My Cousin Vinny
© 1999 by Raymond Weschler
Vinny Gambino.................Joe Pesci
Italian-American mechanic from New York who just passed his Bar exam
after six previous attempts, and has therefore just become a lawyer
(every lawyer must pass "the bar" in order to practice law).
Mona Lisa Vito..................Marisa Tomei
Vinny's girlfriend who has agreed to marry him as soon as he wins his first case.
Bill Gambini.......................Ralph Macchio
Vinny's cousin who is a student who will be going to school
at UCLA (The University of California, Los Angeles).
Stan Rothenstein..............Mitchell Whitfield
Bill's friend who will also be going to UCLA.
Judge Haller........................Fred Gwynne
Alabama Judge who presides over Bill and Stan's trial.
Jim Trotter the 3rd...........Lane Smith
Prosecuting attorney in Bill and Stan's trial.
Bill and Stan are two students from New York who decide to drive across the country
in order to go to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where they
will attend school. Unfortunately, on their way, they are mistakenly arrested in the
state of Alabama for the murder of a convenience store clerk. They clearly did not
do it, but there seems to be a large amount of evidence against them, and they could
find themselves facing the death penalty if they don't have a very good lawyer.
Unfortunately, they don't have a very good lawyer, but Bill is able to get his cousin
Vinny to come to Alabama to represent them. It's Vinny's first murder trial. In fact,
it's his first trial of any kind (since he only passed his Bar exam six weeks earlier).
Still, Vinny is going to do his very best for his family.
This movie is a funny comedy, with lots of useful colloquial language. It's also a good
exploration of America's legal culture, as well as some of the differences between people
from two very different parts of the USA: New York City, and the deep South.
Words and Expressions That you May Not Know
Bill and Stan head for the South on their way to California,
but trouble awaits as Bill forgets to pay for a can of tuna...
A state in the Southern part of the United States.
Products sold in stores that don't have a "brand name"
and are therefore usually cheaper.
Beans make you fart. :: It's OK because we got a convertible.
A crude way to say to pass (intestinal) gas. A "convertible"
is a car in which you can remove the top to enjoy the sun.
One large slush, please.
Flavored drink made of crushed ice sold in convenience stores.
W.S.S.T., special requests.
All radio stations are identified by 4 letters,
always starting with either a 'W' or a 'K.'
Jesus, I forgot to pay for this.
This is often said at the beginning of sentences to
express emotions like surprise or anger.
The laws are medieval down here.
Literally "from the middle ages," or in this case, meaning "very severe or strict."
Fuck! God damn it!
Two very common and crude ways to express anger.
You don't have any money for bail!
A legal term referring to the money you need to get released from jail
while you prepare for a trial after being charged with a serious crime.
Get them up!
What a policeman screams if he thinks a suspect has a gun in his hands
(Note that in rapid speech, "Get them up" ----> "get'em up").
Have you been made aware of your rights?
This refers to rights that every person is guaranteed under the
United States Constitution, such as the right to say nothing to the
police, and the right to have a lawyer.
Aiding and abetting.
Legal terms for the act of helping a person commit a crime.
A legal term for an "assistant to a criminal"
(which makes the assistant a criminal himself!)
Unless he's convicted...in which case there will be enough
electricity going through him to light up Birmingham.
To be "convicted" is to be found officially guilty of a crime. The entire
sentence refers to the electric chair which is used to execute criminals
such as murderers (Birmingham is the biggest city in Alabama).
We were going to UCLA.
The University of California, Los Angeles (A famous university).
I shot the clerk?! :: I'm in the middle of a damn confession here!
A "confession" is the act of admitting guilt.
They're fucking with us.
A crude way of saying "they're trying to harm us" Depending on the context,
"fucking" used this way can mean "manipulate, tease, harm, etc..")
I'm being booked for being an accessory to shoplifting?!
A person who is "booked" is officially charged with a crime.
Do you know any great attorneys?
Another word for lawyer.
Wazoo, Beechum County, Alabama
The town, county and State where Bill and Stan are arrested.
They're trying to set us up as patsies.
"To set up" someone is to make people believe something untrue about them
(i.e....that they committed a crime). "A patsy" is a person who is easily
blamed for something they didn't do.
They're all inbred. They sleep with their sisters.
