If I told you “I got to get back in shape. Got to go lift weights,” you would think I was going to the gym to work out. If I said I was chased you might ask by whom or where. If I said I had been burned you may express sympathy and ask me if it hurt.
If I said, “That babbo has a parakeet down in Pepsi Cola,” would you think I was thirsty and waned an ice cold Pepsi?
What if I asked you what the vig is? Or told you what the nut was?
The mafia fascinates me. I love reading about it and how the FBI has been fighting the mob over the last couple decades. My favorite story is about FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone, aka, Donnie Brasco. The character of Donnie Brasco was made famous first by a book about Pistone’s undercover work and then by a movie featuring Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco.
Pistone spent six years undercover living with and associating with the mafia. He gathered intelligence and evidence that helped the FBI send more than 100 gangsters to prison.
In one of Pistone’s books he explains what wiseguys say and what they mean.
When a wiseguy says, “I got to get back in shape. Got to go lift weights.” It mans he’s going to prison. When he says, “That babbo has a parakeet down in Pepsi Cola,” he means some useless underling has a mistress down in Pensacola. If a mafia member is chased it means he’s been banished from the mafia. If he’s been burned he’s been wacked (killed).
A “Vig” or Vigorish refers to the interest accrued on mob loans. If a mobster references the nut he’s talking about the bottom line or gross profit.
I bring this up because each industry has its own set of words that mean something to those involved in that industry but may mean nothing or something totally different outside the context of their work environment.
When we meet with our clients and do what we call media training, we explain to them the importance of speaking and using terms or words that are familiar to all people and not just a particular industry. We encourage them to refrain from using industry jargon, catch phrases or terminology that somebody outside the industry is not going to understand. Keep it as simple as possible and don’t expect or assume that everybody knows exactly what some of these words mean.
Fughedaboutit! By eliminating these types of instances, you’ll ensure that people understand what you’re telling them and eliminate any chances of being misunderstood or not understood at all.