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October 2017
Gergo Is Italian Mobspeak

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus


Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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The significance of the term gergo is actually broader than the word mobspeak. My Old Italian dictionary, and ones older, defines the term as an obscure lingo, a species of slang, made of strange terms and allusions, used among the illiterate and criminals to communicate and not be understood by outsiders. Gergo also extends to more legitimate usage, such as in the term gergo burocratico, and in judicial and diplomatic circles. Criminal gergo follows the rules of the standard language and borrows from other languages, for example, Spanish. It is not gibberish. It is part of the local dialects and can go back unchanged well in time. Gergo is both colorful and crude. One might say it gets to the point quickly.

We find gergo spoken among the Sicilian mafia, the Neapolitan camorra and the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta.

A few examples follow.

CALABRIA: paranza: malavita (criminal life). anurranza: honor. sgarro: prepotanza (arrogance).

SICILY: Uomo di societa’ mafioso. Essere a cavallo: armed with a knife. Smorzare: to silence someone.

Figura di 6: Easy woman. Dare un 55: Dare uno schiaffo (giving a slap) Cantare: to confess (to sing).

Mezzo filo: coltello affilatissimo (sharp knife). Stadera: sciabola (sword). Essere con altra: umbriaco (drunk).
Naples is noted to be rich in expression as one would expect from the loquacious Neapolitans, not to mention the thoroughly documented hand language.

NAPLES: Masto: Headman. Jettare o’ sanghe: morire (bleed to death). Guappo: bravaccio (braggart).

Avere una bella comodita’: To have a very large vulva. Selammeria: coitus. Nomina decreto di morte: death sentence.


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