I think that every family has a unique vocabulary; that is, words and phrases that are singularly that family’s own language. In my family we had many. Each family knows not only the meaning of the words and phrases, but also who brought it into the family language.
Sometimes we adopt other people’s language bits into our own. If we travel and hear a funny or interesting phrase, we like it so much that we adopt it.
When I lived in Texas, I heard these gems (which, by the way, I’ve embraced into my own family language):
- “It’s fittin’ to rain/it’s fixin’ to rain.” Translation: “We’re gonna get some rain.”
- “That dog won’t hunt.” Translation: “What you just said won’t work in this situation.”
- “I might could.” Translation: “I may go (to the store, mall, downtown, etc.)”
- “Do whut?” Translation: “What on earth do you mean?”
- “Happier n’ a possum in a cow plop.” Translation: “I’m really, REALLY happy.”
A lot of our family language comes from–you guessed it; family. For example, when anyone asked my uncle how he was doing in general, he answered: “Oh, I’m rattling around like a bead in a bureau drawer.” My late mother-in-law, Hazel, when asked what was for dinner, would often say: “*hundzfurt und flagel.” Translation: “We’re having a light supper; i.e., soup and sandwiches.”
I was an only child, and my mom and dad and I had our own unique words as well:
- “Sirk” Translation: syrup
- “Fiddies” Translation: slippers
- “boody cat” Translation: sweet kitty
- “Flopicize” Translation: all-purpose word meaning to fix something
- “Good God, Amos, get up! The** cat’s broke all the dishes!” Translation: “Good grief, what the heck was that noise?”
Then there are some regional words and phrases you just grow up with, such as:
- “My car just sh*t the bed.” Translation: My car just died.
- “I’m busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.” Translation: “I’m REALLY busy.”
Then there are the words and phrases you pick up from the movies and TV. Remember the 1998 movie, “Patch Adams,” starring Robin Williams? Here are some of the famous quotes on death and dying:
“Death. To die. To expire. To pass on. To perish. To peg out. To push up daisies. To push up posies. To become extinct. Curtains, deceased, demised, departed and defunct. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a herring. Dead as a mutton. The last breath. Paying a debt to nature. The big sleep. God’s way of saying, ‘Slow down.'”
“To check out.”
“To shuffle off this mortal coil.”
“To head for the happy hunting ground.”
“To find oneself without breath.”
“To be the incredible decaying man.”
“Kick the bucket.”
“Buy the farm.”
“Cash in your chips.”
In closing, take the time to write down or at least notice your own family vocabulary. It can become a dear memory, and give you a giggle to think of all your amazing and funny family factoids.
*German for “dog farts and feathers.”
**This really was an actual phrase from my family. Our early ancestors, Amos and Margaret, were sound asleep in bed. Over their heads was a carved shelf Amos had made for his wife one Christmas. All of her treasured wedding dishes and doo-dads were on it. Evidently, their cat decided to jump up to investigate, causing a shower of broken dishes down on poor Margaret’s head!