Family-speak March 27, 2022 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about your family or household's language. What made-up words do you use? What words do you say in a different tongue? What slang, puns, or in-jokes are only valid under your roof?
posted by signal to MetaFilter-Related at 3:47 PM (79 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I thought the word for a tonsil stone was clar until I got to college, went to the doctor for standard dorm sickness, and mentioned that I had also had a few clars, which was unusual for me. She was like I'm sorry what and I was like sorry I know it's gross. And she was like no what did you just say. And I was like...clars. And that's when I learned the word tonsillolith and made a desperate call back to my parents demanding to know what else I was going to be wrong about now that I was out in public.

Turns out my dad didn't know either. Clar was the sound my grandma would make when she was trying to dislodge them, and my mom and uncle thought that was so funny growing up they just called them clars. And then since my dad was raised only a half step from feral he didn't have a word for them at all, so was happy to accept clar as the genuine term when he and my mom got together.

See also: ravelin, n, a loose thread hanging from a piece of clothing. As in: oh look, your shirt is unravelin.
posted by phunniemee at 3:56 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


We have the term "Jack-help," which is when you think you're helping, but you're making everything worse, after my first cat, who thought he was people, and so naturally participated in all tasks we attempted to perform -- to frequent catastrophe.

This turns out to be a very useful term for what small children do, so it gradually infected my entire extended family and my friend social group. Now everyone's like, "Olivia was Jack-helping so, long story short, my carpet is now dyed with koolaid."
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:07 PM on March 27 [12 favorites]


Growing up in the US, my Chilean parents spoke Spanish to us and me and my brother answered them in English, except the words for Avocado (Palta) and Robe (Bata).
Now, my bilingual son speaks English with me, and says, "Could you give me some bread with palta?"
So I guess it's a family tradition.
We don't wear batas, alas.
posted by signal at 4:23 PM on March 27


I grew up in the US, but there were maybe ten words where we used the Lithuanian, with the kids not knowing they were Lithuanian, resulting in a bit of confusion in school sometimes. We used Lithuanian for some bathroom words, so pee, poop, and butt. Butt still sounds weird and obscene to me in English, but that may also be because I'm old and people I knew just generally did not say those words in public then. When my uncle was dying in the hospital, I had to translate when he used Lithuanian to tell the nurse he had to pee.

With my kids, we used "thneed" from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax to refer to something we wanted that cost money and was of questionable use.
posted by FencingGal at 4:40 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


Because of Dad's love for the 1960s radio comedy programme Round the Horne, we spoke rather more Polari than one might have expected.
posted by scruss at 4:43 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


Oh, crap. Gonna have to make a spreadsheet or something.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:30 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


We have the term "Jack-help," which is when you think you're helping, but you're making everything worse, after my first cat, who thought he was people, and so naturally participated in all tasks we attempted to perform -- to frequent catastrophe.

In a very similar vein, Nellie the Cat was the source of the term “Nelping,” which means the same thing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:33 PM on March 27 [9 favorites]


I think there was a similar thread a while back, so this probably isn't the first time around on these for me.
Walking faster than someone and leaving them in your wake is called "Oswalding" after an ex-boyfriend of my wife's who was known for doing that. "Stop Oswalding me!"
Assorted things are called "jitty." "Help me take this jitty to Goodwill."
A gift for someone that you really want for yourself is a "Bowling ball named Homer" after the episode of the Simpsons where Homer gifts Marge a bowling ball with his name on it.
"Are you serving me a cold cup of tea? Alternately "you've got to be serving me a cold cup of tea." A friend of ours, known for his colorful expressions used to say "are you fist f-ing me?" We started joking about how a proper English person would express this sentiment and that's what we came up with.
Whenever there is a news report of a plane crash, we sing the bit from the end of "Hit the Plane Down" by Pavement. "Plaaaane down, plane down...no survivors, no sur-vivors." ( This is usually truncated to the first "Plane Down" and a glance.)
We have incorporated a couple Armenian expressions into daily use... "Vi-da-nees" as in " the kids were running around like a pack of vidanees" ( wild animals.) Also, "jen-amin-jota" to refer to the middle of nowhere. "ah, I don't want to drive there, it's out in jenaminjota.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 5:33 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Sometimes my wife and I will jokingly tell the other person to shut up. The only answer to that is delivered in the high-pitched voice of our deceased dog: “You shut up! I have a voice and a vote! I won’t be silenced.” Because that’s what the dog would say when someone told her to shut up.

We spend a lot of time together and I suspect we may be a little strange.
posted by marxchivist at 6:08 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


My parents adopted my sister from Korea when she was four. She still calls me Unnie.

Growing up, when we kids couldn't sit still my parents would tell us to stop rootching/rutsching around, or say we were getting rootchy. I eventually figured out that was a Pennsylvania German thing that came from my maternal grandmother, who grew up in Lancaster, PA and whose father was Pennsylvania German. If you google it you can find some stuff about it online, example, another. We still use this word and my husband has picked it up as well.
posted by gudrun at 6:34 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


We use 'dord' as a direct synonym for 'dense', such as 'this bread is dord,' or 'I need something less dord for this fake arm prop.'

There's also the luggagi, which comes from a broken sign on some trip years ago. It was not in Italy but it has the pronunciation my Italian-American grandmother would have used.

Beyond that, we have the usual complement of Italian-American and Brooklyn Yiddish common to the northeast region. Mostly for complaining and food.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:28 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


My mom quotes things that her dad used to say and no one remembers where they originated from, so for example “‘TIS fine wine Mrs Whitney!” which must have been a hilarious punch line at some point in the 1950s but is just a family saying now.

