Monday, November 26, 2007

Family Words

I've been leafing through a book I just got from the library called Family Words: The Dictionary for People Who Don't Know a Frone from a Brinkle by Paul Dickson. Here's a list of my favorites. Thinking about made-up words reminds me of one of Frindle by Andrew Clements. Last time I read that, I think it took me three hours. It's a fast read, and so fun.

I laughed really hard at a lot of these. I've got to start using some of these words!

  • Air-raid: One family uses this as a code word warning of an attack of what air-raid suggests when spelled backwards.
  • Amn't: Contraction of am + not. Cynthia MacGregor of New York City says that she has been using it since childhood. She has also been complaining that it is not an acceptable English word, which, of course, it should be.
  • Applaudience: An audience that has come to applaud: specifically, those composed of parents and grandparents at children's piano and dance recitals. Presumably the term was created to reassure a child who is nervouc about "all those people" who would be at his recital.
  • Barkative: The creation of a ten-year old in the Mende family in Ontario. It is a perfectly logical term for dogs that bark a lot.
  • Chik-chik: Cutting finger and toenails, as in, "Here, let Mommy chik-chik your nails."
  • Crinkles: Popcorn hulls that stick in your teeth.
  • Eardo: Condition of a dog's floppy ear when it is flipped backwards.
  • Fant: To act like an infant. "Stop fanting" would be a proper admonition to a seventeen-year-old behaving immaturely.
  • Flibble: To jiggle a loose button or tooth with one's finger.
  • Flimp: Feeling one gets from being up all night with a child or children. It is a different feeling from, say, staying up all night figuring out one's taxes.
  • Flustrated: Combination of flustered and frustrated.
  • Forgetabilia: The opposite of memorabilia.
  • Frabble: Audible flatulence.
  • Fraintance: State midway between an acquaintance, whom you have only met once or twice, and a true friend, whom you feel close to and would do anything for.
  • Frankenstart: Blend of Frankenstein + start. Reported and defined by Renee Charles of Green Bay, Wisconsin: "To being a job you know you don't have time to do right (thus wasting time, energy and sometimes money on a worthless project) but yet you do it anyway."
  • Frup: A contraction for "throw up," used when you are too sick to utter both syllables.
  • Gasnoids: Word used to interrogate suspects when a toilet has not been flushed, "Did you leave gasnoids?"
  • Ghost Poo: White, styrofoam packing pieces.
  • Gluebottom: A visitor who won't go away.
  • Griefcase: Child's name for the briefcase in which his father, a professor, brought home his bluebooks for grading. The boy is now a lawyer and has a griefcase of his own.
  • Handibles: Those things that are too big to go into the dishwasher and must be done by hand.
  • Hunna: That wet spot on the pillow case you discover upon waking that proves you've been drooling in your sleep.
  • Krunk: A person who cannot be pleased -- "un-appeasable." " I tried to deal with him, but suddenly realized he was a krunk."
  • Larp: To be blinded by light, as when the lights are turned on in a dark room or a flash bulb is exploded unexpectedly. Created by two English teachers attempting to get a word to fit a common situation. "I was almost asleep when she larped me."
  • Niblings: Nieces and nephews collectively; siblings once removed.
  • Puckles: Marks left on the skin by an elastic waistband.
  • Snack Pockets: Side fat; "love handles."
  • Uffish: Blend of uppish + selfish. An oddity in that it is a family word from a novel discovered by Allen Walker Read. Compton Mackenzie's 1926 novel Fairy Gold is about a family living an isolated life on a small island off the coast of Cornwall. The children use a number of blends in talking with each other, including uffish, glumpy (gloomy + grumpy), and sloach (slow + coach). Charles F. Dery points out that uffish appears in Lewis Caroll's Jabberwocky. The title character is described "as in uffish thought."
  • Uglies: Homework. This evolved from homework, to homely work, to the aptly disdainful, uglies.
  • XYZ: (My notes: We all know what this one means but I'm including it because here's something else interesting about it) In the summer of 1986 a "Dear Abby" column was devoted to letters on X.Y.Z. and affiliated family codes. One of the most interested was contained in a letter from Denise Biggins of Fairport, New York, who said, in part, "I'm an immigrant from the 'old country' and was brought up on Shakespeare. In our family, we'd say, 'Ah, woe is me' -- the rest of the phrase, 'for I am undone,' was of course, unnecessary." (Bonus: Can you name the play that comes from?)

Here are some words we've used growing up in my family:
  • Bernard: Code for "I love you". I can't even remember the entire story behind this one, but my brother started it.
  • Chooties: The clumps of spaghetti that are produced when you forget to stir your noodles while cooking.
  • Tinkies: The hair around your ears that is shorter than the rest of your hair and never stays in place.
  • Wonky: Weird, messed up, stupid.

Family Words mentioned another book that I think I'll go look up. 12,000 Words by Merriam-Webster. It's a supplement to their normal dictionary and lists and defines the words that "have become firmly established in the language" in the 26 years previous to 1986. Maybe there's a newer version by now. They published 6,000 Words in 1976 and 9,000 Words in 1983.

What family words do you use?


  1. Creative Catharsis said...
    Chewdees. (I'm blushing in slight embarrassment/pride that I'm responsible for two of our family words. Granted, "tinkies" was created when I was only 4. And chewdees, well, I was 7. But it's so fitting!) I think that Bernard was our code because the boys wanted a more manly way to say I love you. So, on that note, Bernard. Pass it on.
    Lisa said...
    My best friend and I would go into "retired mode" which was a mixture of retarded and tired. We have many terms of endearment in my house, such as joob, keeb, and koob. Don't even ask.
    Abby Hanson said...
    Pretty please Lisa? Now I'm totally intrigued!
    Crystal said...
    I don't know if this is specific to our family, but we use the term Hangry often. It's a mixture of Hungry and Angry--a bad combination!!
    Abby Hanson said...
    I've never heard HANGRY before, I think that's a great one! That's how I felt this afternoon....
    Anonymous said...
    I can't currently think of any "family words" we had, but I have to say, I'm a big fan of flimp and niblings from your list - probably because I've got a reason to feel flimp right now while Aurora wakes up way too many times a night to feed and my parents house will be filled with my niblings in less than a month. That's a fun list Abby.

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