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November 14, 2014

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POST-GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 14, 2014 Page 13 n n a abb nonno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance A friend, Dick DeVito, re- cently sent me an article called, "Capeesh." I will re- peat some of it for you, but after I read it, it started me thinking about the local neighborhoods that it was pointing to. I read it to a few friends and to some, it sounded funny. To my Ital- ian friends, it sounded de- meaning and stereotypical. Let's see what you think: "Come stai? Molto bene Bongiorno Ciao Arrivederci." Every Italian knows these expressions and we Italian Americans have used them from time to time. But, the article has a hidden lan- guage that the writer called the Goomba Italiano. It's not gangster slang that we hear in today's films that try to depict our ethnic group as the originators, organizers and sole directors of orga- nized crime. The article uses a contraction of Italian, English, and made-up street corner words and calls it "Guido" talk. It starts by say- ing that when an Italian ar- rives or leaves from a loca- tion he says, "Ciao." When he expresses emotion, he says "Mama Mia," regardless of the situation. If our speaker wants to be a bit more crass, you might hear "mannaggia," or "Oofah," The emotional sentence might end with "Capeesh?" Our star of this debacle might use a muppeen to wipe his hands in the cuchina, or get agita from gravy that was too spicy and will skeeve the meatballs he's been served unless they were made by his mother or grandmother. To continue, when he sticks a piece of bread in the gravy, if he gets his fingers wet, he might be considered a 'strunzo," "googootz" or a "mezzo finookio." Some of the guys from that old neighbor-hood are called "Mamalukes," and when referring to the girls, they might have been re- ferred to as "faccia bruta," or "schifosa." The next set of references include, "cattivo," "cabbadosto," "sfatcheem," "stupido" or "strunzo." These meant you were a pain in the rear or worse. It said that we all carried a corna or horn, which would give the evil eye. Actually, according to superstition, the horn was to ward off the evil eye given by the "malokya or evil eye" expressed by pointing your index and pinkie fingers at a person you wish to curse. From there, it went on to say that when this guy was re- sponding to his parents, grandparents or elders from the neighborhood, he always said, "Per piacere, prego or mille grazie." If he was feeling tired or out of sorts he used words to describe the sensation such as mooshadda, stunada or mezzo-morro. His grand- mother would always get him out of this funk by giv- ing him something to eat, maybe a sangweech of cabacol, or some proshoot or mozzarella and a piece of cheese. If she was pushing sweets, they might include zeppolis, cannolis, torrone, struffoli, shfoolyadell or cook- ies with pignoli on top. Once out on the street, our friend might use terms like "disgraziato," "mi dispiachay" or just "fa- ghedda boudit." ARE YOU GETTING DISGUSTED YET?. The story then goes on to describe a typical Italian house with a $40,000 kitchen on the first floor and a 50-year-old Sears stove in the cellar which is con- stantly used. The living room is filled with old wed- ding favors and little pack- ets of coated almonds that are too pretty to eat. All lamp shades, stuffed chairs and couches are covered in clear plastic. Portraits of Frank Sinatra and the Pope hang in the dining room. And, God forbid anyone ever attempted to eat Chef Boyardee or Franco American pastas or use any sauce called Ragu or Prego or anything else in cans or jars labeled as Ital- ian. Meatballs are made with pork, veal and beef all mixed together. On Thanksgiving, the turkey might as well be made of plastic because no one eats it because it doesn't come up to the level of esca- role soup, ravioli, sausages, meatballs, stuffed arti- chokes, stuffed mushrooms all followed by a salad cov- ered by olive oil and red wine vinegar. The wine is always homemade and all the table utensils were placed on the right side of the plate and the napkin on the left. Cloth napkins were at the place settings of the grandparents as they wouldn't use paper napkins. After dinner, the kids would go out and play, the men would head for the living room and all fall asleep and the ladies would clean the dining room and wash the dishes. When social events would take place, especially for the young girls in the family. -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS Aunt Carmela, the seam- stress, would make a formal dress for the cost of the ma- terial and the kid's hair would be done by cousin Maria the hairdresser. If the girl had a date for this spe- cial occasion, standing in the back of the location would be her parents, grand- parents and her Godparents. By the time I reached this point, I had had enough Of the stereotyping. I will admit that some of the comments hit home and I loved them, but much of it was nothing more than demeaning to Italians and Italian Ameri- cans. I remember conversa- tions with Dean Saluti when we were young men working on doctoral degrees at Bos- ton University. Some of the