Re: RARA-AVIS: Wise Guy origins?

rikke & hanne Kesten (
Mon, 08 Feb 1999 18:08:36 -0400 I spoke with a former NYPD detective first class who was a major player
with the organized crime unit in his day about the term "wise guys." He
couldn't speak to the etymological origins but did agree with me that it
was common usage on the city streets in the early Sixties.
He reminded me of a widely reported story in the early or mid-Sixties
about some thieves who stole a statue or two from the Christmas creche
at (I think it was) St. Anthony's Church on Houston and MacDougal
Street. Everyone was outraged. So the local mafiosi put out the word
in the neighborhood to cooperate with the NYPD. Sure enough, in no
time, the vandals were nabbed by the cops. The local papers reported
the story with a headline reading: "Wise Guys Help Cops Nab Xmas
So...check with Pete Hammill, Jimmy Breslin, Nick Peleggi or other
great New York journalists from that era -- if anyone on the list knows
how to contact them -- and we'll get not just the entymology of it all
but probably a few more good stories.
--steve kesten
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