Sunday, July 29, 2012


Do you have special words in your family that aren’t found in the dictionary, words only those who share DNA with you can understand? A few weeks ago CJ was visiting. Mrs. C. fried up some chicken. After eating his fill, our son pushed away his plate and announced he’d had enough. I wasn’t finished eating and without thinking exclaimed, “Moosh-vega!”

“Are you having a stroke, Dad?” CJ asked. “What was that you said—moosh-vega?”

“It’s a Portuguese word your grandmother taught me as a child. Your grandmother’s family spoke it at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other holiday celebrated with food. It was spoken all the time in our house when I was growing up, and it was spoken often when you were growing up, too. Have you forgotten?”

“He scratched his chin. “I guess so. Wait a minute; I do remember. But I forgot what it means.”

“It means, “Glad you don’t want anymore because that leaves more for me.” I took another piece of chicken from the platter on the table.

“All that crammed into moosh-vega? Sounds farfetched,” he said.

“It’s really a useful word,” I countered.

He smiled at me. “Yeah, if you’re a glutton.”

Since this exchange I’ve tried to dig up information on the word that figured so prominently in my childhood—moosh-vega. I haven’t been successful. Aside from family members, none of the Portuguese people I know have heard of it. I’ve Googled it but I’m not familiar with the proper spelling and what I’ve written is a phonetic spelling. Making it even more complicated: Portuguese is spoken differently in Portugal, Brazil, and the Azores where our family came from. And a hundred years in America has probably twisted the language almost beyond recognition. In short, no one outside of my extended family is aware of this word.

I’m curious: do you have special words you use to call your children to the dinner table? Do you have a special code decipherable only to family members? I’m willing to bet you have certain words or expressions not understood by the general public.

Language is a feast for the ears, and I’m willing to share my special word with you—moosh-vega. It’s a fine word, but it might be too rich for the vocal palates of many of you. Fine! Restrict yourself to familiar words, words banal enough to show up in the dictionary. I’m a glutton for words real and imaginary. I gobble them up like a whale sucking in krill. What's that you say? You don't like krill?



  1. The only thing close in our family was the word "Flowers."

    I had a healthy appetite as a child, as did most of my siblings, and we had a tendency to scrape our plates, sometimes wiping up the last of the mashed potatoes with our finger; sometimes licking the plate.

    When we went out to dinner (which wasn't often) we kids would embarrass the hell out of my mother as we sat at a restaurant and scraped and licked our plates. Once, my dad turned to me and scowled, "Jeez, quit it. It's like you're trying to scrape the flowers off the design on the bottom of your plate."

    From then on, whenever my mother saw us beginning to scape our plates, she'd just casually say, "Flowers," and we knew to cool it; put down our forks and knives and . . . maybe grab for another roll if one was available.

  2. Moosh-Vega, I like it, I didn't know the words but I definitely know the feeling.............

  3. I love making up words. And moosh-vega sounds like a good one. :)

  4. I'll keep thinking. My dad used to ask if I wanted to ride to Monkey Words, which in our house meant Montgomery Wards (a now defunct department store).

  5. It isn't used at the table, but we do have a word that is specific to my own family: "ree-ree." When my daughter was very little, I would tie her hair back with barrettes, rubber bands, bows, etc. One time, she looked in the mirror and I told her how pretty she looked and she exclaimed "ree-ree." She was only a toddler. Anyway, a couple days later, she brought me some hair bows and rubber bands and the brush and said "ree-ree, Mommy, ree-ree" and thrust them at me. I did up her hair again and she loved it. Since then, "ree-ree" refers to anything used in the hair such as bows, bands, etc. Even today, she is 12, and I will be braiding her hair and say "ree-ree" and she just automatically hands me the rubber band. Other people always look at us funny when it happens and they don't understand the background.

  6. Well, there's a Hungarian expression that crops up occasionally in our house that kinda sounds like. "Beeky Soar." The one thing it has going for it the English translation shares the same first letters.

  7. My sisters had a secret language. Di yopitty yop was Mickey Mouse. Go figure.

  8. Well I don't share DNA with anyone I know, as an adopted person with adopted kids, but we do have expressions in our home that are specific to us, usually created by my partner who has a habit of saying annoying things like "for the avoidance of doubt' and "dig deep" until we sigh.

  9. Nope, no special words in our family, which now that I think about it is kinda sad. I think I'll make up a few and pass them on to my grandkids. "ChubChat". There's a start. :)


  10. As you may know from my "Bloggers' Fictionary", I love making up words! Linner is one we use in our house. On Sundays, we eat a large, late breakfast, then usually have "Linner" around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m.---a combination lunch and dinner.

  11. Well, Eva from the comment in the country, we call it "lupper." The meal between lunch and supper.

    My boys and I use the word "garget" (pronounced GAR-git) to refer to a newfangled electronic gadget. That's because when my son was around twelve, he wanted to buy a phone on eBay, and the seller was obviously not an English-as-a-first-language typer. I believe he also made reference to the transaction being a "happy sunshine experience." We did not make that purchase.

  12. turns out those cute little saying from my Italian relatives are really curse words.

