B.S. Story about a 'jacked truckload of flat screen TVs, Feech falls right into their trap and assures them that his garage is a great place to stash them, saying: 'This way I'm around - keep my glims on the stuff.' The word is based on the Italian word pisciare which means to urinate. However piscadu is a slang word coined by Italian-Americans. It is not an Italian word. Recall the episode in season 2 when Paulie is in Naples and he asks a waiter where the piscadu is and the waiter gives him a blank stare not understanding what Paulie was saying.
As can be concluded from previous claims, Italian-American slang was/is predominantly a language among Southern Italians and their relatives. Being the overwhelming majority of Italian immigrants, the form was ultimately cultured as a result of their experiences, and the effects that their dialect had on those around them. While others were exposed to it, Northern Italians often associated it with the illiteracy and poverty of the south, and thus they looked down on it and rejected its usage (Paolicelli).
Today, decades after the peak of Italian immigration, nearly 17 million Americans have made claims of Italian ancestry. This deems America one of the largest collections of Italian decent outside of the European peninsula (U.S Census Bureau 2010). And while more sporadic across the country then in the early 1900s, Italian-American populations remain most prominent throughout New England and its major metropolitan areas. As of 2010, Rhode Island and Connecticut have the largest Italian-American population densities, while New York has the largest population size (U.S Census Bureau 2010). However, while the community has continued relative prominence through current time, Italian subsists as one of the fastest dying languages spoken in American homes. And though the U.S Census Bureau (2010) has estimated that Italian is the eighth most spoken language in the country, only about 4.8% of Italian-Americans (0.32% of the total population) speak it at home. This data can be seen in the following visuals below.
Considering the community’s prevalence as the leader of one of the largest waves of American immigration, their language has affected that of the English-speaking population. Specifically, several Italian-American slang terms have become integrated into American “slang” vocabulary. Being the result of constant exposure in popular media, such as with The Sopranos, terms like “capish” have found widespread usage amongst other nationalities (Liberman). Likewise, others have been adopted as a result of their prominence and the desire for a term where English lacks an equivalent. Examples of this integration can be seen amongst the following words of Italian origin.
However, while Italian-Americans constitute a considerable population and several terms have successfully been accepted, the community’s use of slang has met criticism and little preservation. While discrimination, among other social factors, had prompted the construction of Italian-American slang, it also resulted in the decreased usage over future generations. With Italian immigrants seeking to Americanize their children in order to spare them the hardships they experienced, English became prioritized and Italian was used among adults for private conversation. As a result, children learned only what they heard, while usually unaware of spelling or exact pronunciation. Often, they mimicked the sounds of those who spoke to them, which frequently resulted in spoken errors and mispronunciations (Laurino). And as time has gone on, immigrant slang has become bastardized by the tongues and memories of subsequent generations. It resembles the game of telephone, and as the older generations pass away, forgotten terms and correct pronunciations disappear as well.
Likewise, preservation has not been facilitated as slang has become reserved and encouraged for use in the home (Laurino). While this is partly in response to early discrimination efforts, it also stems from the content of slang vocabulary. With nearly half of all terms being derogatory and inappropriate, though not listed for the sake of this assignment, it has been considered inappropriate to include them in everyday discourse. Thus, many terms have been purposely unexposed for the sake of social conduct. And as people have assimilated to the norms of American society, the need for these terms has decreased, and they have been forgotten across the line of generations.
Preservation has also seen decline because of marriage with other ethnicities. In a household where both parties don’t use/understand Italian-American slang, its continued existence would prove unlikely. However, many have noted that much of their slang education revolved around dining and Italian cuisine. While this accounts for the large number of food items found in slang vocabulary, it is a result of the prominence of Italian cooking today. In a New York Times interview, when Ann Gustafson, an Italian-American, was asked about her knowledge of slang vocabulary, she concurred with the statement above. Stating that all her slang knowledge was food-centric, she mentioned how her grandmother’s English illiteracy led to her not being able to “spell the words as she wrote down her recipes, which ended up half in Italian, half in English” (Albin). This is especially understandable in present time, as Italian-Americans have become so assimilated to United States culture in all ways aside from traditional cuisine. Italian dining has continuously remained as a central aspect throughout this community. Thus, the greater preservation of food terms appears understandable, as Italian cooking has been preserved as well.
Since its construction, popular media has responded with numerous productions, among which The Sopranos and The Godfather are most popular. Though these examples play on Italian-American stereotypes, this slang has become a common component in their scripted dialogue. This is apparent in the following clip from The Sopranos, in which the daughter is offering “gabbagul” (capicola) to her grandmother. In doing so, Italian-American slang has become recognized and has found exposure outside of the community.
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However, modern instruction and opinions have also given this slang the stigma of being incorrect and “untrue” to Italian culture. With solely the Tuscan dialect being taught in academia, little attention has been paid to the existence of Southern Italian dialects. As a result, Tuscan Italian has cultured a “purist” population among teachers and Americans who have only been exposed to the version of instruction. In doing so, ignorance has caused people to conclude Italian-American slang as being incorrect and untrue to Italian culture (Albin). Although in reality, slang is the thing most culturally pertinent for a relative of a 20th Century immigrant. While in Italy it might be incorrect, for an Italian-American it is still very culturally relevant in this country.