The other one that comes to mind is based on something my childhood best friend used to do to stall for time: “The thing of it is is…this is the thing see, here it is, let me tell you” etc. the longer you can stretch this out the taller the tale.
posted by cali at 10:28 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Whenever a pepto commercial comes on, my husband and I lovingly sing to each other "Dia-ree-ahh!"
posted by soelo at 10:43 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Razzledazzles were my favorite fruit until I had a fresh apricot when I was seven years old. I still call raspberries razzledazzles in conversation and then get weird looks until I correct myself.

The remote control is the clickah, said with a Mainer accent. I was born in 84 and have never even seen a tv remote that actually clicks, but it’s still the word I think of and then I have to remember everyone else calls it a remote.

Thanks to my grandfather, “I’ll take that under consideration” translates directly to “fuck you very much” and everyone in my family knows it.
posted by Mizu at 12:03 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


My southern CA family calls the tv remote the blabber.
posted by brujita at 12:42 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


My brother and his bride adopted a gerbil as their first pet. Its name was Gooter.

A cute part of gerbiling is packing your cheeks full of foodstuff. This became known as "gootering"; which then was extended to mean stuffing anything overfull (such as pack-ratting means.)
posted by mightshould at 3:24 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I feel like I've posted here before about kittywampus (="askew") and skafidge (="disgusting in the manner of a rest stop toilet"), both from my husband's family. I am thinking today about the Italian flatmate I had in Helsinki whose preferred filler noun, where other people might have said "thingy" or "stuff" or something of that ilk, was "bullshits." As in "those little bullshits on the end of your shoelace" or "I need to pick up some bullshits at the store." I don't know that any of the rest of us in that flat ever adopted this, but it was memorable.

Mr. eirias and I used to have a roommate who liked to give helpful advice, which was in fact more or less always correct but somehow also annoying. The pinnacle was when we were doing some simple kitchen task that required moving A into B at an inefficient distance and were informed politely that we should move those two things closer together. This was maddening but true and now every time the situation comes up, we tell each other, hey, let's move those two things closer together. The fact that it is an in-joke somehow takes all of the sting out of being told we are doing some menial task wrong, even though that is still exactly what is happening.

We used to have tons of these with Little e. She had funny ideas as a toddler, and I guess maybe all children do, but she was so hyper-verbal that she could tell us all about them much earlier than most kids, so we got an early window into the wonders of her mind. We often found it easier to just live there and use her words for things even though they didn't make a lot of sense. Somehow, when we were teaching her to wash her hands, getting her hands soapy on both front and back was "pancakes and penguins." Not sure whether the penguins were on the front or the back. Boardwalks, like at a beach, were "zigzaw lines." Many others have been lost to the mists of time, I think.
posted by eirias at 5:06 AM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Re-pee - going back to the bathroom one last time before falling asleep
posted by songs about trains at 5:52 AM on March 28 [5 favorites]


"Sorry-borry" when you have to say you're sorry about or for something but really don't want to. Our younger one said that when he was a kid. It was annoying as hell in the moment but also just cute enough that we say it for all manner of things not excluding speeding tickets, burnt toast, hurt feelings - though it is said with actual sincerity in those moments, the levity (and the reminder that the source is a thing we made and love... maybe the whole point of having kids (after helping to tend the crops/ fight ravening hoards, etc) is to introduce us to whole tracts of emotional life we had no idea existed...) the reference helps cut it all - the hurt, the apology- down to size. It does get awkward when it's said to someone not in the know, though. Yes, that is awkward.

We speak english in the house and german outside, because we're in germany, and there's a goodly amount of miss-moshing that goes on there that reminds me of growing up (in Quebec). At times this spills over into stuff we do outside, and then we have to re-calibrate. The kids' babysitter called it "code-switching" which I'm not sure it really, truly academically is (is it? I really don't know, she was getting her masters) - then again she herself speaks Russian, Buryatian, German and English (german to my wife alone, english with me unless we start the conversation in german, mostly german with the kids though they would watch movies in english) - it was funny to see her meet a Russian friend (herself from Siberia) and watch them talk - they come from quite ethnically different worlds, though the same area (within 100km of each other) - there was an ease to their chatter that spoke to the work of talking in a language you have not grown up speaking, and the relief of not having to.

In a somewhat desperate effort to improve the older one's french, my father and him have been talking everyday. It has helped a lot but he's developing a slightly french-canadian accent, "oui" now comes out "ouais." it's embarrassingly moving.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:42 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


maybe the whole point of having kids (after helping to tend the crops/ fight ravening hoards, etc) is to introduce us to whole tracts of emotional life we had no idea existed...

I feel this so hard! Thanks, From Bklyn.
posted by eirias at 8:51 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


My kids grew up with more Homestar Runner than kids' cartoons. So we'd use the in-jokes, made-up words and catchphrases A Lot; irredisregardless of who was around.

One of my sons' friends drove a limo, so naturally we'd say it the way the band LimoZEEN does. We'd celebrate Valentimes, Malloween and Decemberween. If someone did something cool, hey, Great Jaerb! Something needs to go in the trash? Beleted!! And thanks to the Homestar Talker soundboard the kids used constantly, I can only hear the word Marzipan in my head a certain way.

The kids even knew how to pronounce Fhqwhgads. Sewiously.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:03 AM on March 28 [7 favorites]


Sometimes when someone in my house says something ridiculous, it is followed by "one of Whistler's, one of Whistler's" after this Monty Python sketch that made me and my partner choke laughing the first time we came across it (and every time since).

My mother-in-law's dog, a small and obese Yorkie, goes everywhere with her, including places she's not welcome, like state parks and nice restaurants, and the classic line is "well Gigi never bothers anyone" so we say that rather often too.

I had a friend who used to say "nippel" instead of "nipple," and another who used to say "intensive" when she meant "really intense" and those have both stuck. Neither of them remembers originating the uses.

