Free Genealogy Tip: Be Sure to Capture Those Family Idioms and Phrases
As genealogists, we all work extremely hard to find and document every fact we can find about our ancestors. We got to great lengths to gather each and every bit of evidence regarding family births, deaths, marriages, divorces, children, siblings, occupations, addresses, and more for our genealogy efforts.
I wonder though if you, like our family, capture one of the most unique things that can truly define your family? In this case I am referring to, and suggesting you document, all those quirky words, phrases, and sayings that were created by, and are unique to, your family. Best of all, collecting and remembering them can be great fun!
In our family we are chockfull of these special words and phrases and we do our best to capture them and then I add them to the profile of the individual in our family tree. Believe me when I say it really makes a family tree sparkle, shine, fun, and inviting!
One example in our family is that my wife’s grandparents and my grandparents loved to use old sayings. Wonderfully my wife’s family is 100% Italian and mine is 50/50 Bohemian and Cornish, so there are lots of these sayings and many are different from one another. Sadly, I have to say, many of these old saying are falling out of use due to the changing times. For instance, my Bohemian grandmother used to say ‘find a pin and pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck’ almost daily. She and my mom sewed all the time, there were many tailors in her family and so the hazard of errant straight pins was a constant in our home. Today? I am not so sure I could even find a single straight pin in our house let alone call them a hazard.
On my wife’s side, our great grandmother, Bisnonna, used to say “da carne proviene carne”. A rough English translation is ‘from meat comes meat’, but in Bisnonna’s case she used it to mean ‘if you eat meat, you get fat’. This was a way of supporting her meatless meals when the budget just didn’t allow for meat on the table all that often.
There are also the words that our children and grandchildren have invented over the years and have now taken a place in our family’s regular lexicon. They are fun, inventive, appropriate, and we wanted to make certain not to lose the history of how and where they originated.
Here are a couple of fun examples:
Maddy (pronounced mahdy): When our daughter was just learning to talk and was still sleeping in her crib, she would holler when she woke up for us to get her out. At some point she discovered that Mom and Dad were equally adept at this task, so she got creative and would simply call out ‘Maddy’, content to know that this combination of Mommy and Daddy would attract either, or both, my wife and I.
Groogmog: When our children were a bit too big to be carried with ease, they invented this word. As they would explain: “A groogmog is a young child who is just too tired to walk and needs to be carried” (often up the stairs to bed). My wife and I can’t tell you how many times this little ploy on their part worked like a charm!
Sticks: Our grandson was over for a large family dinner where his auntie made, among other foods, lamb chops on the grill. Piled high on a serving plate on the dinner table, our grandson had finished his first chops before the adults dug in. As we sat down he asked: “Are there any more of those……sticks?” He couldn’t recall that we had explained they were lamb chops, but he knew he wanted more and, seeing the bone on the end of each chop, simply called them ‘sticks’. From that day on, any lamb chops served in our house or order at any restaurant are ‘sticks’.
“Tuck a napkin in. Bus Andy always did.” My father-in-law, Carl, was a great storyteller and many of his stories revolved around his youth and growing up in Hibbing, a small northern Minnesota town. More often than not, when the family would gather around the dining room table for a typically awesome Italian feast, my father-in-law would take his napkin and tuck it in his shirt, while saying to everyone else “Tuck a napkin in. Bus Andy always did.” Thankfully my wife’s dad explained this story to me. Back in the early 1900s a man by the name of Andy Anderson got the idea to use his car to provide transportation services between Hibbing and a nearby town of Alice, Minnesota. Andy’s endeavor was tremendously successful and was the beginnings of the Greyhound Bus Company of today! His success earned him the nickname of ‘Bus Andy’ and no matter his wealth and renowned, every time he and his friends would meet at the local dining establishment for a meal, Bus Andy would take his napkin and tuck it in his shirt. Forever after, if it was good enough for Bus Andy it was good enough for everyone and anyone who gathered at any table anywhere with dad.
A sidelight to gathering and preserving these and a multitude of additional sayings and words has been that we have typed them up, printed them, and framed them for each person in our family. They have made terrific gifts for significant birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. They have also proven to be one of the best conversation starters in everyone’s’ home during parties and holiday gatherings. After all, how can you read something like ‘groogmog’ and not ask what it means?
So have fun, enjoy some good chuckles, and get busy gathering these unique tidbits for your genealogy and family history.
Onward To Our Past