Every time I see the word “snarky,” I want to tell my friend Sharon. This is her word. She made it up.
snarky adjective \ˈsnär-kē\ Popularity: Top 20% of words – Definition of snarky 1: crotchety, snappish
Sharon was so pleased with that word that she would introduce it to everyone she met and would tell me whenever she heard it used on a show, or seen it in print. Unfortunately, Sharon passed from this earth several years ago, so I can’t tell her I just saw it again. Also, unfortunately, according to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, the word Snarky has been in use since 1908, many decades before either of us was born, so obviously, she did not make it up. But I am hearing and seeing it more often, so surely Sharon should at least get credit for popularizing it.
But that got me thinking about other made-up, personal words. My dad used to use “malarkey” and “flapdoodle” to gently dismiss something that didn’t sound right. I remember using malarkey in school one day and when someone asked where I’d got that word, I proudly told them my father had made it up. Susan Schaffer immediately announced, “no he didn’t. It’s a regular word. It’s in the dictionary.” I was crestfallen. When I got home I looked it up and she was right. I never did like Susan Schaffer anyway.
Many years later a pastor at the church I attended named his two Belgian Malinois dogs Malarkey and Balderdash. So much for malarkey. But flapdoodle — surely that was unique. No, that’s in the dictionary as well. Origin unknown and the definition is simply “nonsense.” Well, drat.
However, there is a word our family used for something really special and I have looked that word up and it is not in any dictionary. It was our own personal word that belonged only to my mother, my dad, my brother and me: Supertoploptical. Something extra-special, out of the oridinary like an exciting event or a never-to-be-forgotten day. Not a word we used often, because those sorts of things don’t happen often, but when they did, when it was special beyond compare, we would christen it “supertoploptical.”
I’ve learned that other families have words, too, or phrases. When I lived in England, my friend Tim told me his family had an expression, “through leaves.”
“Through leaves?” I asked. “What does that mean?”
“You know,” he told me. “in the autumn when all the leaves turn colors and start to fall and you run through them and scatter them everywhere. It’s fun and it makes you laugh.”
Yes, I can see that. In fact sometimes when something tickles my fancy and makes me smile, I remember and think “through leaves, Tim.”
Perhaps your family has a special word or phrase — something that is unique to only you. I’d love to hear about it. Write a note in the comments section and share it. It doesn’t have to be supertoploptical — if it’s special to you, it’s special.
And hey, maybe like my friend Sharon you will have coined a new word and started a new trend. Or not.