Help me figure out the origin of this Italian-American slang word
February 1, 2014 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out the origin of a particular Italian slang word my family uses that means "gaudy, tacky or overdone".

The word sounds like GA-she-BAN-gee.

A few details that might help:

As with most Italian Americans, c is almost always pronounced as g, p as b, and t becomes th: i.e. cuccidati, the cookie, becomes GOO-chee-DATH-ee, pasta is basta.

Sometimes they use words that are only used by Italian Americans, not Italians.

Unlike many Italian Americans they don't drop last syllable.

Unfortunately I can't ask the people who would actually remember the origin. The rest of us have just accepted it as a word used to describe "your cousin's wedding".
posted by Thin Lizzy to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Did anyone in your family speak any regional dialects aside from the "official" Italian?
posted by elizardbits at 12:52 PM on February 1, 2014

Response by poster: No, my grandparents, the people who would know, have either passed or can't answer questions like these any more. The rest of us only know this particular word within the context of our family.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 1:01 PM on February 1, 2014

Is it particularly used to describe tacky weddings or weddings deemed inappropriate?

It sounds a bit like "caccia bianchi" which could mean "hunting white", which -- in a super leap of speculation -- might mean something like "chasing a white wedding gown"?
posted by trip and a half at 1:05 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I typed "gaudy" into Google translate it returned "sgargiante." Could that have evolved into the term your family uses?
posted by Angel de Lune at 1:08 PM on February 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

That makes me think of one of the words Renee on Mob Wives uses to describe gloriously tacky clothes and shoes. She posted a list at one point of Italian/ NYC slang from back in the day -- like seventies and eighties -- but I can't find it
posted by spunweb at 1:17 PM on February 1, 2014

Best answer: My Neopolitan-American (Chicago) used "GA-she-BAN" for things that were fancier than you were (never heard it in reference to anyone's wedding; just things like cars or clothes) and for general folderol--waiting to hear from Mom & the Aunts if they know what it was supposed to be.

I like trip and a half's story, but that story would not make sense in the context that my mother's family used the word.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:25 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, ignore my answer. I just called my Italian fiancee in Bologna to ask her and she didn't think that was it. She couldn't think of anything else it might be, either.
posted by trip and a half at 1:31 PM on February 1, 2014

Response by poster: Crush-onastick- that's perfect. Please let me know if they get back to you. I'm hoping to find a best spelling for it as well as the possible etymology of the word. The "trying to appear better than you are" part is the undertone of the word as they use it, they also just happen to be very wedding-judgey folks.

Trip and a half, I like the idea of your answer but I'll bet Bologna is too far north to use this word, if it even has any proper Italian roots at all.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 1:39 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you know where in Italy your grandparents came from? That might help nail down a dialect or regional accent.
posted by easily confused at 1:43 PM on February 1, 2014

The 1841 Vocabolario domestico napoletano e toscano has a definition for casciabbanco, a variant of cassapanca, which is a type of elaborate marriage chest.
posted by misteraitch at 1:50 PM on February 1, 2014

Is that a hard or soft "g" in the last syllable? G as is god or as in gel?
posted by amaire at 2:22 PM on February 1, 2014

Response by poster: Hard g on the last syllable.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 2:25 PM on February 1, 2014

Caschi means either "helmets" or the second-person form of "to fall" (you fall). It's pronounced "skee" though, so maybe it's not right.

Cascare (to fall) is the beginning of lots of idiomatic phrases.
Don't have a good idea though for one that would fit the second half (BAN or BAN-gee) and make sense.
posted by amaire at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2014

Okay, Mom says the word I'm thinking of was a phrase "sachetto di" something or other, loosely meaning "sack of odd & ends, mostly junk", which the family tossed around to dismiss something as a "bag of nonsense, not worth their time". Mom says the older generation hit hard on the "chetto", almost skipping the "sa", so while she and her sisters said "sGA-she-", my grandmother sounded like "GA-she"-- how we were all getting a "BAN" from it I don't know.

Apparently, it was most often hurled at young (or old) men with cars fancier than their means, but also used at other times to express annoyance with any particular thing or situation that was made useless by its fanciness. Whether that's a peculiar usage to my mom's family or a more general idiom, I don't know.

