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10 Gangster Pieces of Mob Lingo

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Sure, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, but wouldn’t you rather talk like a gangster? Here are 10 mafiatastic terms to get you started on the 25th anniversary of the debut of that modern criminal classic, GoodFellas.

1. GANGSTER

“As far back as I can remember,” Henry Hill says. “I always wanted to be a gangster.”

The word gangster has been around since at least 1884, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It combines gang, a 12th-century term that originally referred to the action of walking (hence gangway, or road), and the suffix -ster.

As for the popularity of the word, the use of gangster soared between 1920 and 1941, presumably with the rise of gangsterism during Prohibition.

2. GOODFELLA

“We always called each other good fellas,” Henry says. “Like you said to somebody ... he's all right. He's a goodfella. He's one of us.”

Goodfella began as the 15th century goodfellow, basically someone who knew how to have a good time. A hundred years later, the word came to mean “thief,” which would be a convenient segue to the 1964 meaning of a gangster or mafia member. However, the OED says the thief meaning is “obsolete,” so it’s unclear how the underworld sense of goodfella came about.

3. GODFATHER

While godfather isn’t part of the GoodFellas lexicon, a roundup of mob slang wouldn’t be complete without it.

The original meaning of the word, a male godparent, is from the 13th century, while around 1830 it also came to mean “an influential man.” As for godfather referring to a mafia leader, in a 1997 interview, Godfather author Mario Puzo claims to have invented the term: “It was never used for a criminal figure ... The term didn’t exist before I used it.”

The OED would beg to differ. While the Godfather novel was published in 1969, the OED includes a citation from a 1963 transcript of a government hearing: “Are you the godfather of any other member ‘made’ since then?”

As for why terms like godfather and goodfella began appearing in English print in the early 1960s, that could point to the Apalachin Raid, which occurred on November 14, 1957. A group of mob bosses were holding what they thought was a clandestine meeting in New York State, only to be ambushed by a suspicious state trooper and other law enforcement. After the raid, the existence of the mafia became common knowledge.

4. MOB

The 17th century meanings of mob refer to a disorderly crowd or a clique or gang. Around 1826 the word came to mean a gang of criminals, especially thieves (a swell mob was a posse of well-dressed pickpockets), and in the late 1920s, meant a gang of violent criminals, a crime organization, and the mafia.

The word mob is a shortening of mobile, meaning the common people. Mobile itself is a shortening of the Latin phrase, mobile vulgus, “the fickle crowd.”

5. MAFIA

In Sicilian, mafia means boldness or bravado, and evolved to mean a sense of hostility to the law, and then by the latter half of the 19th century, a Sicilian secret society of criminals. The word first appears in English around 1866, coinciding with the immigration of Sicilians and other Italians to the U.S. in the 1800s.

Another term for the mafia is Cosa Nostra, which translates from Italian as “our thing.”

6. OMERTÀ

Where mafia means bravado, omertà means humility.

Omertà, a dialectal alteration of the Italian umilta, or humility, first appeared in English around 1864 and referred to the mafia’s code of honor and loyalty. By the 1970s, the word had also come to mean a code of silence.

7. BLACK HAND

The Black Hand was a popular name for secret societies back in the day. There was the 19th century Spanish society of anarchists, an early 20th century group of military Serbians, and of course the Italian secret society in 1880s America, most likely a precursor to the mafia.

By around 1904, Black Hand had become synonymous with the society's extortion method, which involved a letter marked with a black hand, implying death or bodily harm if the receiver didn't comply with its usually monetary demands.

8. MADE MAN

“This was a touchy thing,” Henry explains in GoodFellas. “Tommy had killed a made man.”

The original sense of made man was someone who had it made, in other words, had guaranteed success and happiness. Made man meaning someone who had been officially inducted as a mafia member first appeared in print around 1950, but had probably been in use well before then.

In a 2009 article, Victoria Gotti, sister of mob boss John, describes John’s swearing-in ceremony, which involved reciting a loyalty oath while burning a saint’s picture daubed with his father’s blood.

9. SLEEPS WITH THE FISHES

Upon receiving a dead fish wrapped in the bulletproof vest of a trusted enforcer, Godfather henchman Clemenza says, “It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” In other words, he's gone to the great cannoli shop in the sky.

