Sunday, March 21, 2010

Neologisms: Not just for the lazy

They say twins often develop a private language; the same must be true for couples who have been together long enough. The two of us have been together for the better part of two decades, now, and we've developed our own kind of private shorthand. If you ever wanted to sound like part of the Romantoes team, here's a few of our choicest inventions.

1. Snouffer. Technically, this is the name of a street in Columbus, but I always thought it sounded like a verb meaning "to devour food with a bit too much enthusiasm." So now when I am snarfing down french fries or tortilla chips a little bit too fast, Rose often has to remind me to "Stop snouffering!" It's advice I'm usually wise to follow; if I eat too quickly, I am sometimes subject to the hiccups.

2. Crunky-gut. This word refers to any of a spectrum of gastro-intestinal disorders, or (without "-gut") to a general feeling of physical malaise. The key term usefully combines the semantic and phonological properties of "cranky" and "crummy." Luckily, neither of us has had a real bad case of crunky-gut in a while.

3. Frozberries. For years, I have referred to the two major varieties of cat food as CCF and DCF (for "canned cat food" and "dry cat food"). I have a fondness for that kind of psuedo-acronym, but I think the real origin of these terms comes from Rosemary's grocery lists. In recent years she's taken to buying large bags of frozen mixed forest berries at Sam's Club (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries). These show up on the shopping list as "froz. berries," which I (naturally) started pronouncing as a single word, "frozberries." After an initial period of resistance, Rosemary has even started using it.

But I guess that is the real key for a neologism for us: when we both use it. Otherwise it's just a crazy bit of idiosyncratic vocalization. But it's language when it's shared by two.

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