Posts Tagged ‘Linguistics’

OH, didn’t I tell you that my daughter’s Nanny does NOT speak English?  Oh yes, that little detail adds so much more to the running of the household, the raising of the kids, not to mention general communication.  It’s been a learning experience  for all.  I believe Belle joined the family in July, my daughter spoke no Spanish, my son-in-law speaks no Spanish, Francesca knew a little bit of Portuguese from the previous NY nanny and Finley was getting bits and pieces of Spanish at school.  That was then.

Fast forward to October and I find that my grandchildren can understand directions and instructions from Belle in Spanish, (most evident at mealtimes) and my daughter can have a conversation (albeit somewhat limited in subject matter) with her.  As for myself I am at a loss as to why only French words come to mind,  since I took in high school and you don’t really want to know how long ago that was!    I never took Spanish and never spent any time with someone who spoke it, but thought since French and Spanish were both Romance languages I would stand a chance communicating.  NOT SO!  There is very little resemblance between the words and of course the spoken word is completely foreign to me when pronounced with her Colombian accent.

This morning, Belle and I were the only ones up after the girls went to school.  We were in the kitchen together so we attempted some sort of conversation.  It’s amazing how much you can say and understand when you combine French, Italian and hand-gesture sign language.  BUT it’s not enough.  Galaxy4 to the rescue.  I have two apps on my new phone that have enabled to actually get a question answered or to say something to Belle.  One is Voice Search and that one is a riot.  Most of the time it gets it right but a couple of times the response were really crazy.  It operates on my voice asking how do you say___in Spanish.  Then the electronic voice ( I don’t know her name but she’s not Siri because this ain’t no Apple) comes on speaking my words in Spanish.  So I talk to the phone and then hand it over to Belle to listen to.  You can see how easily conversation flows NOT.  The second app is called Translate.  I type in a sentence and the phone translates it into Spanish, so again I’m on the phone and then I hand it to her.  This all makes for a discussion that no one else can hear.  Mmmm possibly a good thing!

We talked about the girls and about food and cooking.  We compared some notes and traded ideas.  She likes to cook with coconut oil and I’m into olive oil.  This morning I showed her how to fork split a Thomas’ english muffin so there would be nooks and crannies for the butter to ooze into.  We, as the older and wiser parental units, talked about child rearing and how the younger generation does things differently (do not read better).

Five friends are coming for lunch today to see the new baby.  Belle has been cooking quinoa with pistachio nuts, craisins, parsley and lemon juice as one of the dishes.  A vegetable lasagna is also prepared to be heated and there will be salad.  I’m not sure if I am included in this luncheon, but either way is fine with me.  I wouldn’t mind delving into my book for a while or actually going outside other than to get in a car to drive somewhere.  There is a pool outside but it appears to be black – the bottom is painted black Tom calls it The Black Lagoon.  No one is swimming in it, we think the filter is broken


The Lake Ida gang of good friends arrived not just to meet and greet Fletcher BUT also to learn the gender of Leslie’s impending birth.  She brought dessert and very cleverly had one cup cake decorated in the appropriate colors.  Bets all around;  5 of us said it’s a boy and Chiara forecasted a girl.  You guessed it right?  The cupcake had pink frosting on it!

After the ladies left, there was maybe 15 minutes before the before the next visitor arrived;  I picked up Francesca at school (solo) (aren’t you impressed?) This visitor arrived with a bundt cake and 3 kids!  The cakes looked delicious and with a devil-may-care attitude, the mothers gave the kids slices of cake (Gigi does not approve of cake before dinner).  Now with 5 kids wired on sugar, let the fun begin!  Lots of racing around, lots of shrieks and then my sister called.  

Silly Putty

Silly Putty

She wanted to visit to see the new baby and the girls and me.  This would be the only time I would see her before she moved to Las  Vegas to marry her beau, Nick and start a new career as a hostess in the high roller room at a casino.  Nick has made all of the arrangements and she has assured me everything is on the up an up.  She needed directions to punch into her GPS.