A crude word for people who are the children of incestuous relationships
(i.e....whose parents are brother and sister, cousins, etc.).
Bill's cousin Vinny arrives from New York to help get them out
of prison, but he may not have the experience Bill had hoped for...
You stick out like a sore thumb.
A good expression meaning "You look very different from everyone else."
Cowboy boots? Oh yeah, you blend.
A shortened and sarcastic way to say "you blend in"
(i.e...."you look like everyone else").
I don't see anything out of whack.
A good colloquial expression for not functioning normally.
The car was shimmering.
"To shimmer" is to refelct light on and off very quickly.
What are you? A fucking world traveler?
In this case, "fucking" is used to express sarcastic cynicism.
A State Corrections Facility.
A very official term for a prison.
Sometimes there's a guy named Bubba who nobody tangles with.
"Bubba" is a classic name for a big and uneducated person
(sometimes called "a red neck"). "To tangle with" someone is
one way to say to get involved with them, often in a violent way.
Let's try our best to make it a simple in and out procedure.
Another way to say "quick," though here it is used as a play on words with
sexual connotations, given the misunderstanding between Stan and Vinny.
You're getting fucked one way or the other.
A clever play on words. Here, it means both treated
very badly and having sex (in the "female role").
A modicum of gratitude wouldn't be out of line.
A "modicum" is a interesting word for "a very small amount."
"Gratitude" is another word for appreciation. If someone is
"out of line," he's not acting appropriately.
It's your ass, not mine.
Colloquial and crude for "You're the one in trouble, not me."
In this case, a play on words with strong sexual connotations.
I thought you should be on your knees, you little fuck!
A very crude insult (note the use of "fuck" as a noun!).
I didn't come down here to get jerked off!
"To jerk off" is a slang expression for masturbate:
Here, it means to be treated badly and disrespectfully.
Burglary, grand theft auto, stuff like that.
Various types of crimes you can be charged with
("Stuff" is a useful word that generally means "things").
What kind of law do you practice? :: Personal injury.
The type of law where people sue each other for personal
injuries due to auto accidents, defective products, etc.
This is my first foray into the trial process
An educated word for an adventure (or literally, a military raid).
Knock on wood.
A common way to say "Let's hope our good luck continues."
You spent six years studying for the Bar?
The exam that all must pass after law school before becoming lawyers.
Three times a charm!
A nice expression meaning "the third attempt, you get success."
Vinny meets Judge Haller, and it becomes clear
that the relationship will be a difficult one.
Fire away, Judge!
A very colloquial way to say "start", or in this
context, "ask me the questions that you have."
Approving an out of State attorney is an informal matter.
Note that until approved, lawyers can only practice
in the state in which they pass their bar exam. In this context,
an "informal matter" is a simple and easy procedure.
This is not the forum to be cavalier.
A "forum" is any type of place or office. "Cavalier" is a strong
word referring to a person who is arrogant, or looks down on others.
He got off on the grounds of temporary insanity.
"To get off" is a complex and common phrasal verb, here meaning to be found not
guilty (Insanity is a legal defense to a crime). In other contexts, it can mean
to get away with something or even to become sexually excited!
When it comes to procedure, I'm an impatient man.
"Procedure" refers to the official rules and regulations of any
institution (In this case, for how a trial is supposed to be conducted).
You won't get special treatment. No leeway whatsoever.
An interesting word meaning a little extra freedom or moving room.
Vinny and Lisa soon get to know Southern culture.
What the fuck was that?!
A crude but very common way to ask a question when you also want
to express surprise and/or anger ("What the hell was that?" is safer).
What's the story with this incredibly loud whistle at 5:30 AM?
A common and very colloquial way to ask a general question
about a situation that is surprising or unexpected.
Its the sawmill. Tells folks its time to get up.
A "sawmill" is where wood is cut. "Folks" is an old-fashioned
term for people (and is sometimes used to mean parents).
Have you heard of the ongoing cholesterol problem in this country?
The substance in blood that can lead to heart attacks.
You've never heard of grits?
"Grits" are a type of very popular corn meal served for breakfast in the
Southern United States. "Homily grits" are the a famous type of grits.
The preliminary trial begins, but Vinny has
trouble getting used to law in Alabama.
District Attorney of Beechum county.
The prosecuting lawyer for the state.