While sleeps with the fishes is quintessential Godfather, the phrase has been in use since well before then, according to Grammarphobia. In 1836, an author wrote, “If [the magician] repeated his visit, [the peasants] would send him to sleep with the fishes.”

However, after 1840, usage of the phrase drops to nothing. It’s only in the late 1960s—and after the publication of The Godfather—that the popularity of sleeps with the fishes wakes again.

10. BADA-BING

“You've gotta get up close like this and bada-bing!” Sonny tells Michael in The Godfather. “You blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit.”

Bada-bing implies something that either happens suddenly, or easily and in a way that’s expected. The OED includes many variations in addition to the plain old bada-bing (which was apparently first used in the Godfather film), such as bada-bing-a-bada-bang-a-bada-bing from 1965 and the early ‘90s’ bada-bing bada-boom.

Usage of badabing rises steadily from 1980 until about the late 1990s, after which it drops off. Popularity of the phrase only begins to rise again after 1999, the year The Sopranos—and its Bada Bing strip club—had its debut.

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What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

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25 Dapper Outfit Choices for Fashionable Pets
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Lavishing your furry friends with adorable attire is a benefit of pet ownership that they don't mention on the adoption forms. Whether you prefer practical clothing like sweaters and jackets or statement pieces like bow ties and tutus, these dapper duds are perfect for a howl-iday or "gotcha day" gift, or simply for saying, "Who's the cutest little pupper in pajamas? You are!"

1. CASHMERE DOG SWEATER; FROM $165

dog in sweater
Canine Styles

This classic cable-knit cashmere sweater is a sophisticated look for Fido or Finn. Get it from Canine Styles, a luxury dog emporium in New York City that has plenty of posh and preppy outfits.

Find It: Canine Styles

2. TOGGLE DOG COAT; $85

dog in coat
Canine Styles

This toggle coat (available in orange, navy, and tan) is as fashionable as it is warm. Made of Melton wool, it has Velcro closures to make getting dressed easy. It's great for long walks in the country.

Find It: Canine Styles

3. DOG TUXEDO; FROM $90

Dog in tuxedo
Etsy

This satin tuxedo is perfect for the canine members of your wedding party, though it will brighten up any other occasion as well. The custom, handmade outfit comes complete with a snappy bow tie.

Find It: Etsy

4. DOG BELLE DRESS; FROM $45

Dog Belle Dress
Etsy

The queen of your castle can feel like a Disney princess in her very own version of Belle's iconic yellow dress from Beauty and the Beast. This ball gown is made from yellow crepe satin with chiffon overlay on the bodice and features hand-painted gold detailing on the skirt. Enchanted rose not included.

Find It: Etsy

5. POODLE SKIRT OUTFIT FOR DOGS; $26

Rubies Pink Fifties Girl Pet Costume
Amazon

What if you could buy a 1950s poodle skirt for your poodle? This retro dress is comprised of a pink poodle skirt, striped bodice, and sequined belt, and comes with a bow headband.

Find It: Amazon

6. RIBBED CROCHET BUNNY SWEATER; $25

bunny in a sweater
Etsy

Your snuggle-bunny will look like a little fancy-pants in this ribbed crochet sweater. Choose from seven colors, including this dashing deep red.

Find It: Etsy

7. BESPOKE MONOGRAM DOG SWEATER; FROM $155

Dog in sweater
Ruby Rufus

Bespoke clothing isn't just for humans: British luxury dog clothing brand Ruby Rufus will make your pooch a custom monogram sweater made with 100 percent Italian cashmere. You can even order it in your dog's favorite color.

Find It: Ruby Rufus

8. HOT PINK DOG TUTU; $17

Dog in hot pink tutu
Etsy

Tutus look absolutely adorable on tiny humans and animals alike. If your pooch wants to get in touch with its inner ballerina, then grab this hot pink number from Etsy. Rave reviews are a sure thing.

Find It: Etsy

9. PINK DOG POLO SHIRT; $35

Dog Pink Polo Shirt
Canine Styles

This pink polo shirt is perfect for your preppy fur baby. It features not one but a veritable multitude of crocodiles. They'll be the most dapper dog at the country club.

Find It: Canine Styles

10. DOG BARN COAT WITH BROWN CORDUROY COLLAR; $85

Dog in barn coat
Canine Styles

When it's time for a walk, your dog will look effortlessly chic in this fancy barn coat. It comes in navy, cranberry, orange, hot pink, and loden and features convenient pockets for anyone with opposable thumbs.