I too retain a québecois accent to my increasingly theoretical knowledge of French, from living a couple of years in Montréal and taking "français fonctionnel" classes where I learned just how many syllables you can drop out of a given sentence in order to make yourself understood.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:22 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


  • So, there’s a whole vocabulary for describing cats. I’m sure I’m forgetting some terms. Black cat – Blackball; White cat – Whiteball; Dark tabby on top, white on bottom – Dillo/Dilla (short for “armadillo”); Orange tabby on top, white on bottom – Frillo/Frilla; White with dark spots – Mutant Millie; White with orange spots – Frutant Frilly; Siamese – Simonese; Calico – Cackle-o; Dilute calico - dilackle-o; Tuxedo cat – Googles; Long-haired cat – Puffball; Large central paw pad one color, outer toe pads a different color – Hoof beans; Speckled paw pads – Posey beans; Black paws with white toes – Faucet feet; Forehead blaze – Kissy spot; Orange kittens – Baby reds; Feline instinct to raise butt when petted – Bottoms-up gland; Kneading with nose buried in object being kneaded – Snorfling; Object that is often snorfled – Snorfly*; Washing butt with one leg in the air – Drumstick position; Curled up in perfect circle – Doughnut position or Doughnutting; Front paws curled when lying down – Petzelpaws; Source of feline purr – Purrbox. A pretty marmalade cat is “marmalarvelous.”
  • We use a lot of Spoonerisms: flamigno, frok, hlep, forg
  • Deliberate mispronunciations: “kuh-NIFF-ee” for “knife,” “snack” for “snake,” “musk-ull” for “muscle,” “sums of bitches” for “sons of bitches”
  • ”Pense-t-il” is French for “does he think,” but we substitute it for “pencil.”
  • Someone or something of little worth is “not worth a pinch of bug-dust.” Someone who does something they’re licensed to do very poorly “got their license off a punchboard.” We also use “not worth the paper it/he/she/they is printed on” to refer to things and people not made of paper.
  • My mother’s great-uncle Floyd was about seven feet tall, and once left a pair of very long socks behind after a visit. Generations later, we still refer to long socks as “Uncle Floyd socks.” “Uncle Floyd” can also be a modifier for any object of an unexpected length.
  • "For the Grange." Dad’s parents were very active in the Grange,” and Grandma Monster was always baking for heir functions. It became a running gag that anything that came out really nice was for the Grange, and anything that didn’t was for the family. E.g., “No, you can have one of the broken cookies; these ones are for the Grange.” So now, “for the Grange” is a general description of anything someone makes that turns out particularly well. It can also be used when asking for something, as in, “Can I have some of that candy, or is it for the Grange?” or to describe anything being saved for a non-specific special occasion ("I don't use those teacups every day; they're for the Grange.")
*There was one particular snorfly, an old, soft orange blanket, that had its own theme song to the tune of “Shoo fly, don’t bother me.”

Snorfly don’t bother me,
Snorfl-eye don’t bother I.
Snorfly don’t bother me,
S-N-O-R-F-L-Y.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:35 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Our granddaughter, like many toddlers, had trouble with Rs. One very memorable morning we had travelled across several timezones to attend an event. My partner was working, I was volunteering and ur daughter and said grandchild were vacationing/spectating.

The first morning - as I was trying to dress quietly to travel to the venue - I heard the following exchange between toddler and mother:

"Moooom I'm hungzie"
"It's too early, go back to sleep"
"But I'm hungzie!"
"Gah ok <insert assorted kitchenette noises here>
"
"Mommmm..."
"What is it now?"
"Mom maybe I'ze tizie"
I did not stick around to catch anymore. It was maybe 6:00am local, 3ish at home and this wasn't going to go well with an audience.

To this day though "Tizie" in large, "maybe I'ze tizie" in small part have stuck.
posted by mce at 9:41 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


The remote in my house growing up was the "ba-boo". My kids give me the "whatever dad" when I say where is the "ba-boo"?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:51 AM on March 28


my SIL introduced the concept of "aunt betsying" someone, which is when you take away their glass or dishes that they weren't finished using
posted by dismas at 9:59 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


"Undermapants". Which has been shortened down to just "undermas". Even though we have been saying it for years, my wife only just recently got the joke that it was "under-my-pants". Sheesh.
posted by briank at 10:22 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


At my grandmother's house the misc/junk kitchen cabinet drawer was the Noah's Ark drawer because there was two of everything in there.

"Do we have any birthday cake candles?"
"Check the Noah's Ark drawer."
posted by sevenless at 10:23 AM on March 28 [5 favorites]


Our household has a deep internal vernacular. A pretty good portion of it comes from terminology invented by my kids when they were small or referring to their behavior though plenty of our lingo has accumulated over the years for other reasons.

bao: n. bread -- not derived from the dim sum term but rather from when an early-language child asked "can I have some bao?" and was referring to bread.

hypocanoo: n. hypothesis -- someone couldn't remember the word, to which both kids were exposed at an early age.

square noodles: n. very small dried ravioli -- we still keep these on hand as quick boil-and-eat bowl of food but it's fallen out of favor over the years.

red macaroni: n. a thing I made once, with Safeway $1 macaroni, leftover tomato sauce, and a little sour cream; we were very poor at the time -- I have been asked several times to recreate this delicacy.

talker: n. voice chat, primarily referring to Discord voice chat, and excluding conference calls, bridges, video or audio meetings -- more recently coined, this term typically refers specifically to the family Discord. Usage has been observed of the term referring to other organization's Discords.

boinger: n. 1. anything vaguely spring-like or coily; 2. a protrusion that exhibits boingy physics -- the flue on the chimney has a boinger on the end of the lever, spring-based doorstops are boingers, the cat chases her boingers [AMZ link]

reader's curse: n. the phenomenon of knowing a written word and having a completely inaccurate internal notion of its pronunciation, revealed upon the first attempt to say the word aloud -- happens surprisingly often. I am subject to these as well.

