There is a good reason why the mafia is referred to as organized crime. There is a proper chain of command, with every official member required to follow specific rules. Caution is a key thing too, with each member choosing their words carefully because one wrong sentence can cause plenty of problems.
In as much as The Sopranos is a brilliant show with well-developed characters and solid storylines, it has one little problem. The writers make the assumption that everyone is familiar with the vocabulary used. No one explains what a Goomah or Capo is or what they are supposed to do. This creates a problem for some viewers.
‘A Friend Of Ours’
Tony Soprano is frequently heard using this phrase during the show while chatting to members of other families. The phrase is used to let a mobster know that someone who appears as a stranger is also in the mob.
The purpose of using the phrase is to avoid incriminating that particular person. Someone might be wearing a wire hence if that person is simply referred to as a mobster, the feds might move in on him. A similar phrase used by Tony is “this thing of ours,” referring to mob activity.
A Made Guy is a gangster who has been made an official member of the family. Made Guys normally do all the heavy lifting, including, carrying out hits, issuing death threats, blackmailing, bribing, extorting, conducting heists, and interrogating people. To become a Made Guy, a person has to commit a murder or very important task for the family. They are also required to take an oath that involves rubbing their hands against a picture of a burning saint, signifying that they are in it for life.
Upon becoming a Made Guy, Christopher gets assigned to Paulie’s crew. Though he was initially excited about becoming an official member, he is disgruntled upon finding out that he will have to hand over most of his earnings to the Capo. The two constantly butt heads but they eventually learn how to get along.
Mob wives play an important role in the show. However, most mobsters are revealed to have mistresses too aka goomahs/comares. Tony leads the line with close to 10 of them. The only mobster who never has a mistress in the series is Bobby Baccala. He also kills one person only in the show.
Tony’s philandering ways almost cost him his marriage when his jealous mistress Irina calls Carmela to confess that she has been sleeping with him. She also tells Carmela about Tony’s other affairs.
Crime families are normally split up into crews consisting of dozens of soldiers. Each crew is headed by a Captain aka Capo. In the DiMeo Crime Family’s case, there are a total of eight crews. The Capos oversee the activities conducted by street soldiers and collect money for the family.
The Capo must receive around 40% of his soldiers’ weekly earnings then kicks up around 25% to the boss. In the HBO series, the psychotic Ralph and the more laid-back Vito Spatafore distinguish themselves as two of the highest-earning Capos. This is mostly because their respective crews have ties to labor unions.
Another term meant to keep the feds in the dark and it has nothing to do with accounts. “The Books” indicates an opening/vacancy in the family. When the books are opening, there is the possibility of a promotion or for an associate to be converted into a Made Guy. When the books are closed, every position is occupied.
The books normally become open when a member dies or gets incarcerated. The books become open in the Aprille Crew when Tony murders Ralph. Vito thus takes over as Capo. The books also become open in the Lupertazzi Crime Family after Johnny Sack gets sentenced to several decades in jail.
The Consigliere is a level-headed mobster (a rare trait) who the boss considers his most trusted advisor. The confidant offers unbiased advice, helping the boss solve disputes and make key decisions such as the kind of deals to make. He is also the third-in-command in the organizational hierarchy and is mostly the only member allowed during meetings with the bosses of other families.
There have only been three Consiglieres featured in the series. Michael Palmice is the DiMeo Crime Family’s first Consigliere but he gets killed by Christopher and Paulie for conspiring to kill Tony. Silvio then takes over until the end of the series. In New York, Jimmy Petrille serves as Consigliere. It’s revealed that he has been an FBI informant for 23 years.
This a term used to refer to getting killed. When a hit is ordered by the boss, the unlucky person ends up getting whacked. One member of the family can also whack another over selfish reasons. However, most people get whacked for being informants or threatening the stability of the family.
In the series, the person who whacks the most people is none other than the Capo, Paulie Walnuts. He has 9 bodies to his name. It’s also revealed that he conducted his first hit in the ’60s, meaning his numbers may be way higher than what viewers got to see.
Street Boss/ Caporegime
Street Boss has the same power as the Official Boss but he tends to be more involved in the operations. It’s worth noting that this is a rare rank that’s only implemented for strategic reasons. Early in the series, everyone wants Tony to be the official head but he prefers to act as the Street Boss, handling all the operations on the ground.
The reason Tony allows Junior to be the Official Boss is so that he can fool the FBI. The feds normally hunt down the head of the family, hence they go on to focus on Junior instead of him. As a result, Junior catches a case while Tony mostly remains a free man.
A CW is the FBI’s term for an informant. It’s the shorthand for Co-operating Witness. The mobsters on the other hand like to use the term “rat” to refer to people that are betraying the family by working with the authorities.
The boss normally orders hits on CWs because they have broken the Code of Silence. While “being made,” mobsters pledge to never snitch on their colleagues. However, pressure and blackmail authorities have seen the emergence of several CWs in the show including Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpenserio and Adriana.
The Underboss is the second-in-command and designated heir to the throne. In case the boss dies, gets incarcerated, or gets imprisoned for a long time, the Underboss can take over on official capacity. For example, Johnny Sack has been on both ends of this dynamic. He serves as Underboss to Carmine then takes over when Carmine suddenly dies. Sack then gets replaced by Phil Leotardo right after he is given a lengthy prison sentence.
In the DiMeo Crime Family, Tony operates without an Underboss for a while but he eventually appoints his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala to the position. When Bobby gets killed during the New York vs New Jersey war, Paulie assumes the position until the end of the series.