All rise for the honorable Judge Haller.
The official words used to call people to attention when a Judge enters a courtroom.
The People of Alabama vs. Gambini and Rothenstein.
The official name of this case.
When you address the court, you will rise.
"The court" refers to the actual judge in the courtroom.
What are you wearing? :: I don't get the question.
"To get" something is a common way to say understand.
Next time you will be lawyerly and wear a suit and tie.
Formal clothes used in business and other official situations.
Shoplifting a can of tuna.
"To shoplift" is to take something from a store without paying for it.
How do your clients plead?
An official legal term: You "plead" either guilty or not guilty.
The procedure involves an arraignment.
A legal term for an official hearing before the actual trial,
in which the state charges the defendants with a crime.
I'm not going to revamp the entire judicial process.
A curious little word meaning to change fundamentally.
You will be in contempt of court.
A legal expression that refers to those who refuse to obey the orders of the judge.
Bail will be set at $200,000.
Money needed to get the defendant out of jail while waiting for trial.
Bailiff, take Mr. Gambini into custody.
A type of court clerk that assists the judge in a courtroom.
They're going to nuke this guy this weekend.
A very colloquial verb meaning to kill (from "nuclear" bomb).
If you screw up, these boys get fried.
This is a great and very common phrasal verb meaning
to do a bad job, or make a very bad mistake.
I thought I'd take off a couple months.
"To take off" is a common phrasal verb that in this case means
to stop work, though it also commonly means simply to leave.
Carburetor, manifold head, jet.
Unimportant terms that refer to parts of a car.
If you don't fix it, you're fucked.
"If you dont fix it, youre going to have lots of trouble."
I didn't want to bounce a check.
A useful expression meaning to write a check without money in
the bank account to cover it. In some states, this itself is a crime!
Vinny goes out to protect Lisa's honor.
I tried hustling the money, but I got stiffed.
In this case, "to hustle" is to get the money by beating people at a game of pool
(billiards). "To get stiffed" is to not get paid money that people owe you.
How about if I just kick your ass?
A very common (but crude) way to say "beat you up."
Oh, a counter-offer!
A legal term meaning "an offer in reaction to an offer"
(used often when people are negotiating).
Over my dead body!
A colloquial and dramatic way to say "No!" when
someone demands something you don't want to do.
What if I were to kick the shit out of you?
"To kick the shit out of" a person is to physically attack or harm them.
In your dreams!
A good colloquial expression which is basically
a way to say "You're not being realistic."
What happened? Rear ended?
If your car is "rear-ended," it is hit in the back (or rear) by another car.
He blew the arraignment!
"To blow" something is a common verb meaning to do it badly,
or to screw it up. "I blew it," is, sadly, a common expression.
Gambinis: They live to argue!
"To live to" do something is a colloquial way to say one loves it.
I twisted it just right.
"To twist" something is to turn it.
This faucet requires 16 foot pounds of torque.
Unimportant words, unless you're an engineer! (Torque is force).
A craftsmen torque wrench, used by NASA engineers.
More unimportant words describing a type of tool (a wrench), but you should
know that NASA is "the National Aeronautics and Space Administration"
(the government agency that sends rockets and other satellites into space).
It was calibrated to be dead-on balls accurate.
"To calibrate" is a verb meaning "adjusted precisely." This whole
sentence is a very slang way to say "It was designed to be accurate."
An industry term.
This refers to a word or expression used only in a particular industry.
I guess the fucking thing is broken.
Note that "fucking" as an adjective often expresses anger. Very crude.
The trial officially begins, and the prosecution's
case against Bill and Stan is soon overwhelming.
I heard 2 bangs, and then I saw them drive off like the dickens.
A very old-fashioned way to say "in a big hurry."
Let the record show that she identified the defendant's car.
In this case, the record refers to the official transcript or words that
a judge or jury will study when reviewing what happened at trial.
The name of the convenience store where the murder occurred.
You can stand down.
A very official way for a judge to tell a witness to sit down.
Sufficient evidence exists for this matter to go to trial.
Statements, physical objects, etc. that are shown in a
trial that would tend to suggest guilt or innocence.
Had you put up a fight, you could've gotten it thrown out of court.
A case is "thrown out of court" if it is determined that
there is not enough evidence to even go to trial.