shama-leon: n. any word mispronounced due to reader's curse -- kid's friend was trying to say "chameleon." The age at which this occurred would surprise you.

iiiiiiiiiiiice-cream, iiiiiiiiiiiice-cream: n. repetitive, incoherent noisemaking, possibly revealed to be language -- the child had a microphone stuffed in her mouth that was vaguely ice cream shaped.

clickum: n. a thing, typically on the ground, that you click on; chiefly an MMO term -- I played WoW with my kids for some number of years before Blizzard's toxicity, declining product quality, and stance on Hong Kong drove us away.

ground crap: n. the stuff you don't stand in; also mostly an MMO thing but can refer to real live places of not-standing-there

choot: v. (finally a verb!) 1. to move while shuffling the feet; 2. to move around in a bustle; 3. running (applies only to Animal Crossing player characters)

ninch, ninching: v. 1. to steal a tiny amount, usually of food, usually in plain view; 2. to furtively consume a small amount of food also n. a small amount of something

nincher: n. a person who ninches -- denial is the standard reaction to being questioned about being a nincher

kai chi: n. a Bluetooth to FM bridge, as used in a car -- one we have had for some time arrived set to Chinese, we do not know Chinese, and she announces her startup with a Chinese phrase that sounds to our naive ears like "kai chi". We have other such devices that do not have this feature. All are called "kai chi"

guderian: n. a deliberate mispronunciation of "guardian" that has overtaken all usage of the correct word

flat: adj. 1. tired; 2. exhausted, consumed, no longer serviceable

chun: v. 1. to dispose of; 2. to throw; 3. a sudden, singular, emphatic motion -- making a "chunnnnn" sound is not mandatory though it is exceedingly common.

you must rotate: v. 1. to exchange places; 2. to select a new location to settle, typically after already being settled -- said of cats and humans

Less terms and more references, in jokes, and notable behaviors.

"Horse elevator" refers to completely falling for any humorous lie or tall tale for a very, very long time. It was revealed a decade later that the old rattly elevator in grandma's building is not, in fact, powered by a horse. Adjacent to this term is "baby horses," because I spent over four decades of my life having no idea that ponies are not in fact baby horses. Thank you for subscribing to Horse Facts.

We've moved a lot over the years owing to -- circumstances -- and that's resulted in having identified names for various homes we've had. In chronological order:
  • Hayes
  • the dirty house -- it was not particularly dirty, though pretty old. A child referred to it as such due to their memory of it
  • the basement -- a beautifully, thoughtfully and expensively renovated two bedroom partially below-ground apartment with fantastic light both artificial and natural. It was in an 1800s mansion but felt like a penthouse.
  • the pink house -- which was actually an apartment in a pink building
  • the Sonoma house
  • [excluding this entry due to editorial bias]
  • a not yet determined descriptor for our current dwelling. I call it "Trotting Cat Manor." Nobody else has adopted the terminology.

    At the dinner table, it's common to ask where a missing family member is. Regardless of which person is not sitting down, they are inevitably in the bathroom and went in there immediately after being informed that food was being served.

    "You have to put your paw" describes when a cat extends a front leg while resting or sleeping. Similarly cat related is to "give [something] the paw-paw," which is the firm but gentle communicative batting.

    "I'm not; I didn't!" were the common refrains of children of roughly preschool age when accused of undesirable behaviors. The term is now used exclusively to deny blatantly true accusations.

    This kind of exercise goes on and on. An outsider would, in general, find most of our internal conversations at least partly incomprehensible. I have a habit of coining terms. My spouse is prone to malapropism. There have been two-plus decades of humoring -- outright buying into -- our children's attempts to explore language. Our dialect is noticeably diverging from common American English.

  • posted by majick at 10:27 AM on March 28 [6 favorites]


    "don't throw" is a response to anything mistakenly dropped, hurled, or otherwise leaving the hand.

    "lucky it fell on a piece of paper" came by way of my father, for any dropped food

    "nice!" has a specific rapid emphasis and is said almost entirely in response to negative occurrences. Loan usage from a friend.

    There's also: road n. the path someone is trying to traverse, physically or conceptually -- narrowly used when something is "in my/your road" and preventing progress.

    In the spirit of "Jack-helping" and "Nelping" we have: "Helping you!" stated when one's help has clearly made things worse.
    posted by majick at 10:43 AM on March 28 [5 favorites]


    The Breakup Bees.

    My SO and I have five little bee finger puppets. We have decided that any attempt to break up our relationship must me communicated through the bees. If one of us is really pissed off about something then we might take one or two of them down from the bookshelf they hang out on and put them in the others' space.

    This is a sign that, no, really, there is a thing going on between us that is seriously stressing the relationship and needs to be dealt with. If anything ever gets to all five bees it will mean divorce is imminent.

    This allows us to express comedic hate and annoyance with each other with no fear of it being misinterpreted; if we are serious the bees come out.

    The fact that this is an utterly absurd way to represent this is surprisingly helpful; these are cute little happy smiling plastic bees. This seems to help disconnect emotions from the problem at hand.
    posted by egypturnash at 10:48 AM on March 28 [19 favorites]


    I had a dream in which the term "Road Dull" was heard. I told my family and now they all say it when you ask how their day is going and it's low or flat energy leading to the sigh of, "Road Dull".

    One day I was lying with my head hanging off the bed while I observed everything upside down. "Watcha doing" asked my husband and I replied, "getting information". Now any slouching with head lolling is referred to as "getting information" or just "information" among all the family.

    My husband always said "hang" as a sound of agreement. Whole family adopted it. It now has various shades. "Hang" for pleasant agreement, "Ang" for an aggravated agreement, and "Wet Wang" for sorrowful agreement.