This is when the real drama began;  Francesca needed me in the bathroom with her with the door closed.  About 4 minutes later I emerged to the sound of wailing, and I mean REAL loud crying.  What happened?  Well, if you’ve been to Florida you know the builders penchant for stone tile floors, granite counters and ceramic tile foyers?  Apparently during a wild chase through the rooms, one of the visiting kids slammed into the kitchen counter on the island AND knocked out a tooth!  She had a baggy of ice on her mouth which did little to muffle her crying!

Chiara says: ” I think Aunt Mardy called on your phone”.  I called her back and was greeted with: “It’s about time you picked up your phone”.  OHHHHHKAAY!  I just bit my tongue and calmly explained I had been otherwise occupied and did NOT bring my phone into the bathroom considering the fate of the iPhone5  the other night.  

She arrived laden with Halloween bags for the girls and gifts for Chiara, Tom and Fletcher.  And what do you think was in the goodie bags?  Glow in the dark Silly Putty – all the better to locate when stuck onto the couch, a microphone (batteries required) so one can be a Rock Star, Glo-sticks which she opened into glass jars with the girls to make Fairy Dust! and Hair Chalk!  Yes now the girls can paint their own hairs pink or purple, how convenient.  AND then the floor and leather chair were sprinkled with  blue powder! Fairy Dust? No, Finley opened up a small cylinder of this powder and spilled it.  She didn’t know it was the 2013 version of Pixie Dust which in my day, came encased in a straw – all the easier to suck up.  This innovation had a big sucker attached to a handle that after you sucked, you could dip it in the blue SUGAR!  Clearly by now you know my sister has NO children of her own!

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Anyone who knows us, knows that we are collectors.  And we don’t collect new things, only old things.  Our home is filled with vintage furniture, turn-of-the-century games, antique books, collectibles from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  Sometimes I think we are recreating our childhood, sometimes I think we are archiving our generation, sometimes I think we are frustrated dealers.   But most of the time when I look around the apartment I see beautifully designed objects, relics of my youth, and also some obsolete objects which I believe makes them all that more collectible.  Luckily this concept pertains to “smalls” as they are known in the trade.  As I said, we collect things that I see on the website Old Dusty Things.  In fact I think we could be their poster child.

I don’t want to collect obsolete new things, I’ll leave that to  Gen X and Y.   I guess they might collect a Nokia cell phone from 20 years ago  or a 1st generation Kindle,  an early MAC. and a Pac Man game cartridge.  I’ve done a couple of blogs about words and phrases that have fallen from our vocabulary or rather not our vocabulary but their vocabulary.  I hear these phrases in old movies and I remember homilies my mother used to say to me.  They’re gone really, and won’t return.

This blog  came about when my husband showed me something he had squirreled away someplace and he asked me if I knew what it was.  How silly, of course I know what it is but do you?

More than a pencil

More than a pencil

I would love to hear from my readers;  what do you think this is?  If you are over the age of 55, you probably know so don’t post the answer right away.  I do have some Generation X and Y followers, we want to hear from you!

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Embassy of Babies


I’m back to finding those crazy wild and obscure words that I never heard of and bet you never did either.  Working my way through the alphabet, today’s ten words begin with the letter B.

  1. babyolatry: baby worship (an affliction prevalent amongst middle-aged couples with newborns)
  2. baggywrinkle: a frayed-out rope used on ship rigging to prevent chafing
  3. ballhooter: a lumberjack who rolls logs down a hill.
  4. bangboard: an extra board attached to a wagon to keep the corn from rebounding after overenthusiastic tossing.
  5. barmecide: a false benefactor.
  6. barylalia: indistinct speech, due to imperfect articulation (can you even pronounce it?)
  7. bathetic: falsely sentimental
  8. bathybic: deep-bosomed
  9. bauchle:  an old shoe,  one with worn heels
  10. bedswerver: an unfaithful spouse (this is a good one)

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I really like doing these posts;  in between blogs in this category when I hear a phrase that I grew up with but know that none of my kids or their friends would have a clue what it meant, I try to jot  it down.  Phrases come and go out of style and in this day and age when “sick”  means great and “down” means agreement, I’m just as clueless about today’s slang as the younger generation is about mine.

