Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
~ In Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The above line has always fascinated me and I wonder about Tolstoy's acumen and penchant for detail. The opening lines of Anna Karenina are quite true and today I chose to extend this small piece of wisdom into language. And believe me every family has its own wee language system it follows. I am not talking about the predominant language here but small words here and there which only its members can understand.
No matter what class or social standing a particular family has, it has a unique system or certain 'peculiar' words and sometimes even phrases which enable the members to communicate with each other. And it is like a precious heirloom which is inherited down the ages.
In our family sometimes the actual word for something is substituted by another word which has no semblance to the actual word or its meaning but nevertheless we use it. The over hearer often often finds it very funny or even amused as the words are quite stupid to hear. This sprinkling of 'stupid' words belong exclusively to the domain of a particular family. Sometimes even cousins and extended family don't have access to the meanings.
I was under the impression that only our family has words as these but I observed that almost all families have words as that. And many times, it is predominantly children who use and coin those words. Children who are very small cannot refer to anything by a long and convoluted name and so shorten it or substitute it with an easy word. This word sometimes remain for long in the family. Fathers usually don't use those words but can understand them anyway.
Special coinages for food-items, nosy relatives, expensive items, the list can go on and on. Sometimes even basic words like water or spoon can actually be code words for something else. The ability of people to coin new words which are of course within the family, is a trait which is interesting and novel. The language for these words don't matter. It can either be in the native tongue or in a mixture of three languages. This characteristic is also like pet-names which are unique to each family.
Though I cannot ask you to divulge the special words, I would like to know whether you have such 'stupid-sounding words' whose meaning only you and your family members share.
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