Words that make families happy
Having your own secret family language is one of the fun things about family life.
(Tammy Gardner)
Every family develops its own vocabulary; a secret lexicon bringing joy for no reason on the back of very little actual humour, for generations. I don’t know why we all don’t just leave the language as it was meant to be spoken, but I am very glad we don’t... because it is one of my favourite bits of family life.

My parents, brothers and I, for example, call a specific type of take-out pizza:  the ‘one with extra nose squeakers’. I have no idea why; it maybe because of the peppadews or because it’s a little more expensive.  But I do know we chuckle every time we order it. We also say “Cherrio folks!” every time someone orders a steak, because it’s what my late grandmother used to say and it stuck.

I know this is not peculiar to my family. My twitter friend Gus Silber recently shared that he and his daughter have hit upon the deliciousness of the word ‘swag’. They yell it out randomly, by all accounts, and it gives them much satisfaction.

(Being particularly delighted by the word swag myself - so plummy and inextricably associated with that perennial corker ‘swashbuckle’ – I tried to get this practice to catch on in my own family, but alas. It appears family verbal quirks can’t be transplanted.)

The Silber Swag reminds me of another of own family’s word quirks, in that it rhymes. My boys and I often say ‘blag’, consciously mispronouncing blog and tipping a cap to the xkcd cartoonists, who started that joke.

Sound silly? It is. “Have you read my blag? No? You should link to it from your wobsite.”  Have I ever mentioned how much I adore silly?

Unfortunately once you find a more fun way of pronouncing a word, it’s very hard to go back. I now say ronts instead of rands for example, and Canadia instead of Canada.  I once heard someone lean over to my older brother and whisper, “Oh how embarrassing for you. You don’t say fox pax; faux pas is pronounced fou paah.” Naturally, we continue to fox pax with relish at every opportunity.

When not deliberately mispronouncing words, we are often adding ‘em in others.

“Do you want to go to the shops with me?” I’ll ask my son, Benj.

“Absofruitly,” he’ll reply. And, unfailingly, we’ll both smile.

The of course, there are family movie words. Ever seen The Castle? If not you must, it is a real corker of an Australian classic. If you have seen it, no doubt the phrases “aah, the serenity” and “this is going straight to the pool room” feature in your family lexicons too. And I am sure many of your homes have also embraced bon mots (nope, just pronounced bon mots) from the legendary shows of Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and Eddie Izzard.

And then there’s just the making up of words altogether. Actually, that’s over-stating it a bit; I mean more just making pleasing noises at each other. Like when Andreas sees Benj, breaks into a soft smile and says, “Hello my Schneegle Feegle Beagle!”

“Hello my Daddy Paddy Faddy!” Benj will say back, triggering off a whole huggable chat trip. (Don’t judge. It’s a hard father who looks at his tousled offspring and doesn’t go up an octave into gibberish.)

Why do we do all this? I really have no idea, but I do know that it’s one of the weird bits of family life that amuse me the most. Which is why I wrote a whole colombe about it.

Does your family have their own language?

Read more by Sam Wilson

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