Wallear: (Wah LEE ah) To have an uncontrollable jones for something. "I've got such a wallear for a calzone." Also called a "willy" or "woo-lee".
Chips: You break it, you bought it. Example: "Hey man, can I borrow your bike?" "Sure, but chips" (Denis Hamill recalled the use of "chips" in his NY Daily News column of March 5, 2002: "Chips on the ball," Ivanicich would call, which meant that if any of us "roofed" his Spaldeen, everyone would have to chip in to pay for a new ball.)
Johnny Pump: Fire hydrant.
"Not For Nuttin' But.....": A phrase often used before telling someone the truth. As in, "not for nuttin' but, that guy you hang out with is a real duh-ta-duh."
Duh-ta-duh: An idiot or oaf.
Skully Cap: A bottle cap filled with melted wax, usually from crayons. Used in playing skelsie, or skully.
Skelsie/Skully: A children's street game. Also called "skelly", this game is mentioned in the Notorious B.I.G. masterpiece "Things Done Changed".
Skel: A junkie, street-person, or lowlife. (Two retired NYPD officers wrote us to say that "skel" was commonly used by cops on the Brooklyn beat in the early 1960's. The term had entered general usage by the 80's.)
Boss: What your local deli or bodega guy calls you when he doesn't know your name. It's a term of good will. He might even call you "Big Boss", which is even better. You don't want to be called "Pal" or "Buddy", since they usually have sarcastic overtones. If he calls you "Chief", you're really in trouble.
Weasel Deal: A deal that's not quite on the up and up...like getting that cheap stereo that "fell off the truck" or getting a "discount" on your cable hookup. "Why can't you ever buy anything in a store? It's always some weasel deal with you."
Stoop: The front stairs of your building, where you sit and gossip about the neighbors.
Stoop Ball : Street game played by throwing a ball against the stoop and catching it on the fly or on the bounce. Each ball that hit the step and was caught was worth 10 points. A "pointer" was a ball that hit the edge of the step and came back as a hard line drive that could "take your eye out". Catching a pointer on the fly was worth 100 points. Usually the ending score was 1000 points, but it could be anything agreed upon.
"She Thinks Who She Is.....": She's got a very high opinion of herself. "Did you see the attitude I got from her? She really thinks who she is, that one."
Schmeboygah: A slob of a guy.
Salugi/Saloogi: A game of "keep away" that kids play, whereby one kid's hat is stolen, and other kids continually taunt him by throwing it past him or over his head to someone else. Usually the same kid is picked on all the time. It is a widely-held theory that mayor Rudy Giuliani was often the victim of salugi. (Mr. John Burke wrote us to say that he heard "salugi" used in the 1940's on his block--115th St. between Amsterdam and Morningside in Manhattan. Thanks for your email John!)
Scootch (Or Scutch): A real pain in the ass.
Putting Chinese on the Ball: To "jinx" the ball during a game.
"You Got a Lotta Shit Wichoo": You have some nerve.
Dollars to Doughnuts: A sure thing, as in "I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts she's really a man."
Ring a Leevio/Ringolievio: A children's streetgame.
"Shakespeare, Kick in the Rear": Something you're supposed to say when two people say the same thing simultaneously.
Jinx on a coke. : Same as Shakespeare Kick in the Rear.
Thumbs, Thumbs, Hope it Comes: Same as above. The two people who said the same thing are also supposed to give each other a "thumb" handshake and make a wish.
Agita: Heartburn, or a general pain from stress. As in "you're giving me agita". Made widely popular by The Sopranos.
Goof: A good time, as in "oh, we had a goof". Can also mean to kid someone, as in "hey, I'm just goofin' on ya."
Fins (Or Finsies): To say "fins" is little like saying "not it". To say it during a game means that you can't be touched, or it grants you immunity.
Break the Devil's Dishes: To fly in the face of reason. Or alternately, to have a really wild time. Used on the CD Sacred Avenue by Artie Lamonica/Rome56. It's also said that if you step on sidewalk cracks you break the devil's dishes.
Hindoo: A do-over during a game. It also refers to a funny bounce in handball. If the ball hits where the wall meets the ground, and bounces back in a slow high arc, that ball was a "hindoo" and not to be played, thus leading to a do-over.
Dutch: Same as Hindoo.
Weisenheimer: A wiseguy.
Cugine: (Coo JEEN) A self-styled Saturday Night Fever kinda guy. Usually has slicked back hair, and sports a lot of gold. Cruising 86th Street in Bensonhurst ls sometimes derogatively referred to as "going up the cugine".
