I grew up in a conservative Christian family. You know, the kind where you had your mouth washed out with soap for swearing. (Oh don’t worry, we all survived.) My two younger brothers and I became creative at expressing ourselves. As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” We became very creative with the English language. Not only did we skirt swear words but we collected or invented new words. We manipulated the language to create our own. You might think we have difficulty being understood in the world, but we don’t. Context is key. We have created words that others have adopted as their own, much to our delight. Sometimes I feel like Johnny Appleseed, planting our little word seedlings into the lexicon.
My brother, J is especially good at creating new words. He has called me Schmolley Woman for decades, for no particular reason other than that is how he identifies his sister. He also came up with the word “Ginwitty,” the name of my tiny house. It means absolutely nothing. When they ask, I tell people it means I’m wittier with gin. I’m sure I would be… if I only drink gin.
J lacks conviction when it comes to road rage. The only way you would know that he is “raging” is because he has called the offending driver “knuckle-chump.” I, on the other hand, refer to them as “renobs” (which is boner spelled backward but don’t tell my mom) or “jackwagons” (thanks to my friend, Julie, for what one). We are corrupting the next generation. My daughter has now incorporated “knuckle-chump” and “jackwagon” into her own vocabulary.
Our youngest brother, Mykal is the family language butcherer. He works in a dark world dealing with this earth’s dregs. As a result, he has taken to slaughtering the English language in a way that would make his 6th-grade teacher cringe. He drops articles and like an easy woman drops her clothes at Friday night strip poker game. Got no use for those!
My specialty is using nouns as verbs. Recently a friend I hadn’t seen in a while hugged me in a deep embrace. I grinned and teasingly asked if he just “sleeping-bagged” me. It was a big bear hug, and you understand the context. Having a coffee becomes “coffeeing,” as in “I’m coffeeing with Jane.” In spite of being educated, I also have a thing for malapropisms. If I can’t think of the word I’m trying to say I will just make one up or tweak one close to it. On Amazon, I was searching for “carabeaners.” I know it’s carabiners, but it wasn’t coming to me fast enough. Applebee’s is Applebeans, Albertsons is Albinsons. Don’t judge me, you have your own words!
Language is fun, creative and exciting. My family are inventors without the need for a patent. We roll out new language prototypes every day without even realizing it. Some stick, some don’t. But that’s the thing about language, it’s continually evolving. Who knows, maybe one day one of our words will end up in Webster’s. My mom would be really pleased if it were a swear word replacement kinda word.