Family words

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?

17 Replies to “Family words”

  1. It was really funny
    Living in a joint family has produced many such words and phrases in my family.
    Like me and my sister say ‘you chomp chomp this’ temping to eat something. I have read this in a book and it became part of our life.
    I call my bua(father’s sister) , genda (rhinosorus) because she is fast.
    They’re are many more.
    This was a good observation on your behalf. May new I should write my next post on my family name.
    Thanks for the idea

  2. My cousins’ always called our grandad “wang” and my uncle always called me ennael, my sisters narek and naj which is basically our names spelt backward.

    1. I found myself wondering if your cousins used the same code as your uncle but that would be ‘gnaw’ so I guess not!

  3. I can’t think of any words we use, though I’m sure there are lots. The thing that stands out most is my ability to create silly names for people, and for some silly reason they catch on. I now have 3 big sisters called, Barbara, Rajzijzi and Pippin. My dad is called Daddy Angie. Don’t ask why? And trust me, all their real names are miles away from these ones!

    1. That’s so funny. My sweetheart has just asked why I didn’t include ‘manky’ – he says he’s only ever heard the Rushton girls saying that. I had to confess that’s not a family word, just regional slang!

      1. We use manky too! The ultimate regional word debate is: bread roll/cob/batch/barn cake?We say batch here 😀 mmmm… I could do with a sausage batch and a cup of time right now!

  4. Such a cute story you have told. I totally understand made up words. We had them when I was growing up but I have coined them for many situations with family and with past co-workers.
    I have so many and some I would not share as these words are totally mine and I would never ever want anyone else to use them. HA HA HA HA
    But you did bring me joy today and that’s no “schmutkey!”
    😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

    1. I understand you treasuring family words – there’s something special about them. But it’s a pity there isn’t some way of recording and sharing more family words – schmutkey seems like a great addition to the language.

      1. Here’s another for ya… HA HA HA
        Peduba! I used that when I worked in the college cafeteria when going to school. It was not a happy word.
        Here’s a happy one … “Well, yips-kips!” Short for Yippee! Don’t ask me how or why? Many people call them “Nancyisms!”
        Giggling thinking of all these.

  5. I was having a chat with my step sister about this kind of thing last night. How amongst our families we have words and in-jokes that have taken on their own meanings over time, and how it’s almost like we have our own language sometimes. This is a great post and I may have to borrow the idea at some point (:

  6. Wonderful slice of life piece. Our made up words usually have their origins in small children mispronouncing them and the adults adopting it.

    1. Yes, I think ours are pretty much the same, though I’m told I used to call flowers ‘way gums’ but that never caught on!

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