So, maybe not as helpful as I thought. Sorry.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:38 PM on February 1, 2014

già chi va in gi

those who already go down?

totally wild guess based on my poor Italian. I will ask my coworkers (most of whom are third generation Italian or grew up in a community surrounded by second and third generation Italians) tomorrow.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:45 PM on February 1, 2014

(I should say when I write "how we were all getting a "BAN" from it I don't know."--the "we" in question is me, my mom, and my aunts, who all definitely say GA-she-BAN" when employing the phrase)
posted by crush-onastick at 2:52 PM on February 1, 2014

Dialect is what most people spoke, most of the time in previous generations, so this is going to be a dialect thing. Italians from other regions may not recognize it at all. What part of Italy did your relatives come from?
posted by cairdeas at 2:53 PM on February 1, 2014

Have you tried retro-fitting it to something in English? It took me years to figure out that words I thought were in Sicilian dialect were actually fractured English. Bah-COWSA, which I heard my whole life, was "backhouse," slang for bathroom.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:58 PM on February 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

BTW, Thin Lizzy, if you don't know the region they came from, but you would feel comfortable sharing their last names (maiden names, for women), that's one way to figure out the region.
posted by cairdeas at 5:24 PM on February 1, 2014

Couple of questions:
- so, just to make sure I'm hearing it right, a direct transliteration into Italian would be something like gascibanghi?
- working back re-hardening the consonants, could cacciapani be a lead?
- in the baccausa vein, something like cash-bang?

Not sure I get the sacchetto-derivation, crush-onestick.

And: nthing the usefulness of their region of origin.
posted by progosk at 1:09 AM on February 2, 2014

Wondering whether there's another trick involved which wouldn't be unheard of*, an inversion of the main consonants, so that it's actually a derivation from pacchiano, which means pretty precisely what you're looking for.
(*A farmer I know calls cucumbers trecioli instead of the correct cetrioli.)
That said, the missing sh, plus the fact that it doesn't seem to be just your family's usage, makes this a bit tenuous...
posted by progosk at 1:27 AM on February 2, 2014

Perhaps another line of derivation: given a Neapolitan s=sh when compounded with other consonants, che spenne e spanne (= Italian che spende e spande) = someone who spends beyond his means, contracted to che spanne?
posted by progosk at 4:49 AM on February 2, 2014

Best answer: If your grandparents were Neapolitan or Sicilian then the first thing I thought of was "Cascia" -- ('Cassa' in proper Italian) meaning a trunk, or possibly cash register. The 'Banghi' may be 'Banchi' or 'Banco' (Which, depending on the context, may mean 'bench' or 'bank')

I looked those up and found something that it could be.

It may be Casciabanco -- which appears to be a colloquialism as it's used very rarely. (It's also a surname). I can't find an official source or any dictionary entries or definition (makes sense if it's from a dialect), but I have found this person's review of a Sony Walkman, whereby the reviewer actually defines the term in the review, as; 'Casciabanco' being any object which is generous in dimension, but not very practical.

I also found it on this forum in reference to the PS3. Similar context. There are a few other forums where people are using it.

I'm guessing this is the origin of Gashibanghi, because it makes sense to me-- grandiose and/or useless/impractical seems to be the common meaning-- but it's very rarely used today in Italian. I hadn't heard of it before now, and nobody I know has heard of it before.

I am guessing the origin of the dialectal term might be a play on Cassapanca, (lit. 'Bench') but I'm not entirely sure.
posted by Dimes at 9:09 AM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: They're from Sicily but the Neapolitan Italian-American-isms have snuck in over the years. For example we also used "Bah-COWSA" but it came out more like "Bah-COWZUH".
posted by Thin Lizzy at 9:12 AM on February 2, 2014

Think Dimes might have it, plenty of mentions particularly in Sicilian contexts, of "casciabanchi" for big impractical vehicles and other objects, but also for some cumbersome, useless people. Not exactly tacky or gaudy, but... close enough?
posted by progosk at 9:39 AM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Does the word sound like this? (At 1:11 in the video.)
posted by cairdeas at 9:41 AM on February 2, 2014

Best answer: Oh, this is interesting too. Here we have the social media site of a teenage-ish Bari girl. (Bari is also Southern Italy but on the opposite coast from Naples).

She's getting anonymous questions on the site and answering them. There are a few questions asking her thoughts on different people she knows, one of them being a girl by the last name of Casciabanco.

Her answer is something to the effect of, it took a long time to get to know her, she has a strong personality which sometimes causes people to hate her without understanding her.

Someone else replied to this, and said something to the effect of, "I don't know how you can stand "Casciabang.""

That fits with the idea of "casciabang" or similar being related to "casciabanco," and also being something of an insult.
posted by cairdeas at 10:15 AM on February 2, 2014

Best answer: Annnd here were have an example of a cassiapanca being referred to in Neapolitan dialect as a "cascia bang." (Seventh comment up from the bottom.)

I could see it as an example of something ornate and expensive but clunky and impractical...
posted by cairdeas at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2014

Could it have some relation to the idea of the "whited sepulcher" -- nice on the outside but corruption within?
posted by wenestvedt at 12:16 PM on February 3, 2014

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