Silly Words by Margaret Hart

Growing up, my father was constantly uttering words and phrases that often didn’t make sense, but which sounded cool and were usually funny. He liked to make up words and to modify others. His father did the same thing when he was growing up—and with me and my sister, when we would visit our Grandparents.

My father continues the silly word game to this day with my younger sister (mostly to annoy her in a good-natured sort of way), and every time he sees his grandson. I have followed in my father’s footsteps by making up silly words and expressions. It’s not something I do consciously; it just happens. We don’t make up silly names for body parts or anything like that, we just make up silly sounding words. Some are accompanied by sound effects and physical movements. There’s no rhyme or reason to the origin. They are just nonsensical fun.

Some of the latest words my father is teaching my son are, phonetically, “e-see-tow” and “en-gi-pah.” These words are often said in a staccato voice, with sharp, jerking arm movements, as if my father were a Japanese chef shouting orders to his sous chef. My son loves it. He likes a good game. And he can say the words with the exact inflection as my father. And when they get together, it’s always a hoot to watch and listen to a 78-year-old Italian man shouting Japanese sounding words to a 8 1/2 year old boy, who enthusiastically repeats them as if he were learning a real foreign language.

Some of my dad’s words are recognizable. For example, he calls “Burger King,” the fast food restaurant, “Kurger Bing.” And Wal-Mart, the big box retailer, is “Walls-are-smart” or “Wall-smart,” for short. When I was growing up, he would take me to “K-smart” when he shopped at K-mart. One of my dad’s all-time classic made up words is “Gizz-er-rip.” I’ve never asked!

When I saw my father teaching my son these made up words and expressions, I flashed back, and realized I had been doing this for years. My friends in high school were always teasing me—and laughing—about my crazy words and expressions.

It’s easy to babble and make things and get away with it when you are a mom. People just give you a pass because everyone knows that adults say the silliest things to kids. When my son was old enough to understand language, I first called him my “Sweet Pea,” which isn’t silly or made up.  But as he got older, I started calling him silly mommy names that no one, not even me, understood, like “Goose,” or “Goose man,” and these days I just call him “Goosey.” It’s a habit. My favorite name for my son, my mommy term of endearment, is “Boobala” or “Boobie,” which my son now tells me is embarrassing. I get it. I think I watched one too many episodes of The Adams Family, as a kid.

I have no idea how or why I come up with some of the words and names, but perhaps, if I researched it, there would be a deep-seated Freudian reason. Or it could simply be in my DNA. After all, I like to listen to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and The Mikado, because I grew up listening to my parent’s records. So it makes perfect sense that I like to make up silly words, phrases, and expressions because of my dad. 

Our family pets are no exception.  We had a cat who we often said was from the law firm of “Stinkin, Stinkin, and Gashtinkin” and he wasn’t even stinky!  His name was Vern, but he was often called Vermicelli, or Vernish Hen. Our current cats, Benny and Rocky, are often Bennito Pepito and Rocket ship.

It’s no surprise my son Ethan’s personality is a little on the silly side. He likes to act goofy, he likes to entertain, and he likes to get a laugh from his friends.  He likes to play around with words and sounds, just as I do, and as my dad does. It’s no wonder he calls himself “Super-E.” 

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