FAMILY LANGUAGE

“STOP PLOITERING AND GRAB THE MELLY!”

I’ve long been interested by the inventive, jokey, sometimes ludicrous expressions that arise within the family and only very occasionally emerge into the speech of the wider community. This variety is sometimes known as family slang or familect, otherwise, by the English Project at Winchester University, as kitchen-table lingo.

The following article gives some examples of these lighthearted, eccentric expressions…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2571693/Fancy-blish-Its-new-slang-nice-cuppa-New-list-gibberish-words-used-families-country-published.html

PR specialist Hamish Thompson has been working on his own glossary of family language and was kind enough to send me his introduction, acknowledgements and a selection of entries:

Most families have an invented vocabulary – the words that grow out of mishearing, misspelling, kids’ early attempts at talking or things that you might have seen that have become folkloric.

One of my kids coined the term ‘argubating’, which means arguing a point in a self-indulgent, unproductive way.  We also have ‘wookthack’, which for complicated reasons means ‘a rucksack from Derbyshire’.

And then there’s ‘scrapey’, which is a disappointing texture, named for the moment that my daughter, aged about 5, jumped the fence at the Postman Pat Village at Longleat to touch Mrs Goggins’ hair.

I asked people on Facebook last week whether they had any words that were part of their family vocabulary and I got some lovely responses.

I like the idea of a new dictionary, which I’m going to call ‘Famguage’ (thanks Alex Johnson).  I heard my son talking to his girlfriend about some of our words the other day. Clanguage is something that you’re eventually introduced to when you really enter a family.

I’d love to hear yours and add them to this list.  Tweet me at @HamishMThompson or email me at hthompson@houstonpr.co.uk and I’ll add them here.  Acknowledgements below.’

‪Alligator – a moving staircase.

‪Angipodes – crawly insect

‪Apogetic – opposite of energetic

‪Argubating – self indulgent row

‪Bantry – basement pantry

‪Bisgusting – poor personal habits

‪Bishee bishee Barnarbee – ladybird

Bleenger – someone who keeps losing something

‪Bonger – TV remote control)

‪Boop and bamwhiches – nutritious lunch

Cake Out – a stake out with bought cakes

‪Calm chowder – popular meal for kids in New England

‪Cat-flap – have a big panic or over fussy reaction to something

‪Chish and fips – Fish and Chips

Cluckston – generic term for chicken, hen, rooster, cockrell etc. “It’s some kind of cluckston.” See also, crucially, ‘Quackston’

‪Complify – opposite of simplify

‪Daddy’s soda – beer

‪Dinger- TV remote control

‪Embuggery – embroidery

‪Fi (pronounced like hi) plural of foxes

‪Forgettabox. Floatycoat. Windy man (fart)

‪Goggy for the favorite blankets the boys used when they were little.

‪Graunch – the scraping of furniture on a wooden floor when moving it improperly.

Gruncle and Graunt – great uncle and aunt

‪Gruntled – happy

Hairochopter – helicopter

‪Hangry – annoyed because of lack of food.

‪’Have you forgotten how to English?’

Iforloafer – falling over

In a little minute – buying a bit more time before bed

‪Industriocity – busy / va va voom “hoy lad, it’s time you showed a bit of industriocity”

‪Marshmellons – soft sweet

‪Merangutans – Meringues

‪Miseratating – so constantly miserable you are irritating

Nicknames – Lewie, Boogle, Doodie, Moomin

Nommelin – omelette

‪Nonk – milk

‪On the roof – imminent danger

Ploitering about – piddling about and loitering

‪Pokey pola – Coca-cola

Quackston – a duck (see also ‘cluckston’)

Scrapey – unpleasant texture (after jumping the fence at the Longleat Postman Pat Village to touch Mrs Goggins’ hair)

‪Sidey the table – sit around the table for dinner

Sluggerbaths – kids that dawdle in the bath until the water gets cold

‪Smaggy – horrible

Spudy – a spare bedroom that doubles as a study

‪Stinging lentils – weeds to be avoided

‪Swimpamool – the place you go for a swim in the summer

Tahairnairhair – proximity of a friend called Tahir

‪The Feli – two Felixes – my son and his best friend

‪The Ho Ho Hos – the seven dwarves

‪Till donk – the thing supermarkets use to separate your shopping from another customer on the conveyor at the register.

Tootles – toilets

Tryer trick – trousers falling down to a point that makes walking difficult

‪Veggybubbles – veg

Voulez-vous –  vol au vent.

Wice – wood lice

‪Wish dosher – a machine for cleaning crockery

Wookthack – rucksack from Derbyshire

“Yes then!” – exclamation when receiving good news or when a cunning plan is formed

‪Yippers – indoor footwear

With thanks (so far) to: Kellie Evans, Nicola Texeira, Tamzin Benjamin, Shaun Andrews, David Johnson, Clare Corbet, Vanessa Potts, Michael Cullen, Nick Higham, Michael Moran, Rene Wright, Lynne Clark, Cam Ross, Steve Dring, Alex Johnson, Dawn Murray, Chris Winstanley, Helen Hobbs, Jean Harbilas, Tracey Holmes-Reynolds, Elizabeth Varley, Jenny Hodge, Caroline Lavelle, Andy Ravenscroft, Vivien Patterson, Sharon Rasker, Leroy Bingham, Alex Thomson, Donal McCabe, Duncan Wisbey, Gina Jones, Jim Boulden, Joanna Oliver, Peppi Wilson, Mark Webb, Susanna Voyle, MoiOfRa, Jane Symons, Tyler Massie, Rebecca McKie, Dr Decadence Marple.

