Are you a Villen?

On May 3, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

del_ponte_4_webLife in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)

A couple of years ago I changed the name of my column from On the Silly Side to Life in the Ville. “Ville” is just a simple abbreviation for Somerville. A Villen (according to the new pop culture) is someone from Somerville. This Villen thing has calmed down lately, but when it first hit it was all the rage. Everybody wanted a Villen sticker or a Villen shirt or hat. The Villen Cooperative Society came out as the source for these items. They even copyrighted the word “Villen.”  Really? Isn’t that like trying to copyright the word “Townie,” or “West Ender”? Nevertheless, the terms Ville and Villen are now a part of Somerville’s fabric, even though some old-time Somerville loyalists don’t like it. As one young lady stated to me, “The Ville is better than what they used to call Somerville.” (I refuse to even write that derogatory word because it burns me up to no end. But if you want to know what it is, check out Somerville, Mass., in Wikipedia.) While we are on the subject, I think we should petition Wikipedia to have that horrible slang term removed.

A lot of people who don’t like the new nicknames feel that Villen makes us sound like thugs. Well, I can assure you that I am not a thug and neither are most of my friends!  Somerville has a very colorful past. That’s true, but we have moved onto many exciting changes and innovations that have made Somerville a very desirable place to live, work, play and raise a family (as the mayor says!).  Just look at what they did to Assembly Square! And what about the Green Line Extension? Somerville is on the move in a very positive way.

dp_4_30_14_webSome longtime Somerville people don’t like any kind of change at all, no matter what it is. That’s understandable. They have earned the right to be cranky about change. But it’s the younger generation who are setting the pace for the excitement of the future. I want to stay on their good side because these are the people who will eventually pick the care I will receive when that time comes. I love thinking and acting young and with the times, so I am proud to be a Villen from the Ville (Hey, that sounds like it could be a cool song!).

There are lots of kids at Somerville High School with Villen stickers on their books, iPods and cellphones. You can still get some stickers visiting The Villen Cooperative Society website. I happen to have hoarded a bunch over the years. I have stuck them on my trailer, my truck, the clock at work, even on the door to my house. I even wrote a musical called “Back in The Ville” five years ago, which was performed by Somerville’s Project STAR. As a matter of fact, The Sunsetters will be including the title song this summer as they hit the streets singing.

The words Ville and Villen are just amusing terms that some of us like to use. It means no disrespect. Anyone who uses these terms is very proud to be from Somerville.


24 Responses to “Are you a Villen?”

  1. Ellen Fabiano McPherson says:

    Hello Jimmy,
    As with all folklore,”villen” has many interpretations and significant meanings that are dependent upon the individual. A few years back there were two young men from Somervile, good friends, growing up together. Their families were also friendly. They attended school together, played sports together and created art together. They were trying to make sense out of their experiences as boys growing up in a culture that included the sudden and violent deaths of many of their peers that was rocking the city during the years the were coming of age. They came up with the phrase “villen” and had tattoos put on their wrists. Not long afterwards, one of those young men passed away in a tragic accident, his name was Brian Liberatore. The other still lives and works in Somerville, he is my nephew, Steven Morris. After Brian’s death, Steven and his brother Paul wanted to keep their memory of Brian and “villen” going and created a trademark “villen” and copyrighted the name. The teeshirts, stickers etc. came from that effort. Everyone is entitled to interpret art as they see it. And everyone has their own memory and truth. This is mine regarding “villen”.
    Ellen Fabiano McPherson

  2. Pixie Pocahontas says:


    We were all very sad to hear about what happened to Brian. One of my children was also a friend who continues to morn his passing, he was a popular young peer who will be missed by those lucky to have known him.

    I don’t believe the term villen carries a negative message. It represents who we are in its authenticity–we can be a fierce bunch if provoked, we are brave survivors with our own unique stories to share of the struggles encountered living in a city that although difficult at times will always be our treasured home.

  3. steve says:

    not a lifelong one but been since 1993.

  4. Somerbreeze says:

    It’s so telling, that a Somerville youth of promise, Brian Liberatore, created the “Villen” moniker, yet untimely and tragically died…

    There is a stark message for all of Somerville, that drug addiction, depression, homelessness, violence, still plague so many of our youth, and families, that these scourges will not ease their grip without strong and sustained intervention. There can be no hesitation in combatting them.

    The youth of our city are the future of our city; if we neglect our youth, we neglect our future.

    Remember the epic words of poet John Donne, who composed centuries ago:

    Each man’s death diminishes me,
    For I am involved in mankind.
    Therefore, send not to know
    For whom the bell tolls,
    It tolls for thee.

  5. Ellen Fabiano McPherson says:

    Well said…I still mourn and miss Brian and so do my children and extended family. You are so right about authenticity and the fierceness of Somervillians…thanks for your response.

  6. Pixie Pocahontas says:


    Brian’s memory lives on through our children and teen empowerment.

