Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Boiled Eggs, Soldiers and Tummy Ticklers

A comment from the Saggittarian got me thinking about those peculiarities and sayings that families have. For instance, when it comes to boiled eggs I come from a family of spoon tappers. Apart from the atavistic satisfaction of bashing in it's skull, you don't waste any of the white, you don't cut your thumb and you don't get your knife eggy before the toast and marmalade stage. And we had soldiers with it. The Social Secretary, on the other hand, comes from a long line of egg-beheaders, and her soldiers were called dippies. Inevitably the children have grown up as dippy decapitators.

Then there are those sayings that are only understood within the family. If we wanted a bit of cheese without biscuits, we asked for 'cheese like a mouse' (do other people say that?). The SS's family calls those humpbacked bridges that leave your tummy floating for a moment, 'tummy ticklers'. My mother's family knew them as 'Thank you maams', after a past chauffeur who would warn his passengers one was coming with, 'Hold tight please', and then thank them afterwards. Caravans are 'Jo's' (don't ask), unnecessary urban four-wheeled drive vehicles are 'Ilfords', croutons are 'sippits' and chocolate digestives 'Daddy Bs'.

In one family we knew, if one of them was relating an anecdote that might put another down, someone would mutter 'Lith', and the speaker would immediately stop. Lith, we discovered, stood for 'loyalty in the home'.

One of the barns in my childhood home, in which the mowers and tools were kept, was known as 'the agricultural shed'. When my sister and I bought our own houses, out of habit we each called our garden sheds 'the agricultural shed'. This amused our father, who reminded us that the original barn had also been used as a second garage. Getting us to call it an agricultural shed was a ploy to stop us innocently giving away its garage use to any visiting council official, who might then have increased our rates. Probably our children in turn will have agricultural sheds.

There is also a stubborn inertia in the names we gave things. For example, there was a green, perforated steel food safe which was once used to store half stiltons. Over the years it moved house with us and was repainted white, but it was always known as 'the green thing'.

I'm guessing we all have these idiosyncratic quirks which help to define our membership of our individual clan, and set us apart from those unfortunates outside the magic circle.


  1. Ah yes, I tap my egg too. But Al chops the heads off.

    I am sure there were lots of peculiar sayings in my family but I have been unable to think of any amusing ones whilst sat here. The only one I can think of, is that we always had that rather nasty sliced bread every day except Saturday when my father would queue outside the baker's for a fresh loaf. We always called that uncut, warm loaf "Special Bread" and I still do to this day, even though it is now the only bread I buy. My children have never questioned why it is "special" which is odd really.

  2. I'm a tapper and a beheader I'm afraid... I like to initiate a smart tap just to make the entry point of the spoon a little easier when I got for the decapitation move... it also cuts down on the number of shell shards that end up inside the egg.

    Despite making a conscious effort to talk properly to Tom I've noticed already that bottles are referred to as "bockles" and dogs are already "bow-wows". That's possibly lack of imagination on my part.

  3. We call the assistant organist Shagger, if that's what you mean? And psalms are always spasms, descants 'discounts' and the sub-Dean 'fart-face'.

  4. RB - Mmm, special bread. Ours came from an old knapped flint bakery in Lacey Green. It was impossible not to excavate bits out of it on the way home.

    Steve - The names can stick. We have two Debbies who are still known as 'Bidder' and 'Bidden' respectively.

    Can Bass - I knew an organist named Pryce, who naturally became Prick. I had to pump his bellows during power cuts (that is not a euphemism). I like spasms and discounts.

  5. We have "dinky docks" in our house, a hangover from when the 11 year old was about 2 and didn't use "s"...(as in stinky socks) plus their grandad is called Plasta. No idea why.

  6. I sliced the heads off but use soldiers, so I guess I'm halfway between the two of you.

    As to individual family quirks... I'm sure we have many, but it's Friday afternoon and I can hardly remember me name.

  7. Blimey I'll have to think about this - my mind has just gone blank other than the old 'Don't come running to me when you've got no legs!' standard mother's warning every time my sister and I ventured forth on our Raleigh shoppers.

    In earlier days when toddlers we used to say 'I'm desperate!' when we needed a wee which kind of marked us out as rather sophisticated in the nursery where others would just cry 'I want wee wee!'

    And we were always fighting over the 'chicken cup' - as for some reason my mother never purchased more than one children's cup that happened to have nice yellow baby chicks pictured rround it.

    Oh dear, that's not really what you were seeking.

  8. Oh and I forgot to mention that my own family (The Stud and the girls) have a sauce we refer to as Bug Sauce. It is a creamy lemon sauce which we make often and have with chicken mostly and all stems from a time when we were making it and swore that we saw a bug fly into the sauce. The kdis stated they weren't eating that "Bug Sauce" and the name just stuck! 10 years on we still refer to it as that.

  9. Amanda - They always seem to have trouble with 'Grandpa' (mine became 'Bukka' to his consternation). Bug Sauce is a goody; like squashed fly biscuits and all those school names for dishes.

    Rol - Soldiers is best. Gives one a non OCD excuse for lining them up neatly.

    Laura - It's all part and parcel of it. I like your mother's 'Don't come running' advice. I wonder who has the chicken cup now?

  10. This is a lovely post. In my family we call ice creams "windscreamers". I think that's because my sister used to get confused between 'ice cream' and 'windscreen'.

    When there's a boring chore to be done, we try to push it onto my father by saying "Daddy wants to do it," because that's apparently what I used to tell my mum when I was little and she asked me to lay the table or something. Obviously my dad loves that.

    When we come home to my parents' house and are having a night out in Newcastle, we ask my dad if we can book Muggs'. This means that we want a lift to town, because my dad long ago christened himself "Muggs' Taxis". Muggs' also has various spin-off businesses, which my mother is a partner in: Muggs' Home Removal Service, Muggs' Babysitters etc.

    There are so many more of these, so many more...

  11. Welcome Hattie. I love these - especially 'Daddy wants to do it'...sort of thing my daughter would have said.

  12. I thought of another one. When I was about three my parents gave me a yoghurt. I apparently took one mouthful and then spat it all out with a look of utter disgust on my face, before explaining, "It's got rubbishes in it!"

    And since that day, the lumps of fruit you sometimes get in yoghurt are known as 'rubbishes'. And I still don't like them.

  13. Quite understandable. Yoghurt makers should put an advisory on the pot (Warning, may contain rubbishes)