The Family & Friends Phrasebook

My friend Karen wrote an excellent and very funny blog post about homemade words, basically the phrases that we all spontaneously come up with in a small group. These phrases come to define specific moments–just say the word and memories are rekindled. They become codewords worthy of urban dictionary.

Karen’s post is here:

But for those of you unwilling to check her blog out, I am copying and pasting my own response here. Two reasons: 1) I wrote well, and 2) I’m going to be pompous about this post and reread it from time to time in my old age. Repercussions for my pomposity can be found below…


my mom's crazy/tired eyes and my genetically limp moustache

my mom’s crazy/tired eyes and my genetically limp moustache

1) My mom and I don’t eat beef jerky. We never buy it, but a few years ago we were in the horrible position of driving from AZ to TX on Christmas day to see relatives. On my mom’s first, early morning shift at the wheel, the coffee had gone stale. I wasn’t keeping her awake with my sing-a-long to the radio oldies and I was just as sleepy. Then the miracle–we started seeing signs that said “Homemade Smoked Beef Jerky: 25 miles.” Then 15, 10, 5….It was a gas station/gift boutique bragging about their jerky in New Mexico. And my mom started to salivate over thoughts of salt. We included references to the beef jerky in our singing whenever we hit a “something, something” gap in our lyrical knowledge. My mom started yammering like a 2 year old who has just learned to say “beef jerky,” truly a side I’d never seen of her. We had to pull over. The bloody gas station was not been in the employ of Scrooge, however, as the placed was closed. We both ran around that gas station parking lot for a minute or two, wailing to each other that there wasn’t any jerky to be had. Ever since, the mere mention of beef jerky has become code for whenever one of us seems to be overly tired and gibbering. This happens quite often despite the fact we haven’t had beef jerky since that incident.

Karen, I suppose I have a picture of my dad reading after all--note the bouncy hair

Karen, I suppose I have a picture of my dad reading after all–note the bouncy hair

2) A short one from my childhood: my dad always got itches from my mom. On his head, his bare back, and his permanently hairless legs that had spent too much time in an aluminum fishing boat on a sunny day when he was younger. They’d been married for 20 years and my dad said the itches were better than sex. My mom wasn’t thrilled. But then my dad couldn’t “get it up” and wa-hey, we’ve stumbled onto sex. (My dad told his MOTHER about his erectus problems and she told my mom that was grounds for divorce. Charming grandmother I had, huh?) Anyway, the itching was a nightly ritual lasting anywhere from 20-40 minutes. I told my dad once that his full head of dark brown hair (even in his 60s) was due to the vigorous stimulation of his scalp. He loved that idea, so whenever anyone in the family has a headache, gets a haircut or, in the case of my brother Rick, starts to go bald, my dad would tell them to “Get yer head itch.” It is our surefire family cure for problems of the cranium. (It really works for stress related headaches, especially if done in the shower.)

notice how carefully I'm keeping that pipe tilted downwards...

notice how carefully I’m keeping that pipe tilted downwards…

3) Well, this one is going to confirm something in your head, Karen. It shouldn’t. But it will. I inherited a smoking pipe from my grandfather. I hate smoking, but I love the look of it. A pipe is just a well designed piece of aesthetic equipment. In a college German class, we had to perform memorized skits in German. In one of our groups, we were assigned to write something involving a bank. Go mad with creativity, we were told. So I was a wimpy first time bank robber. I held the pipe upside down by the bowl and used it as our prop gun. When I got a little growly over how long it was taking us to rehearse our lines, I got angry. I was hungry. Let’s assume I needed beef jerky. One of my group mates responded to my grumpiness by saying, “Oh, go piss in your pipe.” It got a laugh and we incorporated it into our routine. It meant, roughly, that if I was so miserable why didn’t I go piss (always relaxing) in the bowl of the pipe and try to smoke it. Imagine the smell and the sloshing back and forth of a brimful pipe o’ piss. That stream would lead to the mouth easily. We all distracted ourselves from the assignment by wondering if urine was flammable. Anyway, I made the mistake of sharing this with a non-group member friend. Combine my pipe with the fact that I can be a tad pretentiousness-unwillingly, of course–the definition expanded to include the behavior of someone (me) who said something pompous. It was understood that, as a deterrent to saying something pompous, I would have to piss in my pipe as a punishment. And I put that pipe in my mouth for jokey photos way too often for that to be healthy practice.

C'mon, how do you not go on a reading spree with this man's books?

C’mon, how do you not go on a reading spree with this man’s books?

PS – I have read more than 10 Faulkner books since 9/11, but in my defense I was in 5th grade for that. (I feel my anti-pretentious excuse doesn’t hold water when I add that I read most of those in a 2 year time span. I know…I’ll go ready my pipe.)

PPS – The above postscript references a joke in Karen’s blog. So if you haven’t read it, please do so immediately because her phrases are funnier than mine.


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