  13. In our family, it's my brother's mispronunciation of ice cream that we use -- ging ging.

    Such words do bind families, don't they?

  14. Nope, I don't have any secret codes or words. Just plain English. Not that exciting around here, but I like your word.

    Have a terrific day and pass me a piece of that chicken. :)

  15. My mother would liberally modify words she couldn't pronounce, like words of foreign origin. I remember when I was quite young and ketchup made its way into German cooking. My brothers and sisters quickly learned how to say it, but my mother just outright refused to say "ketchup" and called it "ketcher."

    I remember we all cringed...parents are just so good at embarrassing kids. Once we were past that embarrassed stage, we all called it "ketcher." Well, occasionally, when nobody was around. We didn't want to come across as rednecks, you know. Not that Germany has rednecks.

  16. We had lots of little sayings. I called the children to the dinner table by saying "sup sup ding dong." I don't know why. I can't remember. Many of our special words came from the children's early mispronunciations. Marshmallows were marshbados; oatmeal was opameal; brother David was brudder Day-day. Ah. Those were the days, my friends.


  17. Every family has its own in-jokes and such that wouldn't really make sense to an outsider. That's what happens when you spend so much time around each other, sort of like twins who develop their own language.

  18. Moosha-vega sounds very useful! I'm going to try and remember it.

    John and I use: "bo-for-my-ass!" quite a bit. In Afghanistan it is a polite term meaning "be my guest." Your son could've used it after you said "moosha vega."

  19. Interested in the comment you made about the Portuguese language and how it has changed in America. the first time my Dad went to Germany and talked German they looked at him and almost laughed . His German was from the late 1700's and his family moved here in 1905 but the language never changed.

  20. What a nifty post! Way cool - it coulda been a question in my give-away! :)

    One word we use is 'plah plah' - you know, those deeply ingrained sheet print, pillow face lines that you get when you wake up in the morning?

    stirthy - this was my nephew's version of 'thirsty' and it stuck

    Chochum - my sister-in-law's version of Coca Cola

    doobiewang - also my sister-in-law's word (she makes up words...) for that feeling you get when you go over a hill with a quick drop and your stomach flips

    shashee - my aunt's word for an item of clothing, generally female clothing, that is flow-y and filmy and fluttery.

  21. We didn't make up words per say, but we used other words in replace of others. Heirman, Jasper, Frame, Listing towards Fishers, Drop, Family night and there's probably a bunch more that I can't come up with off the top of my head. They were all started by my grandfather, and the whole family still uses them. I won't tell you what they all mean, it keeps the mystery alive.

  22. my sweet husband does not speak "normal" English-he speaks in acronisms, slang, tongue twisted drain bamaged lingo. We once had a French college student live with us one summer and at the dinner table she and I would be talking partly in English and partly in French. Well! He would start talking about something and she would look at him and then look at me and I would begin by saying "Nouveau mot"** and then in plain old English explain what the heck he was saying. It became a huge joke for the three of us.
    **new word

  23. I think most families have that "thing" that binds them together as your "moosh-vega" Weird as it may sound, your "moosh-vega" can very well be what makes your family unique and special as mine is with out mannerism people say they've seen only in us. What that is... let's keep it a secret for a while :)

  24. I love the way moosh-vega sounds- a very satisfying word to say. We have some expressions like that- very Texan ones on my dads side of the family and very Spanish/ Mexican ones on my mom's. Fun to think about-

  25. Lots of words we use are from different languages with my wife being from Zimbabwe a cow is a mombie, and here everything that's nice is "Lekker" and the nicer it is the more we roll the r "lekkerrrr". My country has 11 official languages so favourite words are adopted from TV ads or kids and friends. Have a lekkerrrr day :)

  26. When we need to go to the bathroom, we say we're going to the "bockhouse."
    I'll bet that's a garbled morphing of "back house."
    And, instead of saying "whaddayacallit?" when we don't immediately know what something is, we say "come-a-see-gom."
    Which comes from the Spanish "Como se llama," I think.
    But, I know that makes no sense.
    By the way, I picked up "Great Googli Moogli" from Sherilin here on Blogger.
    "Moosh Vega" may end up the same way.

  27. If I got a gentle punch on the arm in response to the question "What kind of sandwich do you have, Dad?" I knew it was salami. (Slam me) I'm sure there are others but that's the one that came to mind.

  28. Given that I was raised in a Canadian (Québec) French and Irish household I think it was more like four different languages at times. With French, there is also a fair bit of slang. With my Irish mother I recall Gaelic terms thrown in for her benefit, not ours.

    You have a special Mom, embrace her ways... it is your destiny. :)

  29. i grew up in a heavily pennsylvania german area so ther are lots of words derived from that culture which are familiar to the community at large but not people outside the area. within our family though only one comes immediately to mind as being limited to us. we called ice cream "ding ding" because of the sound of the ice cream truck.

  30. Hahahah... My Hubs is Italian descent and he knows a few Italian words but most of them are swear words.
    Moosh-Vega sounds much nicer than some of the words my Hubs spits out it Italian.