    A friend and I attended their performance last night at East Somerville School. We sat and listened to personal stories of severe hardship which they endured for many years as young children. It brought tears to my eyes.
    I encourage you to attend future meetings and performances by teen empowerment and highschool students.

    I admire their courage and perseverance, maintaining strength and hope in the face of these struggles they endured.

    They are what represents real Somerville– they never give up, are true to who they are, will always stand up for what they believe in and know their city of friends and family is their support system. I’ve also attended the opiate meeting and plan to attend more because as a parent, I know drug and alcohol addiction can happen to anyone. It’s true that people who struggle with addiction need a great deal of support by their families, but I believe it takes much more. They can’t do it alone. That’s what separates Somerville from other communities. We care about all of our residents because we are all family. What happens to one, happens to all of us.

    I am so proud of the students who presented last night, I hope they can spread their message to all parts of the city. They are a true inspiration to so many kids who need hope and strength within their own lives.

    I think about all the kids we lost over the years, including those we went to school with from SHS and within a 40 year span. Those trying to combat years of addiction even as adults and same friends providing encouragement to never give up. This is the face of Somerville which still exists and that some people will pretend does not remain in our city. Well I’m here to tell whoever believes that illusion to be true — get out of your comfort zone and take a long look at reality. It may not be your reality, but it is someone else’s reality, their friends and families–as well as the thousands of life time VILLENS who’s spirit for hope and support will never end.

  7. hate it says:

    hate the whole villen thing. I think it continues and reinforces a thug image. Villen/Villain. young people who want to be seen as villains, c’mon. the ville is one thing, but I think we’re making the drug/graffiti/villains hanging at the park, lifestyle just a little too cool. If our young people want to be seen as villens, it’s sad, very sad.

  8. Some ole Villen says:

    Being a lifelong Somerville person I see no reason for anyone to feel anything negative with the term Villen being used to describe its loyal residents. Brian and Steve were real Somerville kids who cared about the city and were willing to do anything to make it a better place. The term Villen seems to have caught on and I think it’s positive and reinforces the identity of those who are proud to be part of this great city. My biggest fear for Somerville is that it’s new residents won’t stay long and bring up their children here. Villens are folks who live here, have families that become part of its fabric and care about its future!

  9. You’re right, Some ole Villen. Those of us who didn’t get the easy way, that’s what being a Villen is all about. Our struggles are what shape us. Whatever happens, we never give up the fight. Sometimes it takes the character of a “Villen” to endure the low points life will bring, it doesn’t mean that “Villen’s” are doing bad things. Everyone of us is human, with faults, no one is perfect. It can be compared to being “cowboys” from the days of the wild west. Not all cowboys were bad, just as not all Villen’s were bad, but if you follow our history, it’s what makes up who we are today. Back then, they did what they had to do to survive– bootlegging rum and odd jobs. Those who have insulated lives don’t have a clue what it takes to be on your own and trying to make it day by day. My parents struggled for years to pay the bills and I grew up poor as did many Villens, but it is our poverty that makes us the people we are today. Having very little makes you learn to appreciate what you earn, instead of someone handing it to you without working for it. We are a proud, unique bunch with plenty of attitude!

  10. Gianni Serpico says:

    I agree with the thug thing. Wasn’t there a thuggish-looking guy, McLaughlin or something, who pushed this a while back? I seem to remember his motto was something like “Villens against yuppies”. People, that’s the way things are going. Somerville has been yuppified and there is nothing you can do about it. OKAY, there is something. We could make it more ghetto-like, so the yuppies will get scared and leave. But do we want to go back to the Slummerville days?

  11. profile says:

    sadly, the profile of people embracing the villen image is late 20’s, still hanging at the park, sleeping in Mom’s basement, working off and on for pocket money. Nothing to celebrate

  12. Matt c says:

    Ellen, thank you for sharing.

  13. beavillen says:

    It’s interesting to see the responses to the Villen moniker. The disparaging comments speak directly to how the term Villen came to be. The phrase came into existence because of the many ignorant people, some posting on this site, who have so many bad things to say about Somerville residents. The youth decided, if you’re going to treat us like Villens, we will embrace that term.
    To me, being a Villen means you’re from Somerville, plain and simple. People young and old identify with the term. My grandmother has a Villen sticker on her car. If people have a problem with the negetive connotation, they should perhaps examine their own assumptions about people from Somerville. These ignorant statments existed long before Villen was a household name. What Villen means to us is we don’t care what you think.

  14. Somerbreeze says:

    @Serpico – If you’re referring to Matt McLaughlin, you’re way off the mark. At Lexington Park, there were tensions between newcomers and local kids over Park usage that boiled over. The McLaughlins sought to quell the tensions, and worked with City Hall to help redesign the Park to everyone’s satisfaction.

    The McLaughlins formed Save Our Somerville to positively engage disenfranchised youth in 2006, and staged many events involving local youths. S.O.S. worked to lessen the effects of gentrification and displacement, but positively.

