• Polito's Take: Understanding Mob Slang 101


    During the trial of James "Whitey" Bulger, you will encounter underworld slang. Some terms may already be familiar to you and some may not. Here's a tutorial to help you understand what's going on, kind of a cheat sheet.

    First, there's a Snitch. Whitey himself was a Snitch. A Snitch is someone who secretly shares information about crimes or criminals with the police and other law enforcement agencies. Whitey Snitched on his enemies to the FBI.

    Rat. Like the ugliest of vermin, the Rat is reviled amongst mobsters. A Rat is a criminal who gets caught, cuts a plea deal, and then testifies against other criminals for a lighter sentence. Hitman John Martorano is a Rat. He is one of the key prosecution witnesses against Whitey. Martorano killed 20 people and only served 12 years behind bars, that's actually one more person than Bulger is charged with killing.

    Rent. This is not what you pay for a place to live, it is money you pay to Whitey if you're a bookie doing business in his territory and you want to remain among the living. It's extortion, a percentage of the bookies' profit, also known as tribute.

    Shark, not the real thing from Chatham, these are actually more dangerous. A Shark is a person who makes illegal street loans to people who then use that money to place bets with a bookie. Sharks were also required to pay Rent to Whitey. I don't want to confuse you, but a person can be both a Shark and a bookie.

    The Vig, also known as juice, not orange, green. The Vig is interest you pay on a loan from a Shark. This interest that makes credit cards rates look good, but unlike sharks, credit card companies don't break your legs when you're behind on The Vig.

    Finally, we come to the advanced terminology. First, a Boiler. This is a stolen car. Rat John Martorano testified that he and Whitey drove Boilers in numerous drive-by hits. If an eye witness gets a plate number and description of the car it cannot be traced back to the killers.

    Last, but not least, the Greaser or Grease Gun. This was used on cars, but not to lube the suspension. A Greaser is a machine gun. John Martorano testified how he would spray a car with bullets to make sure they didn't miss their intended victim. (Click here to see photos of cars hit with Greasers) It got the name Greaser because some older sub-machine guns look like the mechanics tool used to lubricate moving parts.

    This concludes today's lesson in mob vocabulary.

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