My readership is about 50/50 in terms of those of “a certain age” like me and a bunch  under the age of 40!  So tell me, have you heard these phrases lately and do you know what they mean or how they came to be?

Taking a shellacking – This is a slang phrase meaning you are being beaten down by someone.  In sports you hear that one team is taking a shellacking by the  opponents.  How did the noun, shellac, which means a thin protective coating come to mean beating someone is still somewhat obscure.  Word Detective suggests that shellac which is the last and final step in the finishing of furniture may imply that whoever is taking the shellacking is all finished.

Short Shrift – This phrase means something or someone is receiving careless attention, a quick but cursory view.  The origin of the phrase comes from the 16th Century when shrift  meant that brief time prior to a prisoner’s execution when he was granted the opportunity to confess to a priest.

Charley Horse – Commonly refers to muscle cramps in your thigh or calf muscles.  This condition is known throughout the world under names such as Donkey Bite, Thigh Hen, Horse’s Kiss.  There is some allusion to Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn, a major league pitcher who was known to suffer frequently from cramping muscles.

Church Key – Is actually a term for a bottle/can opener.  Originally a church key was a small metal device designed to open the caps (known as crown-corks) of beer bottles.  It resembled the shape of an ornate key to unlock the church doors.  Beer was marketed in cans around 1935 with flat tops and was sold often with a metal device that would pierce a triangular hole in the lid.  The term church key was simply transferred to the new opener.  

San Lorenzo church key

Church Key

Who Shot John – I, myself, never heard this term until I heard Judge Judy use it and it was used to describe superfluous details, aka bullshit!  However, this old term, probably southern, was/is commonly used to describe the way someone would look if he/she were disheveled, or had on too much make-up, or any instance where you  looked bad and not proper.   And again, also to imply that you didn’t want to hear any nonsense, just the truth as in “Don’t give me any who shot John“.  And as far as an origin, the best I can find is that it refers to John Wilkes Booth, but why???

bottle openers, crown corks

Beer Bottle Openers

can openers, beer openers, church keys

Early Beer Can Openers

can opener, bottle opener

Church Key Today

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There are the signs of our time and our vital signs as well as sign language;  But since this is FAB FOTO FRIDAY I thought you might enjoy some signs and symbols as seen through the eye of the camera.


New york


photo by Murray Head


Ocean grove craft show

Life is Magical

photo by Murray Head


New York city, stop, don't walk

Don't Walk

photo by Murray Head


Starving Artist restaurant, Ocean Grove NJ

Believe Me They're NOT Starving Here

photo by Murray Head



Right on Target

photo by Murray Head







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“Heebie Jeebies” by Louis Armstrong and his Ho...

Image via Wikipedia

One day I said to Peter, “that gives me the Heebie-Jeebies” and he looked at me like I was speaking in tongues.  I couldn’t believe he had never heard the phrase before.  It’s a great phrase and used in the right context the way it rolls off your tongue, it just conveys its meaning.

Heebie-Jeebies means a feeling of anxiety, apprehension or illness. And this type of two-word phrase is known as a Rhyming Reduplication. It is similar to other phrases such as Hocus-Pocus and Mumbo-Jumbo are similar with a bit of the jitters thrown in.

Heebie and Jeebie  as separate words don’t mean anything.  However, in the 1920’s, a bunch of  new nonsense rhyming pairs became popular in the United States.  There was the Bee’s Knees, Okey-Dokey and Zig-Zag.

The term is widely attributed to William Morgan “Billy” de Beck. The first citation of it in print is certainly in a 1923 cartoon of his, in the 26th October edition of the New York American:

You can find Rhyming Reduplications in our everyday language in use starting in the nursery with phrases like Choo-ChooWee-Wee and then as adults there’s Hanky-Panky – today we have Bling-Bling, Boob-Tube and Hip-Hop. The rhyming and reduplication of words dates back to the 14th Century with Riff-Raff and about a thousand years ago Willy-Nilly appeared.

Once you start thinking about these crazy little phrases, you’ll be coming up with your own list.  Here’s a head start:













Isn’t this fun?





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