You're in Ala-fucking-bama!
Noted here to show just how versatile "fuck" is; Used here as an
adverb, embedded within another word (Rarely done, but there it is!)
Are you fucking-up this case, or what?
A very crude way to say "screwing up" (or, doing badly).
Oh, you're a smooth talker! :: Knock it off!
"A Smooth talker" is one who can convince people of anything.
"Knock it off" is a very common way to simply say "stop it!"
You ragging on me won't give me any great spontaneous knowledge.
"To rag on somebody" is very slang way to say harass, or bother."Spontaneous"
is an excellent word meaning suddenly, or without planning ahead of time.
How the fuck did I get into this shit?
Two obscenities in one classic question!:
"How did this happen?" (implying anger and/or surprise).
If I could keep my ass awake...
A colorful way to say "if I could keep awake."
If this were a conspiracy, they would have to get them all to lie.
An important word for a criminal endeavor, planned out by two or more people.
Bill and Stan decide Vinny probably isn't the best lawyer for them.
Let's see the public defender. If he's honest, let's go with him.
A Public defender (or "P.D.") is a lawyer hired by the state to
work for defendants who are too poor to hire their own lawyer.
The place in prison where those prisoners who are going to be executed are placed.
The chair aien't working like it used to.
Here, referring to the "electric chair"
(Note that "aien't" is ungrammatical English for "isn't").
Building a case is like building a brick house.
An interesting metaphor (analogy) for the work lawyer do.
His case is an illusion, a magic trick.
An illusion is a perception that is not real. This is Vinny's
way of saying "his case in not based on the facts."
Nobody pulls the wool over the eyes of a Gambini
A useful expression meaning to trick (i.e....to blind).
Give me one witness and if I blow it, I'll leave quietly, no grudges.
A "grudge" is a good word for lasting feeling of resentment or anger.
(Remember that "to blow it" is a common way to say "do it badly").
There's more to cross-examination than what to say.
The legal term for the questioning that a lawyer does of a witness.
Vinny nailed him every time!
"To nail" somebody is a colloquial way to say catch or hit.
Here though, meaning that Vinny caught him trying to trick people.
There goes the quintessential Norton.
Here, referring to the fact that Norton was just executed.
"Quintessential" is an educated word meaning the most
important or representative part of someone or something.
Hey, little Yankee boy, look what I got!
Southerners in the USA sometimes refer to Northerners as "Yankees."
It's 200 bucks.
Very common for "dollars."
Does that freight train always come through at 5 AM?
A "freight train" carries commercial products such as food or cars.
Vinny gets one last chance to be a great lawyer,
and so he decides to get to know the prosecutor.
My clients were guilty as hell.
A colloquial way to say "completely guilty."
After getting one guilty guy off too many, my conscience got me.
"To get someone off" is to help them not go to prison, or
more generally, to help someone avoid being held responsible.
You'd be a good litigator.
A "litigator" is a lawyer who does much of her work in trials.
He wanted his son to follow in his footsteps.
A cute little expression which means to do what the person
before did. "He wanted his son to do what he did."
I'd like the murder weapon, but other than that I feel good.
The gun, knife or whatever was used to commit the murder.
Two guys in the woods. It's a bonding thing.
"To bond" is a very 1990s verb meaning to grow close emotionally.
He'll drop his guard, so I can finesse some information out of him.
"To drop one's guard" is to stop being so careful. "To finesse"
something is an excellent verb meaning to very skillfully or
diplomatically solve a difficult problem.
I'm a man's man. I can go dear hunting.
A stupid expression for a masculine man who is liked by men.
An innocent, leaf eating doe-eyed deer!
A deer is a very cute animal. A "doe" is a female deer.
I magine you're prancing along by the brook...and bam...a bullet!
"To prance" is to walk in a happy manner. A "brook" is
a small stream. "Bam" is a way to express a loud noise.
Would you care what kind of pants
the son-of-a-bitch was wearing?
A "son-of-a-bitch" (or an "SOB") is a very crude
and common insult for a mean or bad person.
A small house in the forest used by hunters.
Terrific, you're a hell of a bonder.
Used as an adjective, "a hell of a" generally means excellent.
Remember that "to bond" is to become emotionally close.
It's called disclosure, you dickhead!