    A word we've adopted from a coworker is "Gradoo" for any funky uncleaness. Sometimes I think of it with a Frenchish spelling "Gradeaux".
    posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:00 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


    We never say 'garbage', we say 'gar-bazjh'. We've been quoting Jonathan Winters weekly since the 70s.
    posted by Capt. Renault at 11:28 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


    The remote control is the clickah, said with a Mainer accent. I was born in 84 and have never even seen a tv remote that actually clicks, but it’s still the word I think of and then I have to remember everyone else calls it a remote.

    Oh me too, yes--I had never even thought of this as a regionalism, but of course it is! I am about your age, and haven't lived in Maine since I was 18, and thus have had most of my dialectical regionalisms made clear to me by the very confused responses of people from away, but I just honestly don't talk about remotes all that much.
    posted by dizziest at 11:33 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]


    We never say 'garbage', we say 'gar-bazjh'. We've been quoting Jonathan Winters weekly since the 70s.

    We either say that or "garbiage."
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:05 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


    My wife and I both studied German in high school. I dunno why. We just did.
    Anyway...
    We didn’t retain enough to be fluent or conversational, but we did retain just enough to speak a sort of faux-pidgin-german back when our kids were little, so they wouldn’t know what mom and dad were talking about. I think we kept it up until the kids were into middle-school. Maybe high school.
    posted by Thorzdad at 12:57 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


    Bob: The name animals (two dogs, one wanna-be-dog cat) in the house assign to us. Does not apply to the 100% cat, cat, Bellamy, who a I am certain refers to the three of us as:

    Boy Prime, her well loved kitten, Kid Gyre. None shall discipline him but her (Seriously, I learned early on that I could not raise my voice to Kid Gyre for any reason -even to call him to dinner. She would rush to find the tallest thing next to me a scream in directly in my face) She will herd him to bed if she thinks he's been up too late, just like a wayward kitten. It is very funny to watch.

    Grudgingly Accepted Alternate Boy, Mr. Gyre, who will be treated as her kitten until Kid Gyre returns home, at which time Alternate Boy ceases to exist.

    That Git What Serves Food and Cleans the Litter box, Me. I can occasionally serve as couch if she feels I will be inconvenienced. She mostly does this by climbing up on my hip at o'dark thirty in the morning, if Boy Prime and Alternate Boy are away.
    posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 1:38 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


    nanging: v. the act of repeatedly whacking one item with another -- a very young child was sitting on the sidewalk with a small rock in hand, repeating "nang, nang, nang" while whacking the ground with it.

    nanging: v. to chomp on food rapidly -- said child was entreated to "nang it with your teeth" in order to encourage eating over two decades ago. Usage stuck.

    gomp gomp: int. commentary on observing gomping

    gomp: v. to consume (typically but not exclusively food) eagerly

    chut: n. the act of chooting i.e. one is "on the chut."

    zoot-poot: n. 1. (orig.) one of those weird freeway on-ramp / off-ramp combinations; 2. the act of quickly going and returning; 3. a short, convenient route -- the original freeway sense of this term has positive connotations when one is entering and then exiting the freeway. It has negative connotations when you have to do the X. Other meanings are derived.

    X: n. a weird freeway configuration (either a ramp or junction) where one is almost always forced to make gratuitously many lane changes to take the most common and obvious route

    X: adj. 1. completely used up or consumed; 2. an option that is completely discarded i.e. "We are milk X." or "The milk is X"

    critical: adj. is in low supply but not yet X

    coffee milk: n. specifically half-and-half i.e. "Coffee milk is critical."

    ice cream water: n. heavy cream, for whipping or homemade ice cream use

    parade: n. 1. to pass back and forth insistently for petting (feline usage); 2. to show off multiple things in sequence, often garments; 3. an ordeal consisting of multiple segments of activity

    the lady: n. 1. specifically Amazon's Alexa voice assistant; 2. a sort of generalized identity for any collection of digital agent features. -- you can't say her name out loud or she will bloon, so you call her "the lady."

    bloon: n. 1. specifically the sound, previously exclusive to iOS devices but now emitted by full blown computers, when hooked up to an electrical source; 2. similar attention noises that sound like "bloon"

    the pot: n. a ZFS dataset on our primary zpool which is dedicated to media storage and accessed via Plex -- i.e. "We have that in the pot." or "We should put that in the pot."

    hut: n. 1. a home base or base of operations, often a hotel room or other temporary lodgings; 2. our actual home -- The most common usage is that of "return to the hut"

    circulate: v. 1. to rotate multiple children in a sequence; 2. to perform a generally circular sequence of events that returns to its origin; 3. to rotate a child -- this is more recent coinage despite being a quarter century old activity. One "circulates" generally or "circulates [named person]."

    cove: n. 1. (orig) a nook in which one might place something; 2. a cat bed or other designated partially-enclosed cat-related space; 3. the (specifically) designated place where a particular object is to be put, if said place is partially enclosed or nook-like -- we have a lot of cat related, cat-derived or cat-adjacent language as well as a lot of more general terms that have come to be applied to cat information.

    information: n. 1. information (see usage); 2. the state of something; 3. a plan; 4. a reference to someone or something usages include: "What is the [named person] information?" "Do we know her cat status information?" "Did we get the grocery information?" "No information." "I'm trying to find the information."

    please enjoy: imp. v. an entreat to enjoy something, typically a meme, image macro, cat status information, or other still picture

    the Peach rebellion: n. an activist event that took place at a school, for which my mom's weird-looking squish-face calico cat was the mascot

    I really, seriously, could keep going. A lot.
    posted by majick at 2:05 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


    lulu: adj. 1. having lulu beliefs; 2. (of beliefs) anywhere along the spectrum from woo-woo anti-vax to Trumpist to full blown Q victim

    the waters: n. a (bathing) shower

    tesnut lik cormstore; ticklist testrgrum: n. incomprehensible gibberish -- vmisremembered exclamations from the original You Don't Know Jack CD-ROM game segment about backwards phrases.

