Perhaps every family has their own “family speak;” I know that we did. For example, when I was in a high chair eating a pancake, my mother told me that I banged on the tray hollering for “sirk! SIRK!!”

“What do you want?” she asked me. “What is ‘sirk’?”

Then she realized that I meant ‘syrup.’ So ‘sirk’ became our family word for syrup. As I got older, whenever I saw Mom or Dad doing something and then finishing it, I asked was the project ‘flopicized’ yet. In my lingo, that meant ‘finished.’

We also called “tonic” (New Englandese for ‘soda’ or ‘soft drink’) “tonit.” When the day was cloudy and raw, my dad called it a “lowrey” day.

When I married the Crankee Yankee, his delightful mother, Hazel, who grew up in a German-speaking home, introduced me to some of her family’s favorite words, such as:

  • “Schtumph” – to push something or someone over. Example: “Hazel, Dougie just schtumphed the baby [Doug’s younger brother, David] over!”
  • “Cravis haben” or “haben rovis” was an all-purpose noun for anything; pots, pans, clothes, shoes, dishes, etc. Example: “Will you please put the cravis haben in the cupboard?”
  • “Hux around” meant ‘hang around.’ Example: “I’ll just hux around the house today.”

Not only do I love hearing about different words that families use; I love words—period. There are some words that just sing to me; some of my favorites, off the top of my head are:

  • “zaftig” – soft, round, pleasing
  • “hyrax” – shrew mouse
  • “feckless” – weak or ineffective
  • “peckish” – hungry
  • “gravitas” – a very serious manner
  • “entymologist” – one who studies insects

Funny story about entymology vs. etymology; Mom (who also loved and appreciated words) once told me that she often forgot which was which. I told her  to remember the “ents” (ants) so that she would remember that entymology is the study of insects. That still makes me laugh.

And then there are the words you can play in a good game of Scrabble. Oh, the exquisite joy of spelling out a word like “quinoa” with the “q” on a triple letter square! Or, better yet, getting a “bingo” (using all seven letters on your rack) AND beginning or ending with one letter on the “triple word” square! A bingo means you get an extra 50 points, so that can be a real game-changer.

My love of words has brought me singular joy all my life. I am lucky to have come from a reading family, even though Mom and I were definitely reading for pleasure. Dad read for information. Funnily enough, so does the Cranky Yankee.

So whether or not you call it “sirk” or “syrup,” you know that it’s that delicious maple-y stuff you pour on your pancakes. After all, what’s in a name?


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