descriptions in the forgoing paragraphs were in our con- versations as well as the at- titudes toward our ethnic origins and their descen- dents in America. We de- cided that we, somehow, were going to make a differ- ence in society and help .dis- pel these depictions of who and what we were and are. Hollywood hasn't helped, but I can't blame them. The producers of the movie in- dustry are out to make money and much of the gen- eral public only knows us by what Holly-wood portrays in the films they have distrib- uted. When Dean and I con- cluded our conversation(s), we decided to begin making that difference for ourselves and our people. The gods of success must have been smiling at us be- cause we both, as well as an inner-circle of friends, have been working at improving the image of Italian Ameri- cans. Not because of us, but due to education, whatever levels they may be or what- ever disciplines they might involve, things are a lot dif- ferent than in the days of our parents or the Nannas and Babbononnos of America. Someone recently asked me why people like Dean and I have been so successful. My whimsical comment was, "We dress British, think Yiddish, but let them know that we are first and fore- most, Italian. By the way, growing up in East Boston and the North End, I had never heard the term, "Badda Bing." Well, it's time to close and I hope this week's column didn't offend anyone. Begin- ning next week, I will detail how my family prepared for Thanksgiving, a genuine and traditional American holiday, how we prepared for it, Italian style. 781-648-5678 GOD BLESS AMERICA i DIAMONDS eoLexI ESTATE JEWELRY | Bought & Sold | Jewelers Exch. Bldg. J Jim (617) 263-7766..~ News Brief (Continued from Page I) When blue states like Mas- sachusetts and Maryland elect Republican governors, you know the Democrats are &^%%#@. Who Cares Who Killed Bin Laden? Another book on the way. This one by the Navy SEAL who says he fired the fatal shot that took down Osama bin Laden. I thought Navy SEALS operated as a team and last I heard there is no "I" in team. I thought these military heroes operated co- vertly, but now there are two guys out there with their tell-all books. Does anyone really care who killed Osama bin Laden. The only important thing is that he is dead. Obama made a big deal about how the Obama Administration took down Osama. Remember good old Joe Biden and Others yelling, "Osama is dead and al Qaeda is on the run." Post-Obama hasn't worked out quite well with ISIS gob- bling up territory in Syria and Iraq. I think Obama and Biden spoke too soon back during Campaign '12. Look- ing back, the National Democratic Convention that year was a "Fantasy Island" remake. Democrats Should Do Well Dept. "We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle-class, real op- portunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the fu- ture, with business and gov- ernment working together to promote growth ...and broad shared prosperity." -- President Bill Clinton before the Mid-Terms Duh, Why Do You Think Oh, It's Not Always Those Mean Old Republicans, Huh? "They protected Wall Street, not families who were losing their homes, not people who lost their jobs, not young people who were struggling to get an educa- tion. And it happened over and over and over." -- U.S. Sen. Elizabeth War- ren complaining about Obama's economic team Scott Brown Should Have Stayed Home Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown was narrowly defeated up in New Hampshire by Jeanne Shaheen and I be- lieve it was due to his per- ceived status as a carpetbag- ger. Too many New Hamp- shire voters, many Republi- cans, decided to vote for Shaheen or blank the ballot in protest. Brown had two things go- ing against him still almost won. However, when many voters thought he was shop- ping around New England for a U.S. Senate seat and many Republican conservatives thought he was too liberal, he found himself an under- dog fighting a two-prong fight in which he had a difficult time "splaining" it as Ricky Riccardo used to say. Howie Carr thinks Scott Brown might have had a real winning chance had he stayed here and took on U.S. Senator Eddie Markey in- stead of hiring that moving van. Hey, Gabriel Gomez a lousy GOP candidate last time around against Markey got 45 percent of the vote. That could have been Brown's base. Markey won by default and he walked into a six-year term without breaking a sweat. Obama Sending Troops Back To Iraq Did you notice the timing? Not a word about doubling our troop numbers in Iraq help- ing to train the Iraqis and Kurdish fighters take on ISIS until three days after the mid-term elections? I thought we were finished with troops in Iraq? Now we will have troops in Iraq, Af- ghanistan and I am sure pretty soon in Syria. We can call this Obama non-war "Operation Mission Creep." The silence still from liberal Democrats is amaz- ing. Shouldn't they be up in arms, pardon the pun, over Obama acting more and more like General Douglas MacArthur? These moonbats must be so confused now. However, since their .Dear Leader can do no wrong, they pretend it isn't happening. In Reality, Wasn't ... Bill Clinton above describ- ing the shared vision of the Republican Party as the party of growth and opportunity? With holiday cheer