Cujinette: The consort of the Cugine. Saturday Night fever gals. Big hair, tight outfits, gum, and of course the platforms!
Goombah: This word has taken on two different meanings. Traditionally, to say that someone is a "goomba" is to say that they are like family. It is a corruption of the Italian word "compare", which can either mean "old friend" or "godfather". When someone says "We're Goombare", it implies that "we're like family". The word has also taken on a sarcastic meaning, and refers to a Brooklyn Italian version of a "Bubba" or "Good Ol' Boy". In this sense, a goomba is a somewhat ridiculous, or inflated figure who is nevertheless holds some influence in his neighborhood. If someone says "oh, that guy's a real goomba" it usually means that he's a clown, but you'd be wise not to mess with him.
Gavoon: A knucklehead. Also spelled Gavone, with alternate meaning of: someone who eats a lot. "Cafone" means "a boor" in standard Italian. Gavoon is the embellished Brooklyn version of this.
Skeeve : To totally dislike something, to be disgusted. "I skeeve that" or "I'm skeeved by him". A gross person can also be called a "skeeve" or a "skevoose". From the Italian "mi fa schifo" meaning "it makes me sick" and/or "schifoso", meaning "disgusting".
Gumare: : A longtime mistress. From the Italian "comare", which means "second mother" or "godmother". Used in slang to denote a mistress who is like a second wife.
Itchy Balls: Prickly seed pods from the London Plane tree.
Polly Noses: The "helicopter" like seed cases that fell from trees. Kids pull them apart and stick them on their nose, giving them a green parrot or "polly" nose.
Grow Legs: Something that's likely to be stolen. "Keep an eye on your suitcase. It's liable to grow legs".
Corner Man: A guy who spends much of his day sitting on a milk crate in front of a store, or on the corner. Some guys do it just to watch the world go by, other guys are "working".
Go See Where You Gotta Go: Stop wasting my time.
Coney Island Whitefish: Condoms that wash up on the beach at Coney Island.
Blind Eels: Another name for condoms washing up on the beach. Gives you a good idea as to the condition of the beach in Brooklyn.
Skank Ho: A woman of questionable hygeine and morals.
Wack/Whack: Depending on what part of Brooklyn you're from, this either means "crazy", as in "he is wack"; or it means "to rub someone out" as in "he was a rat, so he got whacked."
Stood: Past tense of "stay". As in "What a lousy day. I shoulda stood in bed".
Hiya: A greeting. The South Brooklyn version of New York City's more widely used "hawarya?"
Hey Hayadooin : An alternate greeting, or an appropriate response to "hiya".
Carfare: A subway token, or money for the subway. A holdover from the days when streetcars were the primary form of public transit.
Jeet?: Did you eat?
Jeetjet?: Did you eat yet?
For all intensive purposes: A Brooklynization of the phrase "For all intents and purposes." Others in this category include "the piece of resistance", and "it's a mere bag of shells."
Keep Chicky: To keep an open eye (keep guard) while something mischievous is being done.
Gates Are Closed: If a game is in progress, no one else can be admitted or join the game..... or if someone was not well liked, this was a perfect way of keeping the individual out of the game.
Fugazy: Not on the up and up....if someone pulled a con....a fugazy was pulled.
Mush (pronounced MOOSH): A sandwich made on a hot dog roll with sauerkraut but without the frank.
Spaldeen: Little pink ball made by Spalding. Also called a "pensy pinky".
Stick Ball: Baseball played with a broom handle and a 'Spaldeen'
Cheap : In stickball, when you hit a slow roller.
"Who died and made YOU boss?": Phrase used for letting someone know they're not running the show
"Right here!": Insulting phrase uttered while motioning to one's crotch. You can also say "overhere".
Scash-a-bang (or Scash): A beat up old, decrepit car on its last legs. If you remember in "Fatso" when Anne Bancroft sends Dom DeLuise out for Chinese food she tosses him the keys and says "Here, take the scash."
Hoop-Dee: Another term for Scash-a-bang.
Skinny Molink: Someone who is really, really, thin---almost skeletal. Also heard as "Skinny Balink" in parts of Brooklyn. (Jonathan Clement from West Wales UK writes us to say that his grandfather used the term "skinny balink" in the 1920's, and that his grandfathers first language was Welsh. There is also an old Celtic song called "Skinny Molinky" that perhaps the source of the phrase. As far as we can tell, the variant "Skinny Balink" only appears in Wales and Brooklyn. Go figure.)
