Monday, July 13, 2009


Has anyone ever said something like, "I slept like a Chevy" and you scratch your head wondering if that's good or bad. "Huh?" you finally say. They roll their eyes and add, "You know, Like A Rock."

Every family has a unique dialect that evolves over the years of collected one-liners, baby talk, old, familiar jokes worn to the comfortable consistency of favorite socks, camp songs and plain old nonsense. In a way this private language draws the boundary line between family or very close friends and those who are a little more distant and therefore don't "get it".

My mom is a master of gleaning appropriate one-liners from movies and TV shows and salting every conversation liberally with them. In reference to shoes she invariably brings up trolls (The Tenth Kingdom) or she'll throw in an "Excellent" or a "Bogus" which dates back to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Lately, though, as new shows have arrived on the horizon her slang has evolved beyond my realm of experience and I've had the disconcerting sensation that I don't get her jokes half the time. My poor husband is even worse and I almost have given up translating for him lines from shows he has never seen and probably never will. He's pretty much stopped asking, "what is a Squudge?" (Hook)

Often FamilySpeak comes from baby talk of years long ago. In my family we still call Corn on the Cob "Norn on the Nob," which dates back thirty years to my own toddlerhood. My cousin, dubbed "Putter" when he was a baby by an older sister attempting to say "brother" has been called that by his parents and siblings ever since. Upon hearing other families converse with each other I often wonder at the odd nouns peppering their conversation, words like "Binkish" or "Doober". Yet these words form and stick so innocently. Just the other day my son asked me to wipe a "bewker" from his nose and it was so funny that the words has been in general use since.

Families value their closeness, their long association and the unconscious words they use reflect that value. In human society, this tendency to use slang crops up everywhere, particularly in Australia, but nowhere is it more comforting than in our own families. Without even thinking about them, we draw those funny slang words out of one another like a hug, the words that we know and those who are not in our family don't know or use. It's a subtle reminder that we belong to one another; we fit like pieces in a puzzle.

So enjoy your family's special slang. What family doesn't wander around like idiots quoting lines from The Princess Bride? Who doesn't have a few leftover baby words in their vocabulary? Use them with relish.

And as for me, "Weeeeeeeee're outta here!" (Aladdin)

1 comment:

  1. I still call my sister "sisto" after she called me that when she was little.

    There were a few phrases that Mark and I didn't want the kids to stop saying.

    And then there is our favorite phrase "wooka" that Mark used to say all the time. That still gets tossed around every once in a while.