the language of lurve

“How did your nukes get in the hamburger?” I was thinking as I picked up in my son’s room. “I wonder if anyone else is doing launderette?”

You see, our family has a secret language. And I’ll bet, if you think about it, yours does too. It starts simply enough with things like nicknames but then it branches out into misheard words, mispronounced mots and other happy accidents. The words and phrases stick and become part of your code.

The hamburger overfloweth

Example: we refer to a dog on our street as “Doink Doink.” Obviously not her name. But she (he?) runs spritely with her owner through the streets of Mt. Lebanon and “doink doink” was the sound we imagine her paws make on the sidewalk.

I think this was bred into me, as my father’s family often renamed Italian food: “We’re having sewer pipes for dinner.” (Thankfully, to a dinner guest’s delight, that’s rigatoni.) Or we may have been having “Nookulees.” (Pasta, again. This time, gnocchi.)

Now, even our dogs aren’t safe from a label redo. Their regular names are Oliver and Emmy, but we have a litany of nicknames. Emmy is Esmerelda, Minidog and most recently, Food Truck/Dump Truck (because she will eat anything). Oliver is Skinnydog, Olliebird and his “dress” name, Oliver Twizz Peter Robinson Lilley, mostly after the locations of Dollar Bank where my husband has worked.

We have a favorite brand of Chardonnay but we gave it an unprintable nickname based on a potty joke from an Austin Powers movie. We’ve called it that for so long that I forgot that’s not its name and when we looked for it in a store on vacation, I asked the clerk if they had it. Needless to say, he was aghast.

I think we have too much time on our hands. Or maybe we need another vacation.

Writer Gary Chapman often speaks about the five languages of love: Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Physical Touch. After 24 years as a family, we even have special languages within those languages:

  • Acts of Service: “I got that thing with that guy.” We often volunteer. So much so that sometimes we forget where we’re going. And if either of us ask what the other is doing later and we know we have something but can’t immediately recall what it is, that’s how we respond.
  • Words of Affirmation: We often say “Good job, name,” to each other, a nod to a former boss of mine who received an email telling him how to be a good supervisor. It talked about ways to praise employees that could be a simple as saying “Good job, name” instead of “Good job, (name.)”
  • Quality Time: We frequently “stoopit.” That’s grab a beverage and sit on our front stoop to talk about our days and chat with people walking by in our neighborhood.
  • Gifts: “It’s a pumpkin. It’s a witch.” This was a little trinket my husband bought me at Rollier’s one year, in their Halloween section. It’s nearly impossible to explain. It was a plastic pumpkin on a stick but when you push the trigger, the pumpkin spun and opened up, revealing a witch inside. Friends of ours were visiting us and loved it—and now when any of us are together and talk about trying to do too many things at one time, well, it’s a pumpkin AND a witch.
    It's a pumpkin. It's a witch.
    It’s a pumpkin. It’s a witch.
  • Physical Touch: Ever want your significant other to rub your feet? Mine sometimes does an “anky cranky,” which is a perversion of ankle crank. It’s a foot rub followed by an ankle rotation to pop the joint.

Egad. Now I think we’re just weird.

But take a moment. Think about the language you share with your family. You certainly have your own words, right?

Incidentally, “nukes” refers to old sneakers … the ones you keep around to mow the lawn or wear riding bikes on muddy days but you don’t want to get close enough to smell them because they resemble nuclear waste. A “hamburger” is a hamper, at least the way our son pronounced it at age 4. And the “launderette” is how we refer to washing our clothes, stolen from the BBC comedy “The Young Ones.”

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