Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 01-15-2001, 05:14 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 27,240
So what is the difference?
Old 01-15-2001, 06:24 PM
Silvio Silvio is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 150
The Mafia is technically a very specific term applying only to a certain Sicilian group. The New York families (Gambino, Luchese, Columbo, etc) are mostly Mafia, or were at one time. In its early incarnation, it was very ritualistic, and very ethnically exclusive.

The mob is a more general term describing organized crime in general. At one time, there was specific Jewish mobs, Irish mobs, etc. The Capone organization (called "The Outfit") was not Mafia, because Capone was Neopolitan, and it included Jews and Irishmen high in the organization. It also never had the degree of ritual that Mafia had.

For much of the twentieth century, you had the more Mafia oriented groups controlling New York, the upper East coast and New Orleans, while the Chicago outfit controlled the Midwest, with Nevada and the West Coast up for grabs.

It all gets pretty hazy when people like Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky built a national crime syndicate including Sicilian, Italian, Jewish and Irish mobsters. The old style Mafia became less Sicilian and more multiethnic, to the point where you can truthfully say that there is no least in terms of a strictly traditional Sicilian outfit.

The term "Mafia" has expanded to include any organized crime in the U.S. The fictional but realistic Soprano family refers to itself as Mafia even though they are really Neopolitan. Nowadays, Mafia-Mob people base themselves more on the Godfather and Goodfellas than they do the ancient rituals of the old country.

Of course, there is still real Mafia in Sicily, real Sicilians with all of the old traditions.

Does that answer your question or just muddy the waters even further?
Old 01-15-2001, 08:08 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 27,240

That is a great and very elegant answer! Please know that I would never, ever disrespect you on this board or any other. Your trust is safe with me.
Old 01-15-2001, 08:09 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 27,240
Let me add many kisses to your pinky ring.
Old 01-15-2001, 09:01 PM
samclem samclem is offline
Graphite is a great
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Akron, Ohio
Posts: 26,052
The Jewish branch of the mob is the kosher nostra
Old 01-16-2001, 12:04 AM
archmichael archmichael is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: H-Town, TX
Posts: 971
Don Silvio,

Does this mean that they are Camorra?
Old 01-16-2001, 07:10 AM
kpm kpm is offline
Join Date: Nov 2000
Posts: 249
To be officially part of a family you must be Italian. You also need to be a "made man." It used to be to become a made man you had to kill someone - they called that "making your bones" but they got rid of that requirement. I have heard that if you are "made" then you are in the Mafia but the other people are just part of the mob.
Old 01-16-2001, 08:22 AM
galen galen is offline
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Everywhere
Posts: 840
Few people are aware that the mob is an integral part ofthe power structure in the US. The government is very good at getting rid of organizations that do not serve it's purposes, so it keeps the mob around. The mob was, and to a degree still is, useful in combattiing the labor movement. Initially, it provided goons to beat up or kill organizers. After a union is in place it works with employers to attempt to corrupt the union structure. This has two advantages for employers. It keeps leftists in the union in line and it makes it possible to smear the union as being controlled by organized crime. Then it can be attacked by the legal system.

Remember Jackie Presser? He was a Teamsters Union President reputed to have links to the mob. He was also an informant for the FBI.
Old 01-16-2001, 09:01 AM
Dr_Paprika Dr_Paprika is offline
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: South of Toronto, Canada
Posts: 3,610
Are you talking to me?
Old 01-16-2001, 10:39 AM
Booker57 Booker57 is offline
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Finger Lakes area of NY
Posts: 1,602

Morte Alla Italia Anela (Death to the French is Italy's cry)
It seems that this is all I can do for our fight.
Only the insane achieve the impossible. mts
Old 01-16-2001, 12:24 PM
Crusoe Crusoe is offline
Join Date: Nov 1999
Posts: 7,130
The word "Mafia" was first documented in 1658 in a list of heretics converted by the Act of Faith, and was used to refer to a spirited character. It was also taken to mean perfection, excellence and self-confidence around that time; but regionally it had different meanings (in Tuscany, it meant poverty, and in Piedmont, individual).

More likely is an Arabic root, from the Saracens that dominated Siciliy from 827 to 1061. "Mahias" means daring or impudent; "ma afir" was a particular Saracen tribe in Palermo, and there's also "maha" (stone grottoes near Marsala where fugitives hid), and "mu'afah" (an association administering private justice).

The three main organised crime empires in Italy, incidentally, are Cosa Nostra ("our affair") in Sicily, the Camorra around Naples and the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria. The Mafia is generally taken to mean the dominant Sicilian empire, although you can hear phrases like "the Calabrian Mafia".
Old 01-16-2001, 06:30 PM
samclem samclem is offline
Graphite is a great
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Akron, Ohio
Posts: 26,052
galen you forgot to put in the sarcastic smilie face!!


You're serious?
Old 01-16-2001, 10:26 PM
Johanna Johanna is online now
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Altered States of America
Posts: 12,598
The original meaning of mafia in Sicilian dialect is 'bragging, swaggering, blustering, boasting'. The Arabic etymon from which mafia was derived is mahya, with the same meaning, according to Corrado Avolio, Introduzione allo studio del dialetto siciliano, p. 45.

In Arabic loanwords to Sicilian, there was a regular shift of -h- to -f-, and mahya > mafia is a good example of this. For example, the short story "Giufà" by the Sicilian author Leonardo Sciascia, which begins "Giufà had lived in Sicily since Arab times," has as its title the name Juhâ written in Arabic script, whose shape Sciascia compared to "a little bird with a seed in its beak." Juhâ is a traditional trickster character in North African folkore.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:43 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017