Simanaitis Says

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MY MOB experience is modest indeed. I enjoyed The Godfather, 1972, but have viewed it only once. I saw neither Godfather Part II, 1974, nor Godfather Part III, 1990. I never even watched The Sopranos, running for 86 TV episodes from 1999 into 2007.

On the other hand, I enjoyed Jimmy Breslin’s The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight: A Novel. I’ve savored Damon Runyon’s tales of Nathan Detroit, The Lemon Drop Kid, Dark Dolores, Sam the Gonoph, and others of their ilk. It was Sam the Gonoph who philosophized “I long ago come to the conclusion that all life is 6 to 5 against.”

Damon Runyon, 1880–1946, American newspaperman and author. Born in Manhattan—the Kansas one.

Also, completing my modest mob links, when I was teaching mathematics at the College of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas, I once flunked a student whose family was highly connected in New York Mafia circles.

I am not completely ignorant of the lingo. Capiche?

Today’s political shenanigans bring the lingo all back. To quote James Comey, “As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob.”

James Brien Comey, Jr., Yonkers, New York-born in 1960, American lawyer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, 31st United States Deputy Attorney General, seventh Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Author of A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.

What follows here is Part 1 of selected mob talk, with relevant etymologies here and there. Tomorrow is Part 2.

Babbo. An underling no longer useful, an idiot. Ironically, it’s also Italian for “Daddy.” I mean, really, where’s the respect?

Borgata. A crime family. Literally in Italian, a “township.”

Cafone. An embarrassment to himself and others. Literally in Italian, a boor. Perhaps related to “covfefe”?

Capiche. Short for “Do you get what I’m saying?” From the Italian verb capire, “to understand.”

Capo. Literally “head” in Italian. A ranking member of a family, the head guy of perhaps 10 soldati, soldiers.

Capo di Tutti Capi. A commander in chief demanding loyalty of lesser captains.

Loyalty is important to a capo di tutti capi. Image from The Godfather, 1972.

Geez, here I am not even through with the C’s. I conclude today with an appropriate phrase, Che Peccato!, apparently uttered in mob circles when viewing an ex-member: “What a pity!”

See you tomorrow. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018


  1. Frank Barrett
    April 24, 2018

    Dennis, you might enjoy reading The Five Families.

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