Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In a valley just like all the others

I was fortunate to grow up in a household where neologisms abound. Without giving it much thought, our conversations produced new words that perfectly expressed bundles of ideas that had either previously gone unnamed, or that added a whole spectrum of nuances to an already coined term. I didn't think too much of it that we referred to bodily ailments (whether it was a cold, flu, bruise, pulled muscle, or scrape) as being "blackered," or that we would eventually call the perfectly cultivated sofa blanket formation a "nornie palace." Indeed, what was so marvelous about our familial language was the utter lack of real-world referent or motivation for developing the new term. Like how one day in about 1995, I just started calling my sister Noodles (and later my brother Cho Cho) and now nobody ever uses (or maybe even remembers?) their real names. Not that they're not memorable people--they're the greatest--just that their new monikers are pervasive and permanent. Because I was raised right, I have carried this tradition with me, and the the words spoken in my adult household are often so derivative, fabricated, and divorced from any conventional signifying system that outsiders wouldn't even begin to know how to interpret them. One exception, perhaps, is a most recent (and frequently-used) addition to our eclectic lexicon. It is: pig paddle. 1. (Noun) To take the dog for a walk. 2. (Verb) Me swimming in the municipal pool. I am not much of a swimmer, you see, though I enjoy aimlessly sloshing around in the water a great deal.
fig. 1 : The intrepid young pig-paddler herself, depicted here with premature spring sunlight shining through her splendid array of translucent whiskers.

fig. 2 : Me having a luxurious splash at the municipal pool.

5 comments:

Jill said...

Hey, I just took my dog on a pig-paddle this morning! She loves a good pig paddle.

As far as the other definition goes...I make it rule never to swim in public pools. I have an irrational fear of bacteria!

Nathaniel K. Smith said...

when do i get a nickname?

Matt Beers said...

I very much like this. I love made-up words... when they work.

My mother, instead of calling it "the remote" makes hand gestures and produces a sound in the back of her throat which sounds like she's dredging up a lungful of mucous.

Sense-making made-up words, yes.
Gross, mucous-y throat noise, no.

Holly said...

do you ever feel deak and wizzy? you might if you ever get a bummy tug...and always remember to say "you're velcro" when the other person thanks you....and if your'e tired, perhaps a little afternoon'napkin' will help refresh you....

la_sale_bete said...

Jill - I love that you and Winnie like to go on pig paddles too!
Nat - Some day I'll come up with a nickname for you. It's a delicate process and cannot be forced (I once tried to force it in coming up with a nickname for my sister's husband: Admiral Bombardier). It did not stick and made me look hasty in naming him. Patience is key.
Matt - We sometimes called the remote the "clicker."
Holly - An afternoon napkin sounds dandy!