In the following video, you can see an example of how some attack Italian-American slang as being wrong. (May have to click the link in the video)
As a result of this perception, many feel awkward or uncomfortable using slang outside of the home because they become conscious of it being wrong. In doing so, they fail to preserve the terms as they make a transition to using Tuscan terminology instead. Though, native Italian speakers are generally accepting of Italian-American slang, as they are aware that Italian comes in many forms and dialects (Albin).
The topic of Italian-American slang is extremely relevant from both a linguistic and historical standpoint. Whereas many might see the existence of slang as a loss of culture and language, linguists are relatively aware of its importance to Italian-Americans. Through studying its formation and construction, they stress that it “deepens our understanding of the transformations in America and what they mean for ethnic identity and the process of assimilation” (Carnevale, x). As part of the language and character of this community, it is important in discussing their origin and traditional ethnic makeup today.
For sociolinguistics, as well as disciplines in history, Italian-American slang is especially relevant. Aside from its usage, it bears numerous social and cultural connotations that help to construct the identity of Italian immigrants (Carnevale, ix). As this website has shown, Italian-American slang is much more than a language alteration. It is, however, a product that reminds us of the hardships and experiences they faced during the 1900s. By studying it, you gain linguistic and historical insight into the lives of early immigrants, and how their American residency has affected the culture and identity of future generations.
However, while there has been some linguistic research already conducted, there is room for much more. Many of the current works only account on personal experience or the sounds changes they have observed among linguistic communities. Few provide a general study on the Italian-American community as a whole, and fewer reference specific vocabulary items. Instead, slang discussion has circulated amongst informal realms, while surviving on blog posts and individual anecdotes. There is definitely more room for more formal accounts, especially with records on specific vocabulary terms and their various spellings (as that is what is most relevant to current generations). In doing so, the identity and culture of Italian-Americans will find further preservation.- Administration: The top members of the Family, usually composed of the boss, underboss, and consigliere.
- Associate: At first you will work for the Family as an associate. Only if you prove yourself will you be sworn in as a full member.
- Babbo: A mafia term for an underling who is considered to be useless – you don't want to be one of these or your days may be numbered.
- Big earner: Mafia lingo for someone who makes a lot of money for the family.
- Boss: The head of the Family (the Don). The Mafia boss has the ultimate say in all important decisions.
- Broken: When a member is demoted in rank.
- Buttlegging: Bootlegging untaxed cigarettes.
- Button: A Mafia ‘soldier’.
- Capo: A Captain in the family.
Sopranos Slang Words- Capo di tutti capi: The Mafia boss of the strongest Family - highest of all mafia ranks.
- Cleaning: Covering your tracks to ensure that you’re not being followed.
The Sopranos Italian Slang Phrases- Clip: This means to eliminate someone.
- Clock: To keep a person under surveillance.
- Comare: A common term for a woman that they may be dating outside of marriage - a Mafia mistress
-Compare: Croney, close pal. Literally 'Godfather' in Italian.
- Consigliere: The counsellor to the boss.
- Contract:Murder assignment.
- Cosa Nostra: Italian for 'this thing is ours'.
Sopranos Words Defined- Crew:A body of soldiers assigned to a capo.
- Cugine: A young ambitious gangster who wants to climb the ranks of power.
- Double-decker coffin: A coffin, which has a secret lower compartment used to dispose of a victim.
- Earner:One who generates income for a Mafia family.
- Enforcer: A member of the Family entrusted to ensuring fulfilment of deals by threats and if necessary killing.
- Fanabala: Italian-American dialect, morphed over the years from, 'Va Fa Napoli' which literally mean, 'go to Naples' but in the vernacular 'go to hell'.
- Fanook: Derived from 'finocchio', a derogatory term for homosexual.
- Friend of mine: How a third party is introduced whom is not a member of the family but can be vouched for.
- Friend of ours: Introduction of one made member to another.
- Gabagool: Gabagool is slang for capicola, a thinly sliced Italian luncheon meat, taken from the shoulder (collo) and neck (capo - head) of a pig.
- Ice: This is yet another request for you to kill someone.
- Juice: Theinterest paid on a loan.
- Large: A grand, one thousand. 'He owes me fifty large!' means ($50,000.00).
- Madonn': Madonna, common expression meaning holy smoke, holy cow, something said when surprised.
- Make a marriage: To bring two parties together to 'do some business'
- Oobatz: Crazy.
- Omertá: The code of silence you have to swear when you join the Family.
- Piece: A firearm or gun.
The Sopranos Italian Slang- Pinched: To be arrested.
- Rat: A member who violates the Omertá.
- Shylock:A person who lends money at an extortionate rate of interest.
- Skim: Money taken that is not reported to the IRS.
- Skipper: A Captain or Capo.
- Turban: 'Give him a turban.' Means to crack his head open.
- Vig: Italian Mafia lingo for the interest paid to a loan shark for a loan. Usually 2 points or 2%.
- Whack: To murder someone.
- Young Turk: Mob term for a young defiant Mafia member.
- Zips: A derogatory Mafia term American Mafiosi's use for the Sicilian Mafiosi.