All families have their own special way of communicating (I’m sure that monkey researchers would concur). My sister’s family has so many peculararities that someone could probably develop a handheld electronic translator for them. Being no shirks in the made-up vocabulary department ourselves, we Wilkinson/Schillers have a few of our own.
For example, I have a huge, antique buffet which I bogarted sometime ago from my parents’. This piece of furniture is commonly known around our house as “the Jimmy”, as in, Jimmy Buffet. Clever, eh? You might also hear a Schiller refer to “the North Pole” of our house, which is the slotted thingie that the mail ends up in. All roads lead to the North Pole.
On top of our made up vocabulary, you also have our allusions to movies, which some people may get, and our allusions to past family events, which only insiders understand. For instance, at this period in time you will often hear a Schiller adding, after someone else’s comment, with a nasally, yuppy intonation, “That’s amaazing, Jeremy, but I have to go home now and bleach my mustache.” This comes from the scene in Date Night when the Steve Carell character and the Tina Fey character are at a fancy restaurant watching their fellow diners and making up conversations that might be going on around them. Why this particular line stuck with us is a mystery, but it can be pretty funny when we use it. “That’s amaazing, Dad, but Vampire Diaries is on right now, so I have to go.”
What is also interesting is that there are times when a word has become so ingrained in my conciousness that I believe it belongs to the world, so I say something like, “There was a bunch of graudoo in there,” at work, and my co-worker looks at me askance. “What, you don’t know what graudoo is?” (Undoubtedly you are dying of curiosity, so I’ll just let you know, “graudoo” is that waxy/slimy stuff that collects between the floor boards in your kitchen that you have to remove with a toothbrush or toothpick. Actually, as a rule, if you are removing something with a toothbrush or toothpick, it’s probably graudoo). This phrase goes beyond our immediate family and might also be used by the Wilkinson/Jonagans, the Wilkinson/Muchows, and, well, the Wilkinsons.
This phenomena of making up words to suit yourself can also be seen at work, or in any environment where people spend a lot of time together. At my job as a lunch lady, any other lunch lady would know what I meant when I referred to “The Beast”. “The Beast” is our gigantic braizing unit that is a pain in the patootie to clean, thus the name. We also made up a name for our Cammies (containers used to transport food). We call them, “RTDs”, or “Rolling Transport Devices”.
Sometimes these unrecognizable words and phrases are colloquial. I have used the words, “willy-nilly” and “pell-mell” and had people ask me what I meant, while others have understood me completely. My girlfriend from Chicago sometimes refers to “skitching”, the act of grabbing onto the bumper of a car moving along an icy surface and having it pull you along. In my book that’s called “bumper-surfing”, or, just plain stupid.
What are some of your family words or phrases? Can you imagine what life must have been like around Dr. Seuss’s household? Language is fascinating! Take the time to think about your family’s special words and maybe even write them down for posterity. Who knows, the list might come in handy the next time people come to visit.