Jersey Boys. Four men in red suits and sunglasses accompanied by two doting women in black dresses. Fog effects and NYC skyline background

A Beginner’s Guide to Newark Slang

Four actors wearing red blazers perform a song onstage in Jersey Boys

(l to r)Eric Chambliss, Jon Hacker,Devon Goffman and Matt Faucher Photo: Joan Marcus

Francesco Castelluccio, better known by his stage name, Frankie Valli, was born in the First Ward of Newark, New Jersey in 1934. A working-class neighborhood filled with immigrants, the world in which Frankie Valli grew up would have been a mashup of Italian and American culture.  

The colorful language that has become synonymous with North Jersey is, likewise, derived from Italian words that communicate the shared experiences of these immigrants and their descendants. So, before you settle in for Jersey Boys (or binge watch The Sopranos), here are a few key words you should know.

Agita – (ah-jee-tah) – noun – Indigestion or a more general annoyance. Derived from “acidita,” or “heartburn.” Example: All this talk about politics is giving me agita.  

Ashpet – (ash-pett) – verb – Wait, as a command or request. Derived from “aspetta.” Example: Ashpet! We’ve already covered six miles and you’re trying to jog all the way to the lake.  

Chooch – (chooch) – noun – A dummy or idiot. Derived from “ciuccio,” or “donkey.” Example: Look at this chooch doing 60 in the left lane.  

Maron/Madonn – (mah-roan) – proper noun – An expression of frustration or amazement that invokes the Virgin Mary. Derived from “Madonna.” Example: Have you tried Sonny’s Bagels? Madonn! I thought I died and went to heaven.  

Medigan – (med-ee-gahn) – adjective – Someone who has lost touch with their Italian heritage. Derived from “Americano.” Example: Vinny ordered Domino’s for his kid’s birthday. The guy is officially medigan. 

Moozarell – (mootsa-rell) – noun – A light Italian cheese. Derived from “mozzarella.” Example: I stopped by Sorrento’s and picked up a beautiful ball of moozarell for my mother. 

Paisan – (pie-zahn) – noun – A fellow Italian American. Derived from “paisano,” or “countryman.” Example: Hey, paisan! I had no idea your people were from Napoli. 

Pasta Fazool – (fa-zool) – noun – A traditional pasta dish prepared with beans and vegetables. Derived from “pasta faggioli,” or “pasta with beans.” Example: Joe makes the best pasta fazool. 

Some linguists claim that these words are butchering the Italian language. But they’re just a bunch of stunads. Enjoy the show! 

Jersey Boys
April 15-17, 2022 • Buell Theatre