Family Jargon

If you've ever checked out the list of blogs I read, one is a community blog called "Ask MetaFilter."  Basically, it's a large group of people who live for the internet, some of whom are experts in their chosen fields.  The site's purpose is to ask questions and post answers on a variety of topics.  Questions range from technical details on setting up a webpage to the ethical dilemmas that pop up at work to the dire psychological problems in a relationship - even hypothetical situations are fair game.

I noticed one yesterday as I perused the site for some interesting reading, where a poster was looking for examples of family jargon.  Going beyond just the average inside jokes, the poster wanted to learn more about the origins of the terms, and if outsiders would be clueless hearing them used in the average dinner conversation.

There were over 100 responses, some of which were downright hilarious.  And it got me to thinking about our own family jargon that I grew up with.  I'll explain some of them to you.

A lot of family jargon comes from kids who make up words or have trouble with pronunciation.  As long as I can remember, the clothes you wear to bed in my family have been called "nighty-suits."  The true origin is lost in the hazy mists of my memory, but I'm guessing this came from my mom's own childhood.  And my mom still uses this phrase today.

We've all been there - Mom would get tired of figuring out what to cook the troops for dinner.  Or we'd have some leftovers, but not enough to serve the entire family for another meal.  So Mom would call for a Scrounge Night, and we could dig whatever we wanted out of the fridge or the pantry to cook for ourselves.  It went without saying that the meal had to fulfill certain nutritional requirements (i.e., cookies are not a meal) but as long as we reheated it ourselves, we could enjoy it.

Every summer, my grandparents would meet my parents halfway between our house and theirs, and my sister & I would get in their car and go spend a week at their house.  Usually our cousins would meet us there to hang with us that week.  Many years later, I learned that it was informally called Camp Grandma by our parents.  We had waterfront activities just about every single day.  Also, we did arts and crafts.  Often there were cooking lessons.  Also, we went to see the outdoor amphitheater performance of "Oklahoma!" near their home.  Grandma even enforced a "naptime" every afternoon.  And if the trip coincided with July 4th, we walked down to the river to see the city's fireworks show.  Later, my sister & I used "Camp Grandma" to refer to our own parents caring for our cats while we were out of town.  I don't think they had to enforce naptime, though.

Based on the Gary Larson cartoon here, my sister and I make the same gesture and repeat "School for the Gifted" whenever we do something really dumb.  Sometimes we just do the gesture, without saying the words.  

In my mid-twenties, I moved back in with my parents after ending a long-term relationship out of state.  I worked downtown and commuted about 45 minutes back home.  Sometimes I'd offer to pick up dinner on the way home.  My parents would call in and I'd stop to pick it up.  And just as often, my dad would pick it up.  On one of those occasions, we discovered just how many times we had called a particular Chinese restaurant for takeout.  As my dad came in, the hostess greeted him, "Ah, Mr. Brown, you cook in the car tonight?"  We all loved the idea of "cooking in the car" so much, that's how we refer to all takeout food.

Please please please contribute an example of your own family jargon in the comments!  I'd love to hear more.


Brian said...

Flash money: Taken from Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills cop where he has to get stacks of twenties from the police chief to do a sting and pose as a drug dealer, for credibility sake he needed some "flash money" to flash around. When Kevin and I were learning how to date in high school we would ask mom and dad for some "flash money" to impress our dates. We have been asking for it from each other and our parents every since. It was great and really helped avoid the humiliation of having to ask for money.

Miss Smarty Pants said...

I have a suspicion that "nighty-suits" might have come from your father's childhood, not mom's. If not, it is probably just a coincidence that it is what we called them growing up as well.

Dad said...

Hungkivo (sp?) = emptying the upstairs wastebaskets by opening the window and dropping the full wastebasket to my brother waiting below. He would empty the wastebasket into a trash bag and throw the empty one back up to me waiting at the window with the screen still open. The fun came from flipping the full wastebasket to do 2 full flips with 3 1/2 twists and catching the wastebasket without losing any of the contents. If my brother had been particularly irritating, I would just turn it over and dump the contents while still holding the wastebasket. I have no clue where the name came from - perhaps a cheesy karate movie.

Mom/Neena said...

Actually "nighty-suit" came from Jennie. She loved to wear night-gowns to sleep in and shortened the name to 'nighty" and somehow the term "suit" was added. Eventually "nighty-suit" came to describe anything worn to sleep in--even pajamas. The term spread to the rest of the Brown family during one of our Tulsa visits when Jennie was really little. Grandma Brown heard her use the term and was so intrigued by it, she began to say it and it spread to the rest of the kids/cousins.

Dad said...

Add to the list "stimple and supid" This was our lame attempt to rate our father's really bad jokes and puns. It was either rate them "stimple and supid" or throw up on the kitchen table. We chose the ratings. You could use either word or both for really, really bad puns.