Friday, February 08, 2008

Family Linguistics

From the Sacramento Bee this morning (February 8, 2008):

If you're looking for distinctive lingo with a heart, tune into the conversations that take place around the house. That's where families come up with colorful words and terms as individual as Suzy's untamable cowlicks and Joe's double-jointed thumbs.
. . .
Ask people about the special words or expressions their family uses, and it won't take long before you'll get quite a list. Maybe even a book's worth.
. . .
In the mid-'70s, the family folklore project of the Smithsonian Institution encouraged Americans to save and share family folklore, including expressions and words.
Such expressions got the scholarly treatment as part of an emerging study of the culture of families, and were parsed to determine the ways they reinforce family identity and bonds. Using them can serve as shorthand among family members for old jokes and precious memories.

Read the rest of the story here [irritating but free registration may be required].

What unique family expressions did your family have? How many generations back can you trace a particular expression? (More on this to come).


Lidian said...

I have been making a list of all the expressions my grandmother used. I wrote about one on Virtual Dime Museum, her calling side dishes "bird baths." Here's the link, just for a laugh (and to see if I can do this!)

Thomas MacEntee said...

My great-grandmother was quite the character, as I've written before. Some of her choice sayings, at which she was not shy about using either in a store or in front of the priest:

"It is hotter than two June brides today!"

"It was colder than a well-digger's *ss this morning."