National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Please Pass the Pupsghetti

Facts of Life

BY The Editors

April 27-May 3, 2008 Issue | Posted 4/22/08 at 4:33 PM


Could your family fill a small glossary with zany, made-up words and phrases that no other family — make that no other human being — could possibly decipher? If so, your words stand alone but your family doesn’t. In March Paul Dickson, author of Family Words: A Dictionary of the Secret Language of Families and the even more descriptively titled Family Words: The Dictionary for People Who Don’t Know a Frone From a Brinkle, told the Sacramento Bee that bizarre family sayings often catch on because they’re handy as shorthand for old jokes and treasured memories such as toddlers’ first tries with language. And, if you’ve spent any time around a 10-year-old boy, you know some entries in the loony lexicon seem to just drop in from some weird warp in the time-space continuum. Katherine Jewsbury Conger, a professor who studies family and sibling relationships at the University of California, says such home-bound linguistic innovation may serve a purpose: adding to family identity and cohesion. Wacky family words, she told the newspaper, really do “create a special intimacy.” Absotootlee.