Sunday, March 13, 2011

Italian-American nicknames, NY-style

This news item caught my eye today:
"A man is in custody after police say he broke into an Arizona townhome and got stuck in a clothes hamper underneath the window he climbed through."
In the Italian-American sub-culture in which I was raised, this guy would have instantly and irrevocably become "Johnny Hampers". I always laugh about the way the old-timers would name people.

"But why do you call him Jimmy Cookies, dad?"

"Because he was eatin' cookies the first time we seen him."

It was an amazing New York culture and I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience it live. Those old guys left me with many good memories. I think they were well-intentioned men, by and large. That was my impression, anyway: innocent and goodhearted, with hardly a mean bone in their bodies. I miss them.