The Godfather of All Nicknames

“Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again…ever.”

—Michael Corleone, from the film “The Godfather”


by Harry Caines
by Harry Caines

There are many rules and standards a person should adhere to if they grow up living in a South Philadelphia neighborhood. Near the top of that list is to never be outwardly upset if you are given a terrible nickname. If you do, it will stick. You might as well tattoo that nickname on your forehead. If your friends are in charge of your funeral arrangements, you can book it that that dreaded moniker will be on your tombstone.

Growing up as I did, the best thing to do is ignore the nickname and hope it fades away.

I have had a wellspring of awful nicknames in my long, eventful life. Nearly all of them have disappeared from memory because I shrugged them off. Of the few that have stuck, Mush (rhymes with bush) is the most commonly used. 

In the 1993 film “A Bronx Tale”, Eddie the Mush was a low-level mobster who puts a jinx on every horse, craps shoot or sports team he bets on. Bad luck follows him. Everything he touches turns to mush. The joke was that when he went to the race track the teller would hand him his bet tickets already ripped up.

At the time that film came out, I had a reputation for strange things happening to me in sports betting, fantasy sports and actual sports that I played. As a noun, I was Mush. As a verb, anything I bet on was “mushed”. I accidentally invented an anomaly known as a “reverse mush”. It would take too long to explain but trust me, it’s a thing.

Another eponymous nickname that comes from a famous mob film is Fredo.

Ahhhh, you see where I am going with this now.

Fredo Corleone is a character from the novel, “The Godfather”. As everyone on this blue orb should know, that novel has been turned into three major films, of which Fredo is a major character in the first two. 

Fredo is the second son of Vito Corleone, the head on New York City’s most powerful Mafia family. Fredo is weak-minded, feeble and dangerously gullible. Fredo is especially pathetic when compared to his taller, stronger and more engaging older brother Santino. Santino is the obvious heir apparent—despite his uncontrollably bad temperament. 

Santino is also an eponym. It is thrust on to notoriously hostile people. My dog Cooper has a bad temper. That is why his middle name is Santino.

Fredo as a nickname has come to the fore as a story thanks to CNN television host Chris Cuomo. In a video that became “viral”—I hate that term—Cuomo can be seen going Santino on a guy who called him Fredo. 

I would link the video to this column, but this is a family-friendly page, not Family friendly.

(A free cannoli for anyone in Utah who got that joke.)

As Cuomo berates the man, he mentions that Fredo is an insult to Italians. Cuomo equates calling an Italian Fredo to people with black skin having a certain racial epitaph—that will not be printed here—hurled at them.

Whoa! Not even close there, Chrissy. Even if Fredo is considered a racial slur (COLUMNIST’S NOTE: It ain’t.) it would in no way equate to the centuries of cruelty those of African descent had to endure at the receiving end of that word. The difference in metaphorical mileage is comparable to the distance Pluto is from Mercury. 

Fredo is not a slur. It’s a harmless insult. In the most literal usage, it means to be the dumb brother. Chris Cuomo is the dumb brother!

Cuomo’s brother Andrew is the current governor of New York. Their father, Mario, was the highly popular governor of New York in the 1980’s. Mario Cuomo was beloved by Italian-Americans of all political leanings. Chris is the guy who has worked at every network for a short time before moving on. His CNN show is nothing more than an hour of continuous Trump-bashing. Yeah, Trump is nuts. I agree. But it is stale now. Move on. 

Cuomo’s ratings, like with everything on CNN, are in the gutter. He is the underachieving, ne’er-do-well brother. He is Fredo.

In practical application being called Fredo, whether you be of Italian heritage or not, just means you are a loser at life. When I am hanging out with my South Philly friends, we often pull out the “F-word” as a way to razz each other. I started my Logan, Utah friends into uttering the word in general conversation when talking about certain people in town. 

“The Godfather” is an American epic. It is iconographic. If someone acts bossy, you call them Don Vito. If they are a big lumbering man that is intimidating, you call them Luca Brasi. The pale-skinned member of an Italian family is called Tom Hagen. And if you are dumb and botch everything, you are Fredo. During the entire run of “The Sopranos”, the characters on that show were meta to the Corleone family. How could they not be?

Chris Cuomo was wrong to say that in the video—but he is not entirely wrong to confront the man that was trolling him. Cuomo was in a public place with family members, including young children. He had the right to be left alone. He was not extended that courtesy. I fully support his right to defend himself from verbal attacks when out with loved ones. Perhaps Cuomo and his liberal television comrades will now have empathy for conservative politicians and personalities that have been the victim of public attacks since the rise of Donald Trump.

Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz were surrounded by mobs while out for a quiet dinner with their wives. The irony of anti-Trumpers fighting for women’s rights whilst scaring women enjoying time with their husbands is consuming.

Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Sanders were championed as women working in the highest places of influence in the White House by being verbally accosted in front of their children at restaurants.

And the worst: Candace Owens, a black conservative woman known for making incendiary comments, was verbally and physically intimidated by a mob of middle-aged whites while dining alone in a South Philly eatery. 

Ponder that. A white mob forced a black woman out of a restaurant. We justifiably erect monuments and have days of remembrance for minorities that endured that treatment in the 20th Century. Guess how much coverage this outrage got on CNN, especially when Chris Cuomo was on the air. 

There is either a standard of civility that is applied to all Americans of notoriety or we have reactionary mob rule. When anyone sees a famous person in public that they disagree with, they should leave them alone. To do otherwise is to be nothing more than a thug.

Chris Cuomo will hopefully be more mindful of loony leftists that do to conservatives what those Trump wingnuts did to him. Maybe he will call them out on his show, with all 37 of its viewers. It is a bold move to call out incivility in public life. It takes guts. Especially from such an obvious Fredo.

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