is there a "yo" around here?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Aug 19 17:56:07 UTC 2012

On 8/19/2012 11:08 AM, George Thompson wrote:
> ....
> >From a profile of Salvatore Strazzullo, a lawyer for celebrities, in the
> Metropolitan section of today's (Sunday, August 19) NY Times.  Passage
> quoted is on p. 6, col. 3.  The story plays up his background as one who
> was born and raised in Brooklyn (Bensonhurst) with grandparents who were
> born in Italy, region unspecified.
> =93There are some lawyers who don=92t really take him all that seriously,=
> =94 said
> one colleague, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to damage
> his relationship with Mr. Strazzullo. Using a Brooklyn-Italian insult, the
> colleague added, =93Sal=92s a bit of a =91yo.=92 =94
> While I sit forlornly waiting for the final volume of HDAS -- and the curse
> of the Thompsons hangs over Oxford University Press, and will, until it
> appears -- I turn to Jonathon Green's Dictionary of Slang as the next best
> source.  It defines "yo" as "a young black man, esp. one who deals drugs on
> the street", and supports this with citations from 1991, 1997 and 2006.
> Meanwhile, I lived from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s in a largely
> Italian section of Brooklyn -- Gravesend -- without I think ever hearing
> "yo" used in the Times' sense.  I heard a free-range "goomba" once, that I
> recall, and "cugine" 3 or 4 times.
> I do recall hearing a young thuggish-acting black guy apply "yo" to a
> Spanish guy who had tried to intervene in a quarrel -- "this yo here".
> A relative who still lives in Gravesend says she hasn't heard the word.
>   (Gravesend is much less of an Italian American stronghold now than it was
> 20 years ago.)

Cf. "wallio"/"wal[l]yo"/"wally-o". I believe this has been reported to
be shortened to "yo" but I can't find a reference right now.

DARE, v. 5, p. 846:

<<[sItal dial _(g)uaglio_ vocative of _(g)uaglione_ boy, fellow] _often
derog_ Cf _DS_ HH28 / An Italian male -- often used as a form of
address. ....>> [citations from 1941 to 2007]

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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