N'Italian Lessons 101
Several weeks ago I was at a family function in New York. On the way home I was talking to my wife while waving my hands, making faces, and using words and phrases that cracked her up. She astutely pointed out that, whenever I'm in the same room with my relatives for more than five minutes, I make an interesting transition from the well-spoken Ivy League-educated hornster that I usually am to someone who is straight off the set of a Sopranos episode. My first reaction was to throw up my hands and reply "Whaddya talkin?" Her response was a simple "See...that's what I'm talking...about."
Of course, she was right. So, being the ever-inquisitive hornster, I started thinking about this. Here are my conclusions:
In the New York - New Jersey area in particular, many people of Italian-American descent have developed their own version of Italian slang, that I'll call N'Italian. Granted, some of the slang is a pretty brutal bastardization of la bella lingua, but, I grew up with them so they are near and dear to my heart. Some words and expressions have many variations in spelling. For example, the letters 'c' and 'g' are often used in place of one another. Some also have multiple meanings…so hand gestures, facial expression, and body language are often needed to make an accurate interpretation of context…these will be the subject of a future post. They also have their own English slang expressions...that too will be the subject of another post.
Here are a few samples of what I'll call N'Italian 101...a N'Italian/English dictionary of sorts:
gabagool. This is pronounced ga-ba-'gool. It's slang for cappicola, a highly seasoned type of ham that is a popular cold cut.
proshut. This is pronounced pro-'shoot. It's slang for prosciutto, a salt-cured type of ham eaten as a cold cut and used in Italian cooking.
madonna. Pronounced madonn' or mah-'dawn. The literal meaning is 'virgin mary' or 'mother of God,' but its slang meanings are "Oh no!" or "That's too bad" or "Holy shit!" A variation is the expression madonna mia. Sample usage:
Paulie: "Tony, I'm stuck in friggin' traffic, so I'm gonna' be late for the meetin'.
Oh yeah. And I forgot to pickup the gabagool and proshut."
Tony: "Madonn', what the hell else is gonna' go wrong today?"
ming. Pronounced ming'. Often used as a substitute for madonna.
goomah. Pronounced goo-'mah or coo-'mah. This means 'girlfriend,' but it must be used in the proper context. If you're single and have a girlfriend, she's your goomah. Your wife or fiance is NOT your goomah. If you're married or engaged, a goomah is someone you're seeing on the side.
stunad. Pronounced stew-'nod. A person who is stupid, thick, dense. Sample usage:
"I tell him how to do it five times, and he still screws it up. Ming, what a friggin' stunad."
oobatz. Pronounced oo-'botz. It means 'crazy' or 'you're crazy.' Sample usage:
"Friggin' shyster sends me a bill for five grand. I call him up and say 'You think I'm gonna pay this? Oobatz.'"
stugats. Pronounced stew-'gotz. It means 'balls' or 'big balls' or 'you've got some balls.' In the Sopranos, Tony's boat is named Stugats.
fancul. Pronounced fon-'gool. It means to 'go f--- yourself' or 'f--- yourself up the a--.' Variations include va fancul and a fancul.
fanuk. Pronounced fa-'nuke or fi-'nuke. A guy who is gay. Think Vito in the last few episodes of the Sopranos.
In a future post, I'll put these together with some English slang expressions and body language. That's all one needs to carry on a basic conversation.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to hear what some of these expressions sound like over here.
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