More from 2013 in the Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2013/jul/19/mind-your-language-family-slang

…and January 2018, an excellent article that includes personal reflections by Caroline Baum also in the Guardian newspaper…

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/03/shnibble-gunzle-dolltalk-share-your-familys-invented-words

In August 2020 the BBC appealed for examples of family-only expressions. They received a good response on Twitter…

@BBCRadio4
Is there a word, or phrase, that only you or your family use?

Bruce Hiscock
@BruceHiscock

Replying to

‘Boys names’ – whenever one of us can’t be bothered to answer. Our youngest son c 4 and a half on returning from his first day at school was asked whether he had a nice day. He said ‘yes’ . Did you make some friends ‘yes’ . What are their names? Answer ‘boys names’!

Sarah Hagger-Holt
@SarahHaggerHolt

Replying to

Coolth (opposite of warmth)

Lord Tim Moon of Glencoe
@TimMoonMusic

Replying to

More betterer.

Sue Goldman
@SueGoldman1

Replying to

Cowlets = calves
Alastair Schwarz
@riot_salad

Replying to

‘bangers’ – not fit for purpose

Reynold Forman, M.Ed.
@ReynoldLeTreaux

Replying to

Dawn squirt, bagel peel
Jackie Smith
@alassmith

Replying to

Eggy-weggy

Kellie Fisher
@Coastineer
Replying to

We used to live in Australia and were fascinated by the way ‘o’ gets added to the end of words. As a result we invented the term ‘umbo’ for umbrella. Even though it’s made up and not Australian at all we still use it!

Alex.Robinson
@_Star_Tron
Replying to

GIF
alan hendrix
@Siralanhe

Replying to

shambolic

boardman
@hawkstonpark

Replying to

Nor
It’s interesting that some of these words are actually in widespread colloquial usage, though those donating them think that they, their family members or friends invented them. Four years on and the topic was attracting renewed interest, from my friend Professor Richard Norquist for one…

SOUNDS, SYMBOLISM AND SENSE

 

A small fragment from my jottings on the fascinating and under-examined subject of language sounds…more extracts will follow

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The traditional view of words and names is that, apart from those words that directly imitate natural noises, there is only an arbitrary link between sound and meaning. But a few psychologists and neuroscientists have claimed to find evidence that phonemes (the human speech sounds that constitute words) have an inherent, non-arbitrary emotional quality. Their data suggests that the effect on feelings of certain phoneme combinations (nonsense examples they worked with included bupaba, which was received positively and dugada which was negatively perceived) depends on a specific acoustic feature which can be measured, namely, the dynamic shifts within the phonemes’ frequency.

Socrates, too, according to Plato in the Cratylus Dialogue of 360 BCE, ascribed the origins and the correctness of names and words to a measurable relationship between their sounds and the things they represented, observing, for instance, that the tongue is most agitated and least at rest in the rolling of the letter ‘r’ (ρ or ϱ ‘rho’ in his native Greek) thus fitting it for evocations of violent movement or percussion. We can consider to what extent this rule might be applied to English, bearing in mind examples like ‘battered’, ‘beaten’, ‘bruised’, ‘banged’, but Hermogenes in any case then intervened and with a host of counterexamples demolished Socrates’ proposition, forcing the sage to admit that ‘my first notions [were] truly wild and ridiculous’. In 1690, the English philosopher Locke argued in An Essay on Human Understanding that if there were any connection between sounds and ideas, we would all be speaking the same language. Leibniz in New Essays on Human Understanding, published in 1765, responded with a point-by-point critique of Locke’s essay, admitting that there is clearly no perfect correspondence between words and things, but neither is the relationship completely arbitrary…

…In 2013 scientists carrying out an analysis of popular names given to 15 million babies found that male names were much more likely to contain broad and ‘larger’ sounding vowels that were emphasised and sounded more masculine when spoken. On the other hand, the majority of female names sound ‘smaller’, allegedly projecting a more feminine, dainty impression of the person. The study’s co-author, Dr Benjamin Pitcher of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, said: ‘The origins of names may vary but this study suggests that there is an association between the size of the sounds in first names and the sex they are associated with.’ According to Dr Pitcher and his team, the names which sound larger and prove popular with parents who have boys, or sound smaller and are given to girls are linked to the calls of wild animals. They claim that mammals, including humans, associate deeper, booming vocal sounds with larger individuals, but higher-pitched sounds are usually from smaller individuals. It has to be said that reports of this study were not universally applauded when they appeared in the UK tabloids online. Comments ranged from ‘…being paid to state the bleeding obvious’ to ‘utter nonsense – and the male names they quote all sound girly to me.’

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