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  1. Member
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    #1

    let's not cry over spilled guineas

    Frank is mobster from Providence:

    Frank: As for our problem with Providence...let's not cry over spilled guineas.

    What does "spilled guineas" mean?
    Source: The Departed is a 2006 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by William Monahan.

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    #2

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    It's a combination of a mixed metaphor (or idiom, actually) and a racial slur.

    The normal idiom is 'don't cry over spilled milk', meaning not to worry about something that has already happened. 'Guinea' in this context is a rather derogatory racial slur for someone of Italian descent. Frank is with the Irish mob, so the 'guineas' in question would of course be the Italian mob.

    It's been a while since I've seen the movie (and it was a good one!), but as I recall, Leonardo DiCaprio's character (who was trying to infiltrate the Irish Mob) beats up or maybe kills some Italian mobsters from Providence. Later the Irish Mob boss played by Nicholson makes this comment regarding the problems that incident has caused between the Irish and Italian mafias.
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    #3

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    Does it mean Guinea occupied Providence & also out of the hands?

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    #4

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Hussey View Post
    Does it mean Guinea occupied Providence & also out of the hands?
    Can you express the idea in different words? I can't guess what you're trying to say here.
    I am not a teacher.

  5. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Hussey View Post
    Does it mean Guinea occupied Providence & also out of the hands?
    No.

    A lot of Italians and Italian-Americans live in and around the city of Providence. A Providence neighborhood called Federal Hill is a long-time center of organized crime in New England, the six northeastern states.

    I don't know what "out of the hands" means.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 27-May-2020 at 13:19.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  6. Member
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    #6

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    No.

    A lot of Italians and Italian-Americans live in and around the city of Providence. A Providence neighborhood called Federal Hill is a long-time center of organized crime in New England, the six northeastern states.

    I don't know what "out of the hands" means.
    Means too late to take back control of Providence from Guinea.

  7. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Hussey View Post
    Means too late to take back control of Providence from Guinea.
    No. Good try, but it really does not mean that.

    1. The phrase out of the hands is meaningless. You might mean out of his hands or out of their hands.

    2. You're still not understanding guinea, with a small g. Guinea with a capital G is a part of Africa. With a small g, it can be a British monetary value. As it's used in the movie, it's a rude word for an Italian or Italian American. So Guinea cannot control Providence. That would make no sense.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  8. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #8

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    Out of curiosity, why does it have this meaning in US slang?

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    #9

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Out of curiosity, why does it have this meaning in US slang?
    According to this site: As a derogatory term for "an Italian" (1896) it is from Guinea Negro (1740s) "black person, person of mixed ancestry;" applied to Italians probably because of their dark complexions relative to northern Europeans …. This reaffirms what I had thought: we Americans got the term from British English. I'm guessing it was still current in Britain in the late nineteenth century when huge waves of Italian immigrants started to arrive in the United States. Each immigrant group quickly acquires a pejorative term, and Guinea was ready-made. It fell out of use for lack of applicability in British English, but stuck with us over here.

    I don't imagine it's used much anymore even in American cities with large Italian communities. Our xenophobes have newer, less assimilated immigrant communities against which to direct their fears and prejudices.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #10

    Re: let's not cry over spilled guineas

    On ethnic slurs, I think guinea has fallen out of use. People here who use such nasty words use wop instead. And we have a great many people of Italian ancestry where I live. Pretty well only they use wop, in the same way that only black Americans can get away with using the n-word.

    All such words are of course extremely insulting and totally unacceptable. Also, guinea may be a regionalism rather than dated. GoesStation or Charlie Bernstein may know.

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