I expect that every tribe over the years develops a few useful words or phrases that make up its unique lexicon. Here are a few from my tribe that you, too, may find useful.
GMAZEL – an extra stop or errand. This recalls our friend LeRoy Gmazel and the winter day he drove us to the ski slopes. On the way, he made not one, not two, but three side trips: picking up skis, dropping off a bag of potatoes, returning a friend’s chainsaw. Thus in our family when you ask for an extra stop along the way, you request a gmazel.
WOLVERINE! – the opposite of crying wolf. Wolverines are serious, fierce animals. When you call “wolverine,” you really mean it. A family member will rush to your aid. Especially useful if the tp has run out.
MIMI HAIR – hair that sticks up in every direction. My friend Emilee Birrell’s childhood doll Mimi had the most unmanageable of unmanageable hair. Emilee’s mom bought Mimi a new wig– and still the wild hair persists. (Thanks for the photo, Em.)
“IS THERE A DAY YOU DON’T DISAPPOINT ME?” – a smart alec phrase used to get family members moving. We encountered this one on the Greek island of Kea. The innkeeper came by early one morning with maps and advice and helped us plan out the day’s hike. Two hours later, we were still sitting on the porch when he strolled by again. He called to us, “Is there a day you don’t disappoint me?”
When you are creating the world of a story, you may find that words and phrases particular to that world begin to emerge. In my own Zelda and Ivy stories, the sisters “punch paws” in solidarity, “woozy-weasel promise” to seal a deal, and “doozy up their tails.” These turns of phrase are part of their fox-tribal lexicon.
Now it’s your turn. What words and phrases are unique to your tribe?
Thanks for posting this, Laura. You have me thinking about my characters and possible phrases they might use to reflect their world. On a personal note, my husband and I recently added a new phrase to our dialogue. When someone gets “Romney-ed” they have an experience equivalent to being strapped to the top of a care while they’re sick. In other words, you never want to get Romney-ed :-}
Oops! Make that strapped on top of a CAR. :-}
One of my mom’s favorite expressions was–“not even vaguely threatened.” The rest of that phrase (which she didn’t actually add) was “with intelligence.” It was as close as she could come to saying someone wasn’t particularly bright.
Excellent entry. Makes me want to gmazel at this very moment! there’s never a day when this blogger disappoints!!
Thanks, Laura! I’ve gotten gmazeled myself a few times!
My mom and dad grew up in a small town where taking care of your house and the yard around it was the rule, but one neighbor down the block left cars rusting on the lawn, piles of old tires balanced against the fence, lots of tin cans and animal feces and cast-off furniture scattered around. The family’s last name was “Swaggart,” so in my family, you were called “a swaggart” if you left your bed unmade or toys out. I still feel like it should be a word in the dictionary – for me, the word and its emotional content are so closely interwoven, and conjure up such disgust, they almost have an onomatopoetic quality.
Not quite the same, but similar: My father’s mother was from North Dakota (originally from Norway) and always used the phrase “that there” – as in “That there television is on the blink.” Now I know the phrase is not personal just to our family, but she’s the only person I knew who said it. My other grandmother used the word “skookum” a lot to indicate that something was well made, done right, built to last. I since have learned that the origin of the word is the Chinook language; but I’m always startled when I hear someone say it – I thought it was just hers.
Really enjoyed your entry today. I have rather boisterous cowlicks in my hair. When they are acting out, my daughter says in code, “Mom, you have a quail”, and I know I need to pat down my hair.
O this is fun to think about. In my story about talking butterflies, I have words for them loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem. So they cry “Taloo, Talay!” when they fly into battle. And the transparent spots on their wings where the colored scales have fallen off are called saboos. But their word for the color they can see but humans can’t is taken from my father’s story about there being a color that made you feel beyond wonderful if you could see it: zelp!
When someone is late to arrive ,we say they are on Kvasnosky time. No explanation required, is there my friend. Love our shared tribal language. Suze
Shaboogle in my family means something you said that you thought was true but turned out not to be. Created by my young son who did not like to admit to a mistake and to deflect the tendency of some grownup friends who would cavalierly say “Oh, I lied…” when realizing they had made a mistake. It wasn’t a lie (as it was unintentional), it wasn’t a mistake (as to make a mistake was intolerable), it was a shaboogle.
Last week a friend couldn’t come over because he was having dinner with the president of Bulgaria. Although that hasn’t entered our family vocabulary yet, I think it would be a good thing to say whenever I decline an invitation.
I also plan to purloin the words gmazel, shaboogle and zelp. Thanks!
Wonderful post, Laura. I’ve never had so much fun beefing up my vocabulary! I especially love Mimi Hair, although the photo of her might haunt me for the next week or so.
My mother, whose heritage was German, would often refer to one or more of her children as “schussels” (I’m not sure of the spelling). It did little, however, to improve what I later learned meant something along the lines of sloppy and unkempt (unkempt also being one of the words she favored).
How fun to have some new words added to this blogpost’s growing lexicon ten years after it was originally posted. Thanks, Kelli!
I have a friend who uses the word shaboogle frequently, but in a different context than what I have read on this site. He often uses the word to describe a situation in which he feels as though he has been cheated out of money.