The formal "Italian" that is taught in colleges and universities is generally not the "Italian" with which Italian Americans are acquainted. Because the Italian of Italian Americans comes from a time just after the unification of the state, their language is in many ways anachronistic and demonstrates the official dialects of of pre-unification Italy. These dialects, though still spoken along with Standard Italian have also evolved in minor ways. Because of this, Italian Americans studying Italian are often learning a language that does not include all of the words and phrases they may have learned from family.
Author Lawrence Distasi argues that the loss of spoken Italian among the Italian American population can be tied to U.S. government pressures during . During World War II, in various parts of the country, the U.S. government displayed signs that read, Don't Speak the Enemy's Language. Such signs designated the languages of the , German, Japanese, and Italian, as "enemy languages". Shortly after the Axis powers declared war on the U.S., many Italian, Japanese and German citizens were interned. Among the Italian Americans, those who spoke Italian, who had never taken out citizenship papers, and who belonged to groups that praised , were most likely to become candidates for internment. Distasi claims that many Italian language schools closed down in the within a week of the U.S. declaration of war on the Axis powers. Such closures were inevitable since most of the teachers in Italian languages were interned.
Although the internment was behind them, prior to the war’s end in 1945 soldiers of Italian ancestry were treated differently than other soldiers. Jack Tabone recalled a meeting during the war with a high ranking officer. As Jack was escorted into the officer’s tent he was questioned about his loyalties to the United States and asked what he would do should he be ordered to march into Italy. In a related story of mistreatment, Private First Class Frank Vizza did not receive any medals for his heroic efforts in battle until President Ronald Reagan ordered a review of war records in 1984. Later that year Vizza was awarded the Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, European Theater Badge with Two Battle Stars, North African Theater Badge, Combat Infantry Badge for Sharp Shooting with Wreath, and the Victory Medal; all accompanied by a heart-felt letter of appreciation from President Reagan. When asked why it took forty years to be acknowledged, Vizza proudly responded, “No it wasn’t racism… when you are in combat things move so fast that the paper work gets lost for a while.”
Condensed from above.
1. - This was never a name. Immigrant luggage commonly read "TO: NY." To New York was frequently misinterpreted by clerks at Ellis Island to mean the name "Tony." Tony was then listed on the immigrant’s paperwork as their new name, since many could not speak English to correct the clerks, and the ones that could did not want to argue with a clerk that could deny them entry to the U.S., and make them get back on the boat to go home.
2. - Various ethnic groups (Scottish, Polish, Irish, Italian, etc.) working at N.Y.'s docks would negotiate agreements to load or unload cargo for ship captains; however, captains took advantage of the laborers by promising to pay the men on a given day. Often the ship would sail during the night prior to payday, leaving those laborers with nothing after a week of hard work. Quickly each of these various ethnic groups learned to band together in makeshift "unions" and demand “we get paid by the day or we go.”
3. - Derived from the Italian word "Guappo" meaning thug. Originally used to describe an Italian grape picker in Spain. Some sources cite an acronym meaning illegal alien: .ith .ut .apers.
4. - Gino - Mario - A lower class/working class urban Italian immigrant. Popularized by MTV's "Jersey Shore" this is commonly now used to describe a loud, materialistic, arrogant, high maintenance, stereotypical New Jersey/Staten Island Italian American.
5. - Originally this was a term Italians used among one another when referring to a fellow associate from the same mafia. Today this is a derogatory term usually meaning fool or buffoon of Italian heritage.
6. - Originally meant an inferior African slave, and their descendants.
7. - Typically, immigrants spoke regional dialects over English, and were loyal to kin or paesani (townspeople) originally from Italy.
8. - Mothers And Fathers Italian Association.
Critics might argue that Italy existed in antiquity. The Italian peninsula the Roman province, and in turn the first province of Rome. True, the Lombards ruledmuch of peninsular Italy for a time, but they had to share it with the Byzantines andthe Popes before losing it to the . Then ruled Sicily and most of Italy and Germany for a few decades. Dante and Boccaccio wrote in Italian, then a "new"language, and people referred generically to "Italy" as, in theeternal words of Metternich, "a geographical expression." Buteven the most recent surveys tell us that the majority of Italians identify themselvesfirstly by their region of birth and only secondly as Italians or Europeans- and some actually place "European" before "Italian."