"He has more (whatever) than I have hair on my head": He's got a lot of it. Example: "He's got more money than I have hair on my head" means that he's loaded
"Your sister's got a head": An expression used instead of cursing.
"He's so cheap he still has his communion money": Also heard as "he's still got the first two cents he ever made."
Don't go for cork: Another term for cheapskate.
Skive : A chisler, or cheat. Derived from the leather industry, where a skive was a knife used to shave down layers on a piece of leather.
"Hey, was your father a glazier?!?": Said to someone who's blocking your view. Also heard as "What, was your daddy a glassmaker?"
Hook you up: To give to someone a good deal or take care of them, as in "come by the bar tonight and I'll hook you up."
Off the hook: Out of control.
Lucy (or Loosie) : Bodegas in Brooklyn will often sell you a single cigarette from an open pack. The single cigarette is called a "Lucy".
Shala-bubbala : A produce salesman who came around in an open, horse-drawn wagon. He announced himself by ringing a cowbell.
Areaway/airyway : The area under the front porch, by the cellar entrance. If it's enclosed its called a "vestibule".
Fozzy-ing : To pitch baseball cards.
Mung-go : Any junk that can be salvaged and sold for money. (Brass, copper, newspaper, etc.)
Fly: Stylish, as in "that jacket is fly." Popular in the late 80's.
Give him leather : Kick someone who is down.
"He don't know from nothin." : He's not very bright.
"Your mother's ass" : What you say when you hurt yourself, like jamming a finger or stubbing a toe. Also heard as "your sister's ass".
Coolee : The buttocks.
Flatleaver : : Someone who breaks a previously made plan or date when a better opportunity comes up. Sort of a Brooklyn version of being "stood up", but worse. Example: "There is no way I am asking Jennie to come with me to Funhouse tonight. She is such a flatleaver! Last week she was supposed to go with me, but she never showed up. The next day I found out that she went to Pastels with Tony instead. I can't even believe that she flatleaved me!
Axeya : Ask you.
Hoowah : A prostitute.
Tree : The number three.
True: Through. As in "swing true da ball."
Dees, Doze, Dat : These, those, that. Some say the substitution of "d" for "th" is holdover of the old Dutch accent.
Ruff : Roof.
Chest : The game of Chess.
Chess : The chest.
Whatsamattaferu : What's the problem?
Ferclempt : Some say this means "ragged" or "hassled". Mike Meyers of SNL popularized it to mean "teary-eyed." Can we get a judge's ruling on this?
Skitching : The practice of hitching a ride on the back of a moving car by hanging on the the bumper when the street is icy, and sliding along with your feet. Also done by hanging on to the back of a bus and riding a skateboard.
Surfing : Riding flat on your stomach on the roof of a subway car. We do not recommend you try this.
Cabling : A way of getting down the block without having your feet touch the ground. Not a practice we're familiar with, but it sounds like fun. Brooklyn native John Malar describes it like this: "In my neck of Brooklyn, where the back part of two backyards lined up, there were what we called "cables" running along telephone poles that went from one end of the block to the other. They weren't really cables. They were more like piping, that held wires of some sort, I think. Anyhow, we used to cable (or go cabling) using these cables. You cabled by hanging from a section of cable and traversing it hand over hand. Cabling was part of trying to go from one end of the block to the other without ever touching the ground.. You did this by walking along the back edge of a garage roof, walking along the top of a fence, or by cabling--whatever it took. The physical part was the easy part. The hard part was avoiding detection by the neighbors whose yards you were trespassing in."
Carpet Gun: A homemade toy gun. Again, we turn to John Malar for a description: "This was a gun made out of a long, flat, narrow piece of wood, a clothes pin (the kind that opens and closes), and a rubber band. The rubber band was attached to the far end of the piece of wood. You pulled the rubber band back toward you and held it in place with the clothes pin. You then loaded it with a small piece of roofing shingle and shot it by opening the clothes pin. Carpet guns were extremely inaccurate, but the weapon of choice when we attacked the kids around the corner."
Sliding Pon: A regular playground slide. Also called a sliding pond. We have no idea why.
Kick the Can: A cross between baseball and kickball, where the four corners of the block become the four bases. The "batter" kicks a soda can, and if it's "fly" he runs toward first base, which is the corner to his right, across the street. Cars speeding through the intersection add a real edge to the action.
Johnny On A Pony: Known as "Buck-Buck" in New England and other parts of the country, a particularly brutal game where one kid grabs on to a fire hydrant (or a tree) while two other kids grab onto him from behind and hold on tight. Then, one by one, other kids take a running start and jump on their backs, trying to make them collapse. Chiropractors everywhere have make a good living off this game.