    round hat: n. any close fitting, typically knitted, cap

    slouchy hat: n. a round hat except it isn't closely fitted

    universal sign: n. a vertical waggling of the unbent index finger used for emphasis, command, or indication -- someone giving the universal sign often either receives the response of "universal sign!" or states themselves "universal sign!". There is a specific manner of intonation to this statement.
    posted by majick at 2:19 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


    Quarters set aside for the laundromat are “laundroons.”
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:35 PM on March 28 [22 favorites]


    block: n. a very specific model of IKEA wooden stool / end table, from back when they made things of solid if inexpensive wood, that we have been repeatedly saying for about 15 years that we should have bought a bunch more of -- it's literally the best, most indestructible product IKEA has ever offered and they stopped making them a very long time ago. Typically used as a small table, infrequently as a stool or very sketchy (but solid!) step stool.

    clamper: n. 1. cooking tongs; 2. binder clips I stole from work 25 years ago as chip bag closures; 3. actual chip bag closure devices

    poking stick: n. 1. any stick used for general poking, often a chopstick; 2. a stick designated for campfire poking; 3. (only while dislodging a cat from under the bed) a dowel typically used as a sliding window bar

    I could literally write a decent sized dictionary out of my household language. In fact, it seems I'm subjecting you all to it.
    posted by majick at 2:38 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


    For no particular reason, we've started using axcanah (roughly "ash-KEN-ah") from Nahuatl to mean "that's not true" in sentences in all languages, even when talking about driving directions in English.

    As a kid, I learned from my mentor to call a bent tip scriber a "left handed frog stabber." I've now taught it to a generation of students. (I'm also trying to convince them all to use curly-pi for projected angles, but there is some resistance to that. I know there are least four people in the world who do it, probably all because we took a class from the same instructor at a formative age.)
    posted by eotvos at 4:05 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]


    Astronomers use curly-pi for the argument of the periapse of the orbit. It's my fav Greek letter. Sometimes we call it omega-twiddle.

    My Physics 101 students are allowed, for the duration of that semester only, and never in earshot of another faculty member, to call omega "fancy w." Likewise, they may refer to tau as "fancy t." Alpha may be referred to as "fishie." I find this less irritating that them just calling them a, t, and w. In Physics 102 they must learn and use the real names.

    In my family and our house, a remote control is a troller. My sister's elementary-school friend's little brother called it that, and it's just a good word.
    posted by BrashTech at 5:17 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


    ghostbust, verb (transitive). Go back to something you used to share with someone with whom you’ve since fallen out, for the purpose of attaching new, improved memories to it.

    Examples:

    I need to ghostbust this album on our upcoming road trip because it reminds me of my ex-boyfriend

    Ooh, brunch sounds good! I’ve been avoiding that place because I used to go there with my now-estranged relative, but maybe it’s time to ghostbust it!

    Does anyone want to come with me to Toronto this summer? I need to ghostbust all my memories of my backstabbing ex-friend I went with last time

    posted by armeowda at 7:12 PM on March 28 [9 favorites]


    Deep Breakfast. adj. Derived from the Ray Lynch album of the same name, it describes anything that is new-age adjacent and/or quietly psychedelic. PBS fonts circa 1989 are deep breakfast. Planetarium shows are often deep breakfast. The water show inside Enchanted Forest is deep breakfast (the rest of the Enchanted Forest is not deep breakfast). Broadband filtering of hubble images; very deep breakfast.

    Hippy Bowl. n. Any bowl of stuff that is primarily a grain, that does not already have a name. Rarely applied to dishes containing white rice for some unknown reason. Grilled veggies on top of polenta served hot; hippy bowl. Cold veggies and feta mixed in with quinoa served cold; hippy bowl.

    Fancy Water. n. Carbonated water, in a quart mason jar, with large ice cubes, lime (garnish and juice) with a straw.
    posted by furnace.heart at 9:16 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


    “Ghostbust” is a great word and an even better concept.
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:03 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


    In our house, in upstate ny, it was the “station selector”. This predates remotes (but also applies to them), back to the days where the cable company set you up with the corded box that had 15 buttons and the triwheel to make 45 unique channels. At least you could always find that thing by following the cord.
    posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:43 PM on March 28

    Alpha may be referred to as "fishie."
    I love it. I might steal it. In my second week of college, I was desperately trying to figure out what the hell the hand-written Greek letters on the board that I'd never seen before actually were. Somehow, I decided that nu was upsilon and zeta was sigma, and I spent a whole semester confusing the hell out of everyone else. I now spend ten minutes writing and naming symbols at the start of every non-majors undergrad class. There are still three or four students who call nu v, but at least I tried. (To be fair, the audio version of a book I assign makes the same mistake. The reader can pronounce eight languages far better than me, but can't seem to recognize that a letter in an equation isn't Roman.)
    posted by eotvos at 10:49 PM on March 28


    We never say 'garbage', we say 'gar-bazjh'. We've been quoting Jonathan Winters weekly since the 70s.

    We either say that or "garbiage."


    We say garba, after a trashcan with a (presumably) missapplied stencil encountered on a summer morning by the harbor in Tel Aviv.
    posted by each day we work at 1:55 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


    On parting for a time: Ilydyfi (the 'and' is silent).

    See you after the movie
    Ilydyfi!
    posted by Thella at 3:08 AM on March 29


    Food meant to be eaten in a parked car is “S.A. food.” As in, “We’ll just stop at Tops and grab some S.A. subs.” “I don’t want to make myself presentable; let’s go through the Dunkin drive-through and get S.A. breakfast.” “Bring the baloney and bread and we’ll have an S.A. picnic.”

