I apologize in advance for the explicit words, the question is anyway purely linguistical. Feel free to censore the words if appropriate.

I have heard that the American slang expression "Do not break my balls!" was brought to America by the Italian mafia, literally translating the very common Italian expression "Non rompermi le palle!", a vulgar way of saying "Stop bothering me!".

First of all, is this true?

Second: I have heard that in Colombian Spanish slang, especially among outlaws, the expression "Que gonorrea!" is used analogously to the English "What a pain in the ass!". In Sicilian dialect there exists an expression, "Che camurria!", which means the same both literally and in use. Could this expression be brought to Colombia by the Italians outlaws? Or is there a Latin common origin? (To the best of my knowledge, nowhere else is an analogous expression used.)

Are there any other examples of words (maybe) spread to other languages by the crime?

  • Here's the earliest cite I could find in google books: a court case from 1943, where the defendant used "break my balls" in response to cross-examination. So that certainly suggests a criminal origin. Unfortunately there's not enough of the case transcription freely available to determine if this guy was mobbed up or not. Given the era, and how he's using language, I suspect he was. But that's all it is: a suspicion.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 17, 2016 at 12:36
  • A huge part of the modern Russian derives from "fenya". Including some counter-intuitive cases, e.g. "hemorrhoids" and "headache" both are basically synonyms of "trouble", widely used by non-criminals. Jun 17, 2016 at 13:10
  • I wonder if "squeezing my shoes", apparently made popular by Andy Sipowicz, is also a calque from something in Italian?
    – user6726
    Jun 18, 2016 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


According to the following source, the expression "break/bust my balls" comes from the old practice of cattle castration:

  • Whether it’s busting or breaking, balls or stones, this expression has long been used by young men (and not a few women) to express a wide range of emotions brought about by the words or actions of another.

  • Although the phrase usually accompanies laughter, it arose out of a truly painful, yet common practice among beef cattle operators where they bust the bull’s balls as a method of castration.

From Today I found out


It looks like camurria comes from Tuscany and it used to mean "sickly person, basically because old". In Sicily it is now a euphemism for gonorrhea. The first link is a reknown linguist, De Rienzo, the second one is just local news but refers to Devoto-Oli, possibly the best italian dictionary ever. http://forum.corriere.it/scioglilingua/02-11-2010/camorra-e-camurria-parte-i-1648070.html https://www.cataniatoday.it/social/cosa-significa-italiano-parola-siciliana-camurria.html

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