    S.O.S. has a great track record to this day, and Matt McLaughlin is a highly-respected Alderman in Ward One. His brothers work for Teen Empowerment and Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

    So, if that’s “thuggery,” Serpico, you are one sorry cynic, with the kind of attitude we need a hell of a lot less.

  15. Uncle Rocco says:

    Community pride is great. Tribalism . . not so much. Anytime people start going too heavy on the ‘my people’, ‘my neighborhood’ stuff, and start counting who is ‘one of us’ and who is ‘them’, it’s time to take a few steps back and cool out a little.

  16. Boss Jonny says:

    Uncle Rocco, shut your mouth, you traitor! You are no longer part of the family! :)

  17. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    Uncle Rocco

    How would you feel about disbanding the KNIGHTS of Columbus?

  18. Townie says:

    The term “Townie” is often used to put down locals of particular neighborhoods and has negative connotations. Locally it has been closely associated with the Irish Mob but the residents of Charlestown never shy away from their Townie Pride and continue to wear it on shirts, jerseys and their flesh! These youngsters have reclaimed the negative stereotypes and slurs of the past and in turn made it into a banner of unity and local pride!…not to mention it’s just a clever turn of phrase.

  19. Mike says:

    You people make me sick

  20. Jimmy Del Ponte says:

    Hello Ellen. Thanks for clearing up the origin of the term Villen. I had heard the story before but had forgotten it . It only makes the term Villen even more special. I retrack what I said about the copyright. I thought they copyrigted it for monetary reasons but now see it was to protect it’s very impiortant and heatrfelt history. Nevertheless,I stand by my belief that anyone who considers themself a Villen is a proud member of a proud city. We must never forget the two young men who started it. My daughter was friends with many of the young people who we lost back then and she still talks about them. Jimmy

  21. Francis Edward Shelton says:

    If you want to be a Townie… be a Townie..If you want to consider yourself A Villen…. God Bless ! if not …God Bless . It’s a personal thing.

  22. JB says:

    beavillen stated it perfectly! I spent over 40 years in Somerville having grown up there and although I don’t live there any longer…will always consider myself a “villen”…JB

  23. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    There is a difference between villians and villens. One has been ripping off the public at large for the past decade, the other is a local resident who uses the name to describe a place which they were born and raised, just as South Boston locals call it Southie.

    For those of you seated at the chair of judgement, do share your economic strife through the years so we can understand why you are so unsympathetic to the homeless, unemployed, who are through no fault of their own. In case you haven’t been paying attention– most jobs are overseas, maiden lane benefactors have stolen trillions of taxpayer funds, given elite a never ending tax break, waged wars in several countries where oil and gas pipelines continue to be occupied by foreign nations — yours truly and King George who are obsessed with occupying someone else’s territory just like our homegrown local cupcake and sidekick tricky Dick.

    If you are retired, living on a substantial pension with dual income, house paid for since 1950, condo in Florida and NH, watching Faux News–you are living in Ozzie and Harriet’s living room.

    The world has changed. Get out and talk to the working people of Wards 1-5, life ain’t so grand because of people like you who are selfish and ignorant.
    And an administration who pretends we don’t exist because it’s easier to bluff the unsuspected condo buyers who have no idea the honeymoon is over when parking, fees and tax nightmares have begun!

  24. Kenny Coady says:

    A few years ago, i had to move outta Somerville for personel reasons. The oxycontin craze that destroyed many people throughout the ville. I got clean and doing better than ever but living in new bedford. My Parents couldnt keep up with mortgage payments and had to sell house. My mom tried to take over my late grandmothers morthage but couldnt keep up and house was repossed by Bank of America. Ive got family in watertown and friends all over The Ville but many of us original villens cant afford to live in the ville. I was born in Somerville hospital and lived there for almost 40 years and grew up hanging at Kelley Park University. We were a bit rebellious at times, but we were good kids growing up in The heart of oldschool ville. Generation after generation would take over keeping KPU proud. There were people like hanman, sleekers, and twiggy before is and then came The Colonel, Bernie, Jugghead , Markie and my favorite Dougie who has since passed away. Then we handed the baton to the next generation. Then we all grew up and have families, carreers and went our ways. We stay in touch and some we we will never see each othrt again but we will always xarry the badge of honor growing up in The Ville. Today yhis day ivthink of growing up in the ville and KPU made me stronger. Before the word tuppy we called them Barneys !!! The fabric of Somerville has changed but not a day goes by that im not proud to be from The Ville. I carry that badgebif honor today and wont ever forget the memories. I miss somerville and visit u and leines but those days are gone so call it the Ville cuz people think it sounds cool but alot of those people are plants(transplants) from othet places. I wish u all the best but asnlike many cities have changed and im glad it hadnt tiened into a cesspool like orher cities. Keep rocking it Somerville, KPY for life!!!!

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