Gabaccia (2007) explores the origins of the term 'Little Italy' in New York in the 1880s and its portrayal in print and popular culture. Though the exact location of 'piccola Italia' in New York during this time is unknown, the increasingly popular trend of urban tourism led to an influx of people seeking the entertainment and spectacle that could only be found in predominantly immigrant neighborhoods. The 'safe danger' that Little Italy represented spread throughout the United States in the late 19th century, increasing American fascination with Italian neighborhoods, which in turn inspired fantastic print and theater renditions of immigrant life.
Voters did not always vote the way editorials dictated, but they depended on the news coverage. At many smaller papers, support for Mussolini, short-sighted opportunism, deference to political patrons who were not members of the Italian-American communities, and the necessity of making a living through periodicals with a small circulation, generally weakened the owners of Italian-language newspapers when they tried to become political brokers of the Italian American vote.
(1891-1950), the owner of a chain of Italian-language newspapers in major cities, stands out as the epitome of the Italian American ethnic political broker. He bought the Il Progresso Italo-Americano in 1928 for $2 million; he doubled its circulation to 200,000 in New York City, making it the largest Italian-language paper in the country. He purchased additional papers in New York and Philadelphia, which became the chief source of political, social, and cultural information for the community. Pope encouraged his readers to learn English, become citizens, and vote; his goal was to instill pride and ambition to succeed in modern America. A conservative Democrat who ran the Columbus Day parade and admired Mussolini, Pope was the most powerful enemy of anti-Fascism among Italian Americans. Closely associated with politics in New York, Pope and his newspapers played a vital role in securing the Italian vote for . He served as chairman of the Italian Division of the Democratic National Committee in 1936, and helped persuade the president to take a neutral attitude over Italy's invasion of Ethiopia. He broke with Mussolini in 1941 and enthusiastically supported the American war effort. In the late 1940s Pope supported the election of as mayor in 1945 and as president. His business concerns continued to prosper under New York’s Democratic administrations, and in 1946 he added the Italian language radio station WHOM to his media holdings. In the early years of the Cold War, Pope was a leading anti-Communist, and orchestrating a letter writing campaign by his subscribers to stop the Communists from winning the Italian elections in 1948.
As a result of the large wave of Italian immigration to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Italian language was once widely spoken in much of the U.S., especially in northeastern and Great Lakes area cities like , , , and , as well as , and . Italian-language newspapers exist in many American cities, especially , and Italian-language movie theatres existed in the U.S. as late as the 1950s.
James V. Donnaruma purchased Boston's 'La Gazzetta del Massachusetts' in 1905, 'La Gazzetta' enjoyed a wide readership in Boston's Italian community because it emphasized detailed coverage of local ethnic events and explained how events in Europe affected the community. Donnaruma's editorial positions, however, were frequently at odds with the sentiments of his readership. Donnaruma's conservative views and desire for greater advertising revenue prompted him to court the favor of Boston's Republican elite, to whom he pledged editorial support in return for the purchase of advertising space for political campaigns. 'La Gazzetta' consistently supported Republican candidates and policy positions, even when the party was proposing and passing laws to restrict Italian immigration. Nevertheless, voting records from the 1920s-1930s show that Boston's Italian Americans voted heavily for Democratic candidates. Carmelo Zito took over the San Francisco newspaper Il Corriere del Popolo in 1935. Under Zito, it became one of the fiercest foes of Mussolini's Fascism on the West Coast. It vigorously attacked Italy's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia and its intervention in the Spanish Civil War. Zito helped form the Italian-American Anti-Fascist League and often attacked certain Italian prominenti like Ettore Patrizi, publisher of L'Italia and La Voce del Popolo. Zito paper campaigned against the Italian pro-Fascist language schools of San Francisco.
Among the most characteristic and popular of Italian American cultural contributions has been their feasts. Throughout the United States, wherever one may find an "Italian neighborhood" (often referred to as 'Little Italy'), one can find festive celebrations such as the well known in , the unique in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, Italian feasts involve elaborate displays of devotion to God and . On the weekend of the last Sunday in August, the residents of Boston's North End celebrate the "Feast of all Feasts" in honor of St. Anthony of Padua, which was started over 300 years ago in Montefalcione, Italy. Perhaps the most widely known is St. Joseph's feast day on March 19. These feasts are much more than simply isolated events within the year. Feast (Festa in Italian) is an umbrella term for the various secular and religious, indoor and outdoor activities surrounding a religious holiday. Typically, Italian feasts consist of festive communal meals, religious services, games of chance and skill and elaborate outdoor processions consisting of statues resplendent in jewels and donations. This merriment usually takes place over the course of several days, and is communally prepared by a church community or a religious organization over the course of several months.