Find It: Canine Styles

11. WHITE PET NECK RUFF; $26

Pet Neck Ruff
Etsy

Your canine or kitty will look like their painting belongs in London's National Portrait Gallery with this Elizabethan neck ruff.

Find It: Etsy

12. CHICKEN SWEATER; $25

chicken wearing sweater
Etsy

Chickens can get cold when they're strutting around outside. A sweater (well, more like sweater vest) for your bird can also help prevent feather picking during molting season. Or, it can simply keep them warm while they stare pensively across a snowy landscape.

Find It: Etsy

13. PET CIRCLE SCARF; $15

dog in scarf
Etsy

An infinity scarf is a perfect burst of color on a dreary early morning walk. The proprietor of Mitten Made on Etsy originally designed this wool snood for her miniature Dachshund to help keep her warm during the long, cold winters in Michigan.

Find It: Etsy

14. FAB DOG TRAVEL RAINCOAT; FROM $18

Fab Dog Travel Raincoat
Chewy

This timeless yellow rain slicker will look great on any puppy when it's raining cats and dogs. It's made of 100 percent waterproof nylon shell that keeps fur dry. Bonus: It's perfect for an It Halloween costume.

Find It: Chewy

15. LACE CAT OR DOG COLLAR; FROM $10

cat in lace collar
Etsy

This handmade, white lace collar is a must-have for fancy felines. It's also embellished with a large rhinestone.

Find It: Etsy

16. FITWARM PENGUIN PAJAMAS FOR DOGS; FROM $10

Fitwarm Cute Penguin Xmas Dog Pajamas
Amazon

Keep your pupper warm on cold winter nights with these penguin PJs. They're great for doggie sleepovers or lazy weekends on the couch watching Netflix.

Find It: Amazon

17. PLAID CASHMERE DOG COAT; FROM $225

dog in plaid coat
Canine Styles

Your dog will look like a proper gentleman in this smart plaid peacoat. This fine garment is made of cashmere with a faux fur lining and leather buttons, and is a perfect shield against chill and fog.

Find It: Canine Styles

18. SATIN PET BOW TIE; FROM $8

Satin Bow Tie for Dog
Etsy

This satin doggie bow tie is perfect for any occasion. It comes in several colors and features a Velcro fastener that makes it easy to attach to a collar. Plus, 10 percent of every sale goes to charity: specifically to SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Feeding Pets of the Homeless.

Find It: Etsy

19. RED DOG DRESS; FROM $34

dog in dress
Etsy

Your good boy or girl will look red carpet-ready in this elegant gown. The voluminous tulle skirt is to die for, and each bow is embellished with beads. Custom orders are also available.

Find It: Etsy

20. DOG TIE; FROM $13

Dog tie
Etsy

Your pooch will be ready to stun at any black tie event. This tie is designed like a collar, making it easy to dress your four-legged friend. This Etsy store gives back: 10 perfect of all sales are donated to an animal protection association.

Find It: Etsy

21. NAUTICAL DOG DRESS WITH MATCHING LEASH; $20

Dog sailor dress
BaxterBoo

Perfect for a day on the town or setting sail in a schooner, this is the sailor outfit you never knew your best furry friend needed. This vintage throwback also comes with a matching leash.

Find It: BaxterBoo

22. TARTAN FLANNEL PET BOW TIE; $5.50

tartan pet bow tie
Etsy

Your dog or cat will turn heads in this flannel tartan bow tie. It has a convenient elastic loop that slides over your pup's collar.

Find It: Etsy

23. PUCCI DOG SHIRT; $23

dog in Pucci dog shirt
Etsy

Only the fanciest dogs wear, err, Pucci. Grab this punny "designer" t-shirt for your pup. This high-quality cotton statement piece is perfect for small breeds.

Find It: Etsy

24. PINK POLKA DOT AND LACE DOG HARNESS DRESS; $20

Pink Polka Dot and Lace Designer Dog Harness Dress
BaxterBoo

This feminine pink polka dot dress is simply adorable. It features a convenient built-in harness and comes with a matching leash.

Find It: BaxterBoo

25. PET SWEATER VEST; $6

pet sweater vest
Amazon

Your dog or cat will look like an erudite Oxford professor in this sweater vest. Note that the button on the pocket is shaped like a bone.

Find It: Amazon

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