"Disclosure" is the act of making something public or available to
someone else. "Dickhead" is a crude insult meaning jerk or moron.
What's that brown stuff?
A very useful word for "things" when you don't know the exact word.
Can you participate in an endeavor in which the outcome is electrocution?
An "endeavor" is a process or project. In this context, "electrocution"
is the act of put a person to death in the electric chair.
Fry them! :: She'll do.
In this case, "She will be fine on the jury"
Vinny and Lisa think of the future.
What are you nervous about? I'm the one under the gun.
A colloquial way to say "facing enormous amounts of pressure."
I'm watching you going down in flames.
If something "goes down in flames," it ends in a horrible disaster or failure.
My biological clock is ticking.
A reference to the desire women have for babies, and the fact
that as they age into their 30s, it gets harder to have them.
Any more shit that we can pile on the outcome of this case?
"To pile on" is to stack things, one on top of the other. This is
Vinny's way of asking Mona Lisa to stop putting pressure on him.
Two boys whose lives hang in the balance.
When "lives hang in the balance," the result of something,
in this case, the trial, will determine whether they get to live.
Vinny begins his legal counterattack,
but it still looks bad for Bill and Stan.
Are you mocking me with that outfit?
"To mock" is another way of saying to make fun of. An "outfit" refers
to the various clothes such as pants and shirt that people wear.
I had to get this in a second hand store.
A store that sells used goods (often clothes).
I'm holding you in contempt of court. :: That's a fucking surprise.
Someone who is in "contempt of court" has probably
refused to obey the orders of the judge.
1964 convertible metallic green Buick Skylark with white top.
The car that Bill and Stan were driving.
Three eyewitnesses saw them drive off in great haste.
"Eyewitnesses" are people who saw what happened with their
own eyes. "In great haste" is a dated way to say in a big hurry.
They recanted their story.
"To recant" a story is to change it (used for official testimony in a trial).
The decision by a jury in a trial (guilty or not guilty).
Murder in the first degree.
Legally, the most serious type of murder charge.
He helped him commit this heinous crime.
Heinous is an educated word for horrible or unspeakable.
Everything he is said is bullshit!
The classic English obscenity for lies, nonsense, etc.
Objection is sustained.
Legal talk: An "objection" is made when one lawyer feels what someone else is
saying should not be allowed to be said in court. If an objection is "sustained,"
the judge is saying he agrees (If it is "overruled," he is disagreeing).
You won't use that language in my court! :: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
A cynical and sarcastic way to say OK.
We intend to prove that the prosecutor's
case is circumstantial and coincidental.
If evidence is "circumstantial," it is implied by the situation, but there are no
direct witnesses. If something is "coincidental," it has happened just by chance.
Their tires were screeching, smoking, going on the curb.
"To screech" is to make a loud, piercing noise.
He's a tough one!
Someone who is "tough" is strong or brave.
Here, meaning that he is difficult to scare.
Suddenly, Vinny becomes a pretty decent lawyer.
"Young people" (pronounced "youthz," not "youtz," in the plural!)
No self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits.
A good adjective: "One who respects himself"
Does boiling water soak into your grits faster on your stove?
Note that liquids "soak into" a material.
I'll find a way to bail you out.
"To bail someone out" is to get them the money needed to get them out of prison.
My house and stuff.
"Stuff" is a critical word that means "things, " but note that
this word is overused, especially among less educated people.
This crud-covered screen.
"Crud" is a colloquial word for filth or dirt.
Over here, dear.
Adding "dear" at the end of a sentence when
talking to an old woman is a sign of affection.
As your eyes get more and more out of whack,
do you need thicker glasses?
An interesting expression meaning defective, or broken.
Your honor, please!
The words that all in court must call the judge when talking to him.
You did good out there, Yankee.
A Southern term to refer to those from the Northern States.
I'll disclose it first thing in the morning.
"To disclose" something is to show or reveal it.
Where did you read about that disclosure shit?
Note that a crude but common way to add emotion or anger
to a sentence is to add "that" before a noun, and "shit" after it.
I'm a special investigator for the forensic unit of the FBI.
"Forensic" refers to scientific evidence presented at trials
(The FBI is the "Federal Bureau of Investigation").
We need advance notice to contradict the veracity of his conclusions.
A fancy word for "the truth."
What a judge tells a lawyer when he doesn't allow his requests.
