Most people have probably heard the term "the five boroughs" when speaking about New York City. But what they might not know is the borough of Staten Island has a unique subculture and vernacular all its own.
Elura and Michele, best friends, business partners and Laverne-and-Shirley-esque stars of new OWN docu-series Staten Island Law, are corporate lawyers turned mobile mediators. (Basically, they drive around Staten Island and help resolve disputes of all sizes between residents, including their own friends and family!) To help give us a primer on how one might translate their inimitable terms and phrases, here are some fun facts about Staten Island itself, and a list of Staten Island-isms that natives Elura and Michele helped put together!
1. Staten Island's East Shore is home to the 2.5 mile F.D.R. Boardwalk, the fourth-longest boardwalk in the world.
2. Staten Island is the only borough that is not connected to the other boroughs via the New York City subway system.
3. Famous folks: actor Paul Newman and wife Joanne Woodward lived on the island. Actress Alyssa Milano was raised on the island. Kiss bassist Gene Simmons went to college on Staten Island. Singer Christina Aguilera was born there. 5 of the 9 members of hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan are from Staten Island, and they are credited with giving Staten Island the nickname "Shaolin."
1. The island, the forgotten borough, or Shaolin: This is how Staten Islanders refer to Staten Island.
2. He's a little doozie pats from the Italian Tu sei pazzo: Literally translated meaning you are crazy. On Staten Island, one who is "doozie pats" is crazy.
3. Mint: very desirable "that car is mint" "his car was minted out"
4. She thinks who she is: One who is a snob.
5. Thank God: an answer to a question about one's well being. "How are the kids? Thank God"
6. The city: a reference to Manhattan. "Where did you get that? The city"
7. The boat or sometimes more specifically, the nine o'clock boat or
the four-thirty boat: The Staten Island Ferry. Using "the boat" as opposed to "the ferry" implies that the speaker is riding the ferry to commute. When one rides the Staten Island ferry less frequently, or for a more pleasurable purpose, it's referred to as "the ferry."
8. The beach: refers to the Jersey shore, despite Staten Island being an actual island with beaches along its perimeter. Any time one is referring to Staten Island's beaches, more qualification is necessary, such as "Midland Beach" or "Great Kills Beach."
9. Mommadella: an old Italian lady. "I'm cookin' sauce like a Mommadella"
10. Mommie: a term of endearment. For example: Mother to child: "Come here Mommie, tell Mommy what happened."
11. But at the end of a sentence: used thusly "I love that new haircut you got but." Usually said with no hesitation prior to the but. In this context, "but" adds emphasis, instead of its usual function, which is to indicate some sort of exception. The statement, "I love that new haircut you got but" does not indicate that something is wrong with the haircut, but rather, that the speaker really likes the haircut.
12. Lemon ices: any flavor of Italian ices. On Staten Island, you'll find "chocolate lemon ices" or "rainbow lemon ices" or "cherry lemon ices" -- and none of them are lemon flavored at all -- except "plain lemon ices."
13. A school special: a popular deli sandwich offered widely in the 80s and 90s, consisting of a bagel with one slice of ham and one slice of cheese. Always sold for one dollar or less.
14. Skeeve: from the Italian Schifoso. Literally meaning "disgusting," but used on Staten Island as a verb, as in, "yuck, I skeeve that!" Derivations include "skeevatz" - something that is really really disgusting, or "skeevioso" -- someone who is really disgusting.
15. Ciuccio or big ciuccio, often pronounced, "chooch": Italian slang for a dumb oaf, or a hardheaded idiot.
16. Cafone, often pronounced, "gavone": someone with no social graces.