May 4, 2010

Words we make up

Blog, as you know from hanging around Davie and me, we tend to make up words for stuff. This is semi-analogous to our tendency to name inanimate objects. I have no idea why we can’t be like other people and call a cookie jar a cookie jar, and Professor Snowcaps (our cookie jar) has no idea either.

But over our years together, there are some made-up terms Davie and I use that we take so for granted we don’t even notice what we’re doing anymore. I think the best example of this is “Stan.” When we first lived together, one of our first joint purchases was a bedspread. We named him Stan. I think we named him Stan simply because it’s such an absurd name for a bedspread. (Yeah, that begs the question “What ISN’T an absurd name for a bedspread?” I dunno, “Fluffy”?)

We eventually replaced Stan with another bedspread. About that time, Stan transmogrified into the generic term for “bedspread.” So, for over a decade we have stopped using the word bedspread. We say “Selke just vommed on Stan, oh crap!” We walk through Penneys at the mall and say, “Ooh, that’s a pretty Stan!” I’m seriously not making this up.

In our household we also no longer use the word “loin” when referring to the cut of meat. This I can explain. My handwriting is as inscrutable as Sanskrit, and each week Davie must try to read it on the grocery list that I make out for him. He always checks ahead of time to make sure he can discern all the words. One week he said, “What’s a pork lash?” It was, of course, a pork loin. But ever since, it’s pork lash or barbequed pork lash or beef lash.

I can easily see myself messing up at the butcher shop and asking, “Excuse me, do you have any pork lashes?” To which the butcher would have to say, “Possibly in the sausages, but we try to be careful to avoid that.”

Of course there’s also the case of the slight mispronunciation. Even before I met Davie, I called my antique cedar chest “the cheddar chest.” I know I’ve accidentally called it that to other people. I’m sure they’ve wondered if in fact it’s full of cheese rather than sweaters.

Occasionally we manage to coin a term that actually makes sense and ought to become a part of real English vocabulary. I have a Tupperware cake plate with a snap-on lid that Davie dubbed a “cake shelter.” Isn’t that spot on? Especially if you have cats?

In one instance, we’ve used the same made-up term for two completely disparate meanings. In the Dave and Diana Dictionary, if you look up the word “whipper,” you’ll read this:

1. A sandwich featuring deli-sliced meat on a bun, typically also with cheese and sautéed onions. e.g. “Friday night we’re planning to have beef whippers.”

2. A camisole. e.g., “I see you’re wearing a whipper.”

Don’t ask just happened, Blog. I know, I know, that’s so often my excuse.

Well, you get the drift. I have to believe there are other people out there who have made up really good words, and I hope they will tell us in the comments. Who knows, we may start to use your words! Just like now I’m sure YOU will all call your bedspreads Stan.


  1. We do this a lot too. The geek handbook of made up words! I love your definitions here. I think the only inanimate object in our house with a name is our Beastie. It got named one of the kid's names we couldn't agree on.

  2. Your Beastie is great and I wish we had one. (Non-Milwaukeeans, see for what a Beastie is).

  3. Well, my sister calls pajamas "nights." Like "Kids, go put on your nights." The opposite is true for days. It was shortened from night and day clothes to just nights and days. I think there are other examples of this in her household but they are escaping me.
    My sister and I made up a word that I occasionally use outside of the fam. "Goomh" which is an acronym for Get Out Of My Head used as an exclamation when thinking the same thing as another person. Over time we had to create Goomh-toc, which is goomh, the obvious comment.
    I'm rather boring about naming things, only naming my car Fritz and my motorcycle Liam.

  4. Fritz and Liam are awesome names, Alanna! Are you aware that Fritz is the name of the hero of my novel "The Resurrection of Captain Eternity"? Or that Liam is the name of one of the four main characters in my "Bloodchained" novels? Interesting, no? Anyway, I love goomh, and the whole bit about "nights" and "days" is awesome. Reminded me too that in our house I call my PJ's "jamps" and Davie calls his "skimpers." LOL