The Language of the Mafia Essay

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The Language of the Mafia

Mobspeak is a language that grows out of secrecy, and who can be more secret than the Mafia? The anti-social nature of the Mob is the perfect breeding ground for an "Antilanguage," which is, according to M. A. K. Halliday, a language that develops out of an antisociety which stands as a mode of resistance' to the society within which it exists (Butler 1). In his 1976 article, Halliday suggests that in these societies, a type of language forms in an effort to exclude outsiders for various reasons. One striking reason for the existence of an antilanguage is to hide the activities of the group. Halliday gives evidence for this claim through the existence of Elizabethan thieves cant, a form of communication
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The actual owners are held in check by intimidation. In WiseGuy, a non-fiction account of Mafia life, Nicholas Pileggi quotes a Mafia member, describing the manner in which the Mafia treats those they "own":

"Then, after a few weeks, when the tabs got to be a few grand, the owner would come over. He'd try to be polite. But no matter how nice he tried to be, we'd always make it into a war. `You fuck!' we'd scream. `After all the business we brought you! You got the nerve to embarrass me in front of my friends? Call me a deadbeat? You fuck, you're dead. You miserable bastard cocksucker....' And so forth and so forth.

(Henry Hill -- WiseGuy)

However, the protection from others the Mafia provides is absolutely unequaled. This is accomplished through the systematic intimidation of everyone who would be prone to harassing their protected businesses. The Mafia is extremely rough with people that they perceive as a "problem", often using "hits" as a solution. If they are not going to "whack" the "problem", they will often hospitalize them to guarantee no future transgressions. These are incredibly tough individuals, and their uniform use of profanity is a reflection of their lifestyle. Most of the Mafia's intimidation is through their use of language. It is a rare occasion for anyone to have a talk

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