Thursday, November 13, 2014

Made-Up Words

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

We’re writers, right? And writers make things up, right? So today, just for fun, I thought I’d regale you with some of the made-up words that have come into common usage in my home. (I didn’t make them all up, though; some were my hubby, and some were other sources.)

Nebdenhall (interjection). When someone sneezes, you say, “Gesundheit” or “Bless you.” But what about when someone coughs, burps, or hiccups? What then, you wonder? Well, wonder no more. You say, “Nebdenhall.”

Zoogle (interjection). And when someone says, “Nebdenhall,” the correct response, naturally, is, “Zoogle.”

Whuff (verb). We have Cory Doctorow to thank for this one. In his novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the world’s monetary system is essentially based on reputation—how cool people think you are, how well you’re respected, your kindness, etc. And the term for this “money” is “whuffy.” So around our home, when we do something that is good and helpful, we often call it whuffing—particularly by contrast with the next entry, “fluff.”

Fluff (verb). Fluffing, as opposed to whuffing, is when you do something that’s just for relaxation or when you’re just being lazy. So, in general, there are two behavioral options: you can whuff, or you can fluff.

Foo (noun). Okay, in all seriousness, this is the one that I think really should be adopted into common usage (if not this particular word, some other word with this meaning). Yes, I know there’s already a slang “foo” out there, but this one is different. “Foo” stands for “family of origin”—which is the family you came from. So, for example, I have my foo—that’s my dad and my sibs. I have my extended foo—that’s my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. And finally I have my family—that’s my hubby and my kids. When I think of the word “family,” I think of the one I have created, the one that takes priority over the foos.

I’m going to pull out my inner therapist for a minute here. In-law relations can be a major cause of marital tension, especially early in marriage. Even when your in-laws are awesome, there’s still an adjustment that must be made, where you shift to membership in this new unit, the marriage. I know way too many people who struggle because their parents/in-laws are prioritized over the spouse. Hey, we’ve even got a scripture about this problem! (You know, cleave unto spouse, etc.) Since I believe in the power of words, I think there’s power in changing the word you use to describe your family of origin and your new relationship to them.*

I also highly recommend not calling your parents’ house “home” anymore—where you and your family live is home, not where you used to live. When we go to Utah to visit the foo these days, we love to see them, but we’re not going “home”—that’s when we get back to Maryland.

Okay, soapboxy lecture over.

And also, my list of made-up words is over.

What about you? Any made-up words you use and love?

* Don’t even get me started on how frustrated it makes me when people talk about “starting a family” only when they’re starting to having kids. . . . Grrrrrr . . .


  1. I use shnar as an all purpose exclamation. It's fun!

    1. Oh, my dear, yes, you do use schnar a lot! Love you! (Note to everyone else: This is my hubby.)

  2. Dizzyating is a word my girl created. As in, "I don't like that wallpaper, it's dizzyating." Works pretty well, right?! Great list you have here!

    1. I like that! I can think of a number of things that are dizzyating.

  3. In our house we say “sternfalter”- it’s a word we got from John Bytheway’s book “What I Wish I Had Known When I Was a Newlywed.” We use it when we want ABSOLUTE honesty. For example, “Sweetie, the guys called and want me to go over to their house to watch the game. Is it okay if I go?” “Sure, fine.” “Sternfalter?” “Well...I’m really stressed about everything I have to do tomorrow and I could really use help with the laundry.”

    Also, in our house “fluff” is a term for when someone passes gas. As in, “Excuse me, I fluffed.” Sorry...not really any other way to say that! Looks like we speak different languages! LOL!

    Personally, I love British slang. My favorite two words from Sophie Kinsella’s books are “gobsmacked” and “poleaxed.” I just love them. They sound exactly like what they mean!

    1. I absolutely love that "sternfalter" idea--never have heard the word, but that's so useful! Thanks for sharing.

      Also, ha! We use "fluff" your way too. Fortunately, it's usually easy to tell from context which definition we mean. :)



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