Monday, January 28, 2013

Familiar--and Familial--Phrases

Careful. These animals might have the epizootic.
I'm not sure that our family is unusual in that we have certain code phrases from our shared experience that we make use of in certain situations. That's as clear as the tax code, so I'll try to explain. Here are some examples (the ones I can make public, anyhow):

The term epizootic for a human illness. Becky's mother used this before we were married. She wasn't feeling well, and when Becky asked her what she had she replied, "I guess I got the epizootic." I thought initially she had made the term up or that it was a bit of local dialect. I looked it up, and it's a word, meaning "disease of animals." This use of the word struck me as incredibly clever and extremely funny, so much so that the mere mention of the term sent me into gales of laughter for months afterward. So watch out for the epizootic: you don't want to get it!

Another code phrase came from Becky's grandmother long before I met Becky. The family was watching television and Kate Smith was singing. Becky's grandmother came in, quickly looked at the set and exclaimed, "That woman's big enough to be Kate Smith." She was because it was Kate Smith (just wanted to point that out). This phrase is used when something is self-evidently evident. One of us might say, seeing someone across a parking lot unexpectedly, "That looks like Tom Wilson." If it is Tom Wilson, the other will reply, "And that woman's big enough to be Kate Smith." (Trust me, this makes sense in context.)

The last phrase I wanted to mention (there are many, but they're too embarrassing to put here) has to do with a lady at the church (who has since passed on) who fixed meals for functions at the church. She had a heavy hand with the sugar scoop, so her sweet iced tea came out sweet. I'll call her Grace Jenkins, which was not her real name, but it will help to make the point. Any overly sweet tea we call "Grace Jenkins tea." And we know what we mean.

Maybe you have some sayings or words in your family. If you do, send them along in a comment. I'd love to publish some of them in a future post.

Bonus terms: Becky is an excellent cook, and has only had a couple of disasters in the 39 years we've been married. One time, the oven stuck and the meatloaf came out looking like a big charcoal briquette. Becky called it "forest fire meatloaf," and the term has stuck to any overdone item. There were also microwave pork chops, a code term for any underdone food, from our attempt to fix pork chops in the microwave. They came up so underdone I thought I could hear them squealing. We would have been better off baking them in the Easy Bake Oven with its light bulb heat source. (See last week's blog about this sterling toy.)


  1. And there are also the made-up family words that one needs to explain to non-family members. Our favorite is 'conniptive' which is NOT a word, but we use it to characterize anyone who is overly absorbed with detail, or about to HAVE a conniption over something...(there are a lot of those people around...

  2. I love this, Dan!

    I can't recall any family phrases, but I once read a series of books about a team of private eyes, Donald Lam and Bertha Cool. She was quite a character and said many delightful phrases like, "Well fry me for an oyster!" I think those books were written by Erle Stanley Gardner. It was a very long time ago, but I remember the Bertha Cool character vividly!

  3. Every year I make up a booklet of "Curtisisms." Each one is full of phrases my husband, Curtis, has made up and I'll cut up magazines to paste pictures to go with them. I'll bring one to a Write by the Rails meet and greet to show you Dan.

    A pity the younger generations don't know who Kate Smith... or Sophie Tucker were. Guess it's all Adele...