Slang Word ‘Mafioso’

Informant: Mafioso

Collector: Who said this word?

Informant: My father.

Collector: What does it mean?

Informant: Literally a mafioso is a member of an organized crime society, originally from Sicily but now from anywhere.

Collector: When would he use the word?

Informant: My dad used this word to describe someone who was a little bit suspect, or just kind of a weird character, or a bit of a bully, or was doing something out of character. That restaurant owner is a mafioso, he might say, because the restaurant owner was wearing a garish tie or whispering in someone’s ear.

In my personal experience, I’ve found that many words can be taken out of their original context and transferred to mean something vaguely similar but with less rigidity or offensiveness. In the case of ‘mafioso,’ the informant’s father meant no harsh criticism of the person’s character. Rather, he was commenting on a strange aspect of something out of the ordinary. Two possible reasons for this use of the word could be a mistranslation or something that happened in brining the word from Italian to English or it’s possible that this was common in its original tongue and used as slang.