Monday, May 16, 2011


In Corleone, Sicily (see "Rassettarsi la testa" below)

Ammonizione Judicial proceeding which imposes specific  restrictions on offenders or potential offenders.

Anonima Sequestri:  Incorporated kidnappings.

Associazione  a delinquere A charge “invented” by Prefeto Mori  especially for the mafiosi.

Campiere Overseer, field-guard (see below)

Canziarsi To go into hiding (from the police).

L'Ora(1900-1990) (see below)

Compare, compa`, commare:  Old Italian words for someone who is close to the family.  (The Merry Wives of Windsor is, in Italian, ‘Le allegre commari di Windsor’).  It comes from ‘cum matrem cum patrem’.  In Sicilian compare or commare are witness to a marriage of godfathers  and godmothers, a practice used by the cosche to expand the family network.

Cosa bianca:  Heroin.

Cosa carica:  A considerable quantity of drugs.

Cosa bianca (see above)

Cosca (plural cosche)—cacocciula:  Referred etymologically to artichoke (in Sicilian cacocciula) to indicate a clique of Mafiosi.  Capocosca = the leader of a cosca.

Cosche map (see above)

Garantire:  To guarantee, to protect and give one’s word for a ‘smaller’ man.

L’Ora:  Palermitan evening daily started in 1900 by Ignacio Florio.

Lupara and Pallettoni (see below)

Lupara:  Sawn-off shotgun.  Meant for shooting wolves and used by Sicilian criminals for its compactness.  It is an ordinary shotgun sawn off at both ends , so that it becomes a kind of long revolver, but a more lethal one, since its bullets contain many lead pellets.  It is a fearful and graceful object; some of the shotguns are ornately worked, but most are just smoothed on both sides, the wooden and metal ends.  The belt for the bullets has a beautiful quality and obviously  enhances the sense of power of the man who feels its weight.

Mandante:  Principal.

Mandatario Agent in a Mafia crime.

‘nfamita An infamy – for a Mafioso, breaking the Mafia ‘code’.

‘ntisu  Someone whose opinion is listened to and is important – a mafioso.

Pallettoni The lupara’s pellets.


Pupi in Palermo

pupi:  Sicilian puppets (representing the paladins of the court of Charlemagne).  

Rassettarsi la testa Mafioso slang for keeping quiet.

Anti-police graffiti in Palermo  

Sbirro (pl. Sbirri):  Southern pejorative for policemen.

Sfregio:  An offence to the authority of a Mafioso, which has to be punished.

SgarroAn offence punishable by death.

Sucivita`:  The society – the Mafia.

Vendetta:  Revenge.

Vossia:  Comparable to the English ‘thou’ and no longer used in current Italian.  The Sicilians only use it to address people of respect like the mafiosi.

From Gaia Servado:  Mafioso.  New York, Dell, 1976


  1. So do you suppose it's possible, Curtis, that what Strauss-Kahn was really trying to get across to that chambermaid, in the course of that little misunderstanding that rocked the international monetary world, was nothing more than the ancient metaphorical directive, "Go to the mattresses"?

  2. Probably, yes. What a story. My favorite account of it so far came either from the NY Post or the NY Daily News, which contained the off-the-record source detail that the NYC police were "completely disgusted" with "this French idiot and his lawyer." I do wonder what will happen with this one. Strauss-Kahn, naturally, has obtained high-priced criminal representation, but I don't think, based on the high bail request ordered by the Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, Jr., that this is one the prosecution is likely to be "flexible" about prosecuting. So much of this one fascinates me, including D S-K's choice of hotel. Sofitel is a good French chain, but the Manhattan Sofitel is in the heart of Times Square, and seems insufficiently grand and in completely the wrong neighborhood for D S-K. (I would see him staying at the Carlyle, the Mark or the Four Seasons.) A $3,000.00/night suite at Sofitel must be quite something. I'm glad my days studying socialism in college are behind me; things have become far too confusing. Curtis

  3. Curtis, I never imagined that the NYPD and yours truly might be thinking as one, but evidently that's exactly what has just happened.