    “S.A.” stands for “Sick Asshole.” When I was about five, the family was eating dinner in the car in the McDonald’s parking lot. Another car pulled up next to us and started doing the same. Dad said, “Good to know we’re not the only sick assholes eating in the parking lot.”
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:20 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


    Deep Breakfast

    Aw, yeah. My husband and I recently rediscovered that album (it was big around here back in the day, because Ray was sort of a local boy, I think?).

    And now we must adopt this use of the title. It’s perfect! Thank you for this.
    posted by armeowda at 7:35 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]


    One of my favorite recent acquisitions in this category is "DCHB dinner." It is an acronym for Decent Civilized Human Beings and it's what his mother used to say to his siblings when she insisted they sit down at a table together to eat dinner from plates while not watching TV.
    posted by Miko at 8:24 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


    Most of the time, my family of origin ate their dinners at the dinner table with placemats and everything, but now that it's just my mom and dad, they occasionally indulge in dinner in front of the TV in the living room. At some point, my dad started to ask whether the latter was happening by saying "are we eating off our plates?" (as in, plates not on the table but in hands or on laps)--but my mother, quite rightly, realized that they're eating off their plates no matter where they do it, so her wise-ass response became, "no, we're eating off a stick!"

    This phrase eventually mutated into "on the stick" as the preferred term for informal dining, and that eventually transferred to my wife and me as well. We now ask each other quite often if we're eating on the stick.
    posted by dlugoczaj at 9:20 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


    Oh, how funny. I posted the above before realizing that Miko had immediately preceded me with their family's term for the exact opposite of my term. Good timing!
    posted by dlugoczaj at 9:22 AM on March 29


    Sorry I couldn't read them all before posting. Some I read are very cute.

    A long time ago my 4-year-old daughter noticed that I basically do the same thing at a computer and at the piano. So she called the piano the "compiano" and then we all started it.
    posted by hypnogogue at 11:05 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


    cronch: the crunchy cat food
    cronchies: the other crunchy cat food that one cat likes
    humaine: human, from a Tumblr called 'cat suggest', which is ostensibly written by a cat
    humaine cronch: a specific brand of lentil chips (i.e. a very tasty snack for humans)
    posted by PercussivePaul at 11:54 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


    The remote for my mechanical bed is called the sitter upper. The hand-held wooden back massager is the fuzzy grumper.
    posted by manageyourexpectations at 2:05 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


    in 2020 my sister was attempting to organize a family zoom call and referred to my mom as "the cracker". we are white. I was like "wahhhhhhh???"

    but its pretty cute. when my niece was little she called her grandma "Graham Cracker" awwww. obvs shortened to 'the cracker' oh my...
    posted by supermedusa at 2:42 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


    zoop-a-doop: v., to hurry up
    I zooped my doops
    You need to zoop all your doops
    Zoop-a-doop so you don’t get rained on!
    posted by Night_owl at 3:37 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


    That kitchen tool that cuts the core out of the apple while cutting the rest of the apple into wedges is called the "apple thinger."
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:33 PM on March 29


    My extremely Irish-American-and-not-at-all-French mother never quite got over her study abroad in France/wanted to preserve her fluency in the French language, so I grew up in a quasi-Francophone household. I never learned to speak much of it, but I understand a fair amount. Especially when it is issued in the imperative! I still say "jolie cauchemars" sometimes before bed.

    My dad's invented/repurposed word for poop was "shabbadoo." So that's what I grew up referring to my bowel movements as (and I'm sure you can imagine very young me encountered a few charming misunderstandings due to this). I'm sure we had a few others, but that's the one I remember most.
    posted by Eideteker at 8:41 AM on March 30


    My father was changing my diaper and said: Pee yew! I mimicked: Bee boo! So in my family BMs were "bee-boo", shortened to "beeb." I had trouble for a long time with that nickname for the BBC.

    My brother called eye sand "sleepy mans," and I still do.

    From a long ago restaurant job, cooking tongs are "clippers." That confuses people.

    My feet are "scooters" or "mah scoots," which sounds like there was some logic behind it, but I've lost the origin story.
    posted by jaruwaan at 10:30 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


    We usually have the non-driver adult interpret Google Maps when it's speaking directions when driving. Often additional detail is needed, and the role (and/or SatNav itself) earned the name Gwen after Gwen Madison in Galaxy Quest: "Look, I have one job on this lousy ship, it's stupid, but I'm gonna do it! Okay?"
    posted by k3ninho at 11:52 AM on March 30 [6 favorites]


    I'm still waiting for a Majel Barrett GPS voice. (Unless there is one and I don't know about it.) There must be enough clean recorded audio to build any set of phonemes. I can't possibly be worse than what my phone does now. "Merge onto North South Geen Bah-tist Pont-ey du Sable-ey South Lake Shore Drive." I also don't understand how a company located in San José with floors of people whose job is machine translation can't write a filter to identify Spanish names. </rant>
    posted by eotvos at 1:47 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


    My family always referred to metal tape measures as "zoot-zoots" because of the sound they make. This was eagerly picked up by my partner, and thus they're zoot-zoots in our house. Partner has not picked up "flipperdoodle" for remote control, alas, another family-ism from my side.
    posted by telophase at 3:27 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


    I forgot one of my favorite family Spoonerisms: root beer is “boot rear.”
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:20 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


    I’d tell you how my dad spoonerized “popcorn” once while my husband was making some, but it would give you the wrong idea about what both of them are into…as far as I know, anyway.
    posted by armeowda at 11:07 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]


    "Bienza" or "a-bienza" is a joke word that is always said in an exaggerated Italian accent. It means either "beans" or "good." User's choice.

    Spaghetti di capo di cazzo is the fake name of a pasta dish that my partner thought of once. He is still giggling about it.

