Loony lingo a se­cret code


Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Mi­randa Mur­phy Mi­randa Mur­phy is a mother of three and a jour­nal­ist at The Aus­tralian. Fol­low here on Twit­ter @mur­phymi­randa

EV­ERY fam­ily has its own spe­cial lan­guage.

I don’t mean their mother tongue, or some sort of ec­cen­tric off­shoot like elvish or Klin­gon to put down on their Cen­sus form.

It’s what I call familingo – the lan­guage of var­i­ous made-up words that are spe­cific to your fam­ily.

In­vented and used over years of co­hab­i­ta­tion, they’re mostly charm­ing, non­sen­si­cal terms that mean ev­ery­thing to your peo­ple but noth­ing to out­siders.

For ex­am­ple, when I was grow­ing up our fam­ily al­ways called kitchen tongs “snitch­ers” and the food scraps bin was the “muck buck”.

The lit­tle fluffy balls that form on your old jumper were “rovvlies”; any kids play­ing too bois­ter­ously were “raung­ing”; and grow­ing pains were “poorly legs” (“endy legs” in my hus- band’s fam­ily). They’re com­fort­ing lit­tle fa­mil­ial in­jokes that con­firm a shared history. A se­cret code that says “we might be a bit barmy, but we’re blood”.

I can’t tell you ex­actly where or who our words came from but you can guess how they might have de­vel­oped.

In­deed, ask­ing around for ex­am­ples from friends, it seems the ori­gins of familingo fall into sev­eral broad cat­e­gories.

First are the words that evolved from some lit­tle kid get­ting them wrong in the first place.

“Glubs” for gloves; “tingy” for sin­glet; “bums and noo­dles” for pins and nee­dles; “ha-ha birdies” for kook­abur­ras; “eye blinds” for a sleep­ing mask; “roundthe-backs” for round­abouts; “wipescream­ers” for wind­screen wipers; and my favourite, “ginkles” for stars (twin­kle, twin­kle).

Then there are words that sub­sti­tute the names of things that you can’t re­mem­ber the names of (a com­mon af­flic­tion among par­ents, I find).

We call the spat­ula “the scrapy thing”, but my ex­ten­sive re­search shows the re­mote con­trol is the top ex­am­ple of this genre, giv­ing us the “zap­per”; the “trols”; the “mod­ern thing”; the “doofer”; and – for the garage door – the “put­terup­perer”.

Most mys­te­ri­ous are the words that emerged from deep fam­ily history, de­scended through the gen­er­a­tions, prove­nance usu­ally un­known.

I’ve heard “snip­pies” for prawns; “tasties” for the last bits at the bot­tom of a chip packet or roast pan; “woo­jee” for the feel­ing you get climb­ing into a comfy bed; “oomy” for feel­ing un­well; “shoppy cakes’” for any­thing not home­made; “bon­doon” is some­one’s gran’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble word for a rear end; and “griff” mean­ing dirty – named af­ter some filthy neigh­bours.

Fi­nally there is the genre to beat them all: the many, many fam­ily words for farts.

When I asked around I was al­most suf­fo­cated with cute, coy and comic ex­am­ples. I’d list them all here, but sadly they fail to pass the sniff test.

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