They're the same size and model tires.
Cars, car parts, and other products all have
"a model type" that is used to identify them.
The car leaving the convenience store spun its tires dramatically.
Note the past tense of the verb "to spin,"
which means to turn around continuously.
A Hewlett Packard, with a flame analyzing detector.
A famous computer company.
Is that thing turbocharged?
An adjective associated with cars that implies very powerful.
See me in my chambers.
"Judge's chambers" are the room where he works when not in court.
That gives you a stay of execution.
A legal term meaning an official delay.
Am I a piece of shit because you can't help?
A crude insult, though more often applied
to movies or other works of art than people.
Dog shit?! What a clue!
A "clue" is very useful word for anything that helps solve a mystery.
The case cracker!
"To crack a case" is to discover key evidence, or to find the truth.
That's it! I'm out of here!
This is a common and colloquial way to say "I'm leaving"
Could two separate cars be driving a Michelin model XGV75RH?
A type of tire (Michelin is a famous tire manufacturer).
Two faded green Buick Skylark models.
The model of car Bill and Stan had.
Your honor, the prosecution rests.
The official way to say "we are finished presenting our case."
Vinny realizes that the key defense witness is Lisa,
whose expertise becomes the critical factor for Bill and Stan.
We have to make up! Let's make up!
"To make up" is an excellent phrasal verb meaning
to apologize to each other after a fight.
I need your help! I don't give a shit!
This is a common and crude way to say "I don't care."
She's being called to rebut the testimony of George Wilber.
"To rebut" something is to claim it isn't true. "Testimony" are
the words that a person says while answering questions at a trial.
A widely used word that combines "Miss and Mrs."
Can I treat her as a hostile witness?
A legal term for a witness who is helping the other side.
I'd like to voire dire this witness as to the extent of her expertise.
A French legal term meaning "to question."
Have you worked as a mechanic?
Unless stated otherwise, this refers to a "car mechanic."
Tune ups, oil changes, rebuilt trannies...
Refers to things that mechanics do with cars: A "tune-up"
adjusts the motor. A "trannie" is short for "transmission."
What would the ignition timing be of a 1955 model?
This is a question that only a mechanic could understand!
A trick question! Chevy didn't make a 325 in 1955!
A good expression for a question that can't possibly be answered.
In 1964, the correct ignition time would be 4 degrees before center.
Again, this is something that only a mechanic could say!
Does the defense's case hold water?
If something "doesn't hold water," it means that it can't be true.
There is no way these marks were made by a '63 Tempest.
Refers here to tire marks. A '63 Tempest is a type of car model.
The car had positraction.
A fancy word for something tires can do.
There was limited slip differential on the '64 Skylark.
Another term that only a mechanic could understand.
The '64 Skylark had a rear axle, independent rear suspension and positraction.
Again, unimportant words that only a mechanic would use.
The other car is the same body length, weight and body shape.
Noted here, because this is an important fact for Bill and Stan!
Both cars were made by GM and available in metallic green.
Short for "General Motors," which is a huge American auto company.
I'd like to recall Mr. Wilbur.
Here, "to recall" someone is to return them as an official witness.
She's cute, too, your honor.
A nice and common word that sort of combines pretty and charming.
You realize that you're still under oath?
To be "under oath" is a legal term referring to a person's legal promise
to tell the truth, usually after placing their hand on a bible.
On a hunch, I took it upon myself to see if there was a
metallic green Pontiac Tempest with size 75R tires.
A "hunch" is a great word for an intuitive feeling.
A 357 magnum revolver was also found in their possession.
A type of gun.
The defense rests.
Official way to say "we have completed our case."
Order in the court!
This is an official way for a judge to say "everyone shut up!"
Y'all come back and see us!
A very Southern way to say "[I hope] you all will come back...."
You're one hell of a trial lawyer.
A colloquial expression meaning great or excellent.
I guess that plan is moot.
This is a good little adjective that means "no longer
important given what's already happened"
An important word meaning suddenly, and
without planning or thought done in advance.
My Cousin Vinny
Some Possible Questions for ESL Class Discussion
1. How would you describe Vinny to a friend?
2. After watching this movie, did you get a feel for how New York and
Alabama might be very different from each other? How would that be?
3. What did this movie teach you about the American legal system?