The Irishman, even more than past Martin Scorsese films, immerses itself in the language of gangsters. Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, the main narrator, refers to “candy,” “carpentry work,” “going to school” and other innocuous-sounding phrases that have darker meanings. And he uses terms like “the vig” that probably don’t mean anything to people who don’t know any gangsters. So welcome to The Irishman slang, decoded.
Questions about authenticity haunt The Irishman, since a central question of the film is whether Sheeran, played by Robert De Niro, can be trusted—by his friends, or by the film’s audience. Screenwriter Steven Zaillain’s generous use of gangster slang throughout the film immerses us in Frank’s point of view and seduces us into his version of what happened, allowing us to forget, for a while, our questions about whether we believe Sheeran, who is played in the film by Robert De Niro.
But what does all that gangster slang mean? Click through if you’re ready to go to school. (And don’t worry: There are no spoilers.)