Egg Creme : A drink made of seltzer, milk, and syrup that has neither eggs nor cream in it.
Lemon Ice: All flavors of ice are called lemon ice. A cherry flavored ice is a "cherry lemon ice". A lemon flavored ice is a "regular lemon ice".
Charlotte Russe: A favorite Brooklyn treat consisting of pound cake in a cylindrical cardboard container with a false bottom, topped with whipped cream and a cherry.
Hero: A sandwich made on a small loaf of bread. In some places it's called a grinder, in others its a sub or a hoagie.
Stoolpigeon: A rat or snitch. Also called a "stoolie".
Yooze: Plural of "you". Also correct is "yooze guys". Probably derived from Irish dialect, as "youse" turns up in Civil War era Irish songs. In some parts of Brooklyn, people will say "yuz guys": this is similar to the New England dialect, except New Englanders just say "yuz" and drop the word "guys". "Y'all" is starting to make inroads some neighborhoods, but this is definitely of Southern origin. We are still waiting for the New Orleanian "all y'all" to make its first appearance.
Tar Beach: The roof of an apartment building when used in the summer for sunbathing.
Downtown: To say you're going downtown means that you're going to in downtown Brooklyn, the general area around Fulton or Court Street. Going to Manhattan is referred to as "Going to the City" or even "Going to New York", a holdover from the days when Brooklyn was its own city.
El: Subway tracks that run over the street. Probably the most famous Brooklyn "el" is the McDonald Avenue line featured in the car chase in "The French Connection".
Crooklyn: A reference to Brooklyn's reputation as a dangerous place. Made popular by the eponymous 1994 film by Spike Lee. The first exit off the Brooklyn Bridge sports a sign saying, "Brooklyn", with an arrow, indicating which way to turn to enter the borough, as opposed to staying on the highway. In the 1970s, the sign had a graffito "C" over the "B", effectively turning "Brooklyn" into "Crooklyn". Because the city was broke, the sign stayed that way for nearly a decade.
The "Don't-Go-On-Us" : The Gowanus Expressway. An elevated highway through South Brooklyn, "Dont-Go-On-Us" is a reference to the Gowanus' rep as being the slowest way to get to Manhattan, because it is always backed up with traffic. Also known as Interstate 278, the Gowanus used to have a perverse hair-pin curve near the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel merge where the speed limit suddenly dropped from 55mph to 25mph, and scores of unsuspecting long-distance truckers who didn't take the 25mph speed limit seriously found themselves airborne off the expressway and plummiting down into the streets below. The curve has since been fixed, but the Expressway is still in the middle of a renovation project which should be completed sometime in the year 2525. Brooklynites proudly refer to the alternative as "taking the streets".
Bo-nasty: Someone who is well dressed but dirty.
Illiewhacker, Illy: The kinda guy who's always trying to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.
Face Fins: moustache
Two Cent Plain: A drink consisting of plain seltzer.
Shlub: A slob or clumsy oaf. From Polish, meaning "blockhead".
Putz: A pretty nasty Yiddish insult that's often used by people who don't know what it means. When former senator Alfonse "Pothole" D'Amato called challenger Chuck Schumer a "putz" in front of a Jewish audience, it became pretty clear that old Senator Pothole's time was up.
Scumbag: A super jerk.
The Bomb: The best, as in "their new CD is the bomb".
Blow Up: To get popular or famous.
Punks: Slender cork tipped sticks that kids lit and pretended to smoke. Used to light fireworks on the 4th of July.
By popular request, a little taste of Italy with a Brooklyn twist:
Cugutza: Hard head.
Manzo le gausha: "Between your legs!"
Botta de sango: Burst a blood vessel
Filgia de butana: Daughter of an unsavory woman.
Mingia Muerta: A very strong way of saying "holy cow". In Italy, the meaning is a bit worse, but we're talking BK here.
Madone: Something like saying "Oh my God." Literally: "Madonna"
Scoumbaish : When you cook, make sure you have enough for everyone. Don't scoumbaish.
Shem :A jerk, or a stupid person. Short for the Italian word pronounced Shemanooda.
Shongod :Someone who's all messed up, slovenly, or broken down. Also heard as "scoshod" or "shungada".
Bacchousa: Bathroom. From "back house" which is where the bathroom was before indoor plumbing.
And due to overwhelming demand, we had to add:
Fuggedaboudit: Never mind
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