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Sun May 16, 2021, 03:19 PM

The Familect of Culture Study



Tweet text:
Kim Zetter
@KimZetter
Learned a new word today from @annehelen
: familect.

That peculiar, endearing, custom dialect that families, friends and intimates create over the years that encompasses inside jokes, nostalgia, shared memories, meaning and sometimes just absurd whimsy.

The Familect of Culture Study
This is the weekend edition of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen, which you can read about here. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing. Paid...
annehelen.substack.com
12:10 PM · May 16, 2021


https://annehelen.substack.com/p/the-familect-of-culture-study

You don’t need to live with someone else to come up with pet names (for your actual pet, or for other people). But as this wonderful piece by computational linguist Kathryn Hymes explains, pet names are part of larger “familects,” developed within households: shorthands and word substitutions overlaid with weird jokes, lingual play, and absurdity and undergirded by hours and months and years and decades of time spent in each other’s company. In other words: the language of actual intimacy, the sort we cultivate with kin and close kith.

In our household, our familect is deeply bizarre, fairly dirty, often includes physical accompaniments (a specific weird dance move you do when requested a specific item in the house), and also evokes a mythic “pooplegänger” which is what happens when a dark double, clothed in your poop, haunts your every move.

Familect can be so intimate as to be exclusionary: only you and others who’ve put in the hours can understand. (Just this afternoon, I said “Oh no” in a particular tone of voice to my best friend, and she replied “The air is filling with sand,” which is an exchange we have been doing for twenty one amazing years in reference to a line in The English Patient). You likely have bits of familect just as strange as the pooplegänger: phrases and words that, when explained to others, have about the same effect as explaining your very weird, very elaborate dream. The logic, the meaning, so often falls apart entirely.

The last year of isolation and hyper-intimacy has had the same effect on familect as fertilizer on a dandelion. As the barriers between public and private have disintegrated, our private words and phrases and ticks are creeping into our ‘normal’ speech. I mean here I am, admitting the existence of the pooplegänger in a public forum. We spend more time talking with each other, in our intimate spaces and using our familect, than in public space, where we have to use the lingua franca of speech unlaced with inside references. It’s like when you’ve been learning a new language long enough to start dreaming in it. Our primary dialect has become a familect.

*snip*

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Response to Nevilledog (Original post)

Sun May 16, 2021, 03:25 PM

1. Kicketty Kickin'

Lol this is so true

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Response to Nevilledog (Original post)

Sun May 16, 2021, 05:46 PM

2. I have found that many families have unique words for pooping...

"Grunting" was ours.

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Response to dawg day (Reply #2)

Sun May 16, 2021, 06:33 PM

4. Don't laugh....ours was "burp" for having to poop.

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Response to Nevilledog (Reply #4)

Sun May 16, 2021, 06:57 PM

5. That could be awkward--

The guest said, "Oh, sorry, excuse me for burping."

Your family, "Yes, really, we'd prefer you did that in the toilet!"

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Response to dawg day (Reply #5)

Sun May 16, 2021, 07:34 PM

6. When I asked my mom why she picked that word she had no explanation......

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Response to Nevilledog (Reply #6)

Sun May 16, 2021, 07:44 PM

7. My very proper friend calls farting "fluffing"-- "Oh, little Rover is fluffing a lot today"

My family called it "flotching," though that really referred to a specific kind of fart. My brother had a whole taxonomy figured out for farts.

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Response to dawg day (Reply #7)

Sun May 16, 2021, 08:11 PM

8. It was "passing gas" for us......as in, proper ladies never pass gas.

I was devastated the first time I heard my mom fart.

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Response to Nevilledog (Original post)

Sun May 16, 2021, 05:49 PM

3. Interesting!

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Response to Nevilledog (Original post)

Sun May 16, 2021, 11:13 PM

9. Thoroughly enjoyed this - thanks! nt

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