    "You can't shut people up with flies" is a thing I said once, which misappropriates the phrase "you get more flies with honey than vinegar." I was trying to say something like "if you want someone to do something you might have to offer them a carrot rather than a stick," but instead I said "you can't shut people up with flies," and my partner started crying laughing at the image of someone running around a room trying to slap fistfuls of flies into people's mouths to get them to be quiet.

    "A guy" is any animal. "You got any good guys today?" means "Please show me some good animal photos you saw on the internet."

    You can name a cat Kitty all you want, but you are still going to call her Funny Banana.

    Rebecca is the printer, but she is discussed as if she's a person.

    And on a point of etiquette, the appropriate response to hearing someone fart is to say, "Huh? Did you say something? No? I could have sworn you said something." We have been making this joke for 15 years.
    posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:30 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]


    Rebecca is the printer, but she is discussed as if she's a person.

    At one job I became the default copier/printer whisperer, probably because I used it more than most people. One time somebody said to me, “Every time I come in here, you’re kneeling on the floor next to the copier, with your arm stuck inside it like a vet with a cow.” So I petted the copier’s flank with my other hand and murmured, “Woah, ol’ Bessie.” From then on, the copier was called Ol’ Bessie.
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:47 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]


    We never say 'garbage', we say 'gar-bazjh'. We've been quoting Jonathan Winters weekly since the 70s.

    We either say that or "garbiage."

    We say garba, after a trashcan with a (presumably) missapplied stencil encountered on a summer morning by the harbor in Tel Aviv.


    We say “grabbage” and I try to make up a new term for trash night each week. “Der Abfel Nacht..” etc.
    posted by Riverine at 6:08 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


    These are great!

    We make three boop noises in ascending tone, sometimes with a finger spin to mean “skip the ads” or “skip the recap” for audio or video content. This comes from the original TiVo which had three fast forward speeds.
    posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:46 PM on March 31


    At least a decade ago my wife and I coined the word “binkled” as a mash-up of “bent” and “wrinkled”. Usually used to describe one’s own condition, not the condition of clothing. As in “I slept funny and now my neck is all binkled up”.

    Our son loved rice, was suspicious of couscous the first time we gave him some, so we called it “pasta rice” and he devoured it. He’s nearly 13 now and we still call it pasta rice.

    “Catted” means “to be indisposed due to a cat sitting on you”. As in “I’d get up to help but I am being catted on”.
    posted by caution live frogs at 5:26 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


    We say “grabbage” and I try to make up a new term for trash night each week. “Der Abfel Nacht..” etc.

    We always call the night before garbage day "Garbage Eve."
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:40 AM on April 5 [3 favorites]


    In our house, a person's body fat is affectionately referred to as "húsika" (HOO-she-kah). That's sort of from Hungarian, but not really. "Hús" means "meat." Adding that suffix makes it mean "little meat." This is not a thing Hungarians say. But we do.

    My spouse's late father was convinced he could speak and spell English and many of his misspellings and malapropisms are still in family use. "Happy Now Jar" for instance, was his Hungarian attempt to spell "Happy New Year" and we cheerfully pronounce it in English and use it as a salutation as the calendar changes over. we've been doing this so long, we forget it's an in-joke.

    We also refer to the state where my mother lives as "Centuci." That was his Hungarian attempt to spell Kentucky. We noticed that looks like a Romanian place name and pronounced it that way (chen-TOOCH) and now that's what we call the bluegrass state.

    I could go on, but I guess the point is we butcher as many as three languages to get our goofy family in-jokes and they are straight-up gibberish to outsiders.
    posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:52 AM on April 7 [3 favorites]


    Also, I just want to say that I am very grateful for these semi-regular goofball MeTa threads, as well as the site updates, because they have changed how I view the tone of MetaTalk from the days when it felt like it was strictly the place we went for call-outs and in-fighting. It's nicer here these days.
    posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:57 AM on April 7 [2 favorites]


    I don't really know why this happened, there is no logic to it, but one evening my partner referred to my phone as a "dooper" and that term has just stuck. "Dooper" describes the phone as a time-suck and time-waster. The verb form "dooping" refers to wasting time on your phone or ignoring people you're with. Sometimes a tablet or laptop might be referred to as a "big-dooper" or "medium-dooper."
    posted by brookeb at 7:26 AM on April 9


    Growing up with Canadian parents, we used the expression "camasa-VAH" to refer to our bottoms, as in "hey, move your camasa-VAH over so I can fit on the couch!"). Years later, I realized that this was the way to say "how are you?" in French (comment ca va?). I still use it :)
    posted by crepeMyrtle at 2:59 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


    "no, we're eating off a stick!"

    When food decisions are being made and uncertainty is a factor one option put forth is frequently "cat on a stick."

    Our son loved rice, was suspicious of couscous the first time we gave him some, so we called it “pasta rice” and he devoured it. He’s nearly 13 now and we still call it pasta rice.

    I have a child, now an adult, who does not in any way whatsoever like couscous, despite adoring the general category of pasta-like foods. This child discovered about a month ago that "ball noodles" are in fact Israeli (pearl) couscous. This prompted a Discussion once the outrage subsided.

    “Catted” means “to be indisposed due to a cat sitting on you”. As in “I’d get up to help but I am being catted on”.

    Our term for this is "I have a cat" but I kind of like yours better, considering that all activity of my cat is called "catting," as that's her chief responsibility here.

    how my dad spoonerized “popcorn”

    My way of saying this word is a little more safe for company: "pock-orn"

    A long time ago my 4-year-old daughter noticed that I basically do the same thing at a computer and at the piano.

    At about the age of three, my daughter wanted to know what I did when I was at work or hiding in my home office. We discussed this and decided the answer was "ABCs." I do ABCs for a living.
    posted by majick at 6:00 PM on April 23


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