I found myself assuming today that all families have family words. Words that they have made up that others don’t understand. Words that bond and are part of the family culture.
For example, Great Grandma, who was very hospitable, used FHB as a code to her children when too many people presented themselves at tea time for the amount of food available – it meant Family Hold Back. If she said FHB, the family had to pretend to be full or only ask for a very small portion.
The latest two generations have coined a word ‘beeby’ – a way to say ‘not very nice’. It’s impossible to convey the exact meaning. Imagine hearing ‘it was a bit beeby’, delivered seriously, followed by a nose crinkle and a tiny head shake. That’s the best I can do.
We still call our treasured, hand-knitted quilts ‘kings’: Mama made individual ones for my sister and me. We used to put them on our shoulders, parade about and pretend to be kings and queens. I just have to try to remember that when I observe ‘oh look, what a wonderful king!’ and point to a handmade quilt, people outside the family might think me a bit strange.
Another family word that has got me in trouble that way more times than I care to remember is ‘hoccabo’. I’m not going to tell you what that means – if you want to know, you’ll have to guess correctly. It’s not rude, but if I’m caught saying it and questioned, I always blush – and when one arrived for me at work a few years ago and the parcel was helpfully opened by another member of the team, I was roundly teased.
So am I right? Do all families make up their own words? If you have your own family words, what are they and do you still use them?