Household Words

If your house is like my house, you have some words that only mean what they mean within your home. Let me give you three examples from Don’s domicile.

1. Froggy-finger chicken (noun)

We have a recipe for chicken that’s been a household favorite for years. It involves dredging chicken breasts in flour, then coating them with slightly diluted beaten eggs, and then rolling each in a mixture of bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese before frying. This process invariably results in flour, egg, and breading accumulating on the tips of your fingers. Your hands end up looking like frog hands. So, of course, we call this recipe froggy-finger chicken.

But that name only exists at my house. I never see froggy-finger chicken on a restaurant menu, in a cookbook, or on any cooking show.

2. Room 47 (noun)

Decades ago, when the firm I worked for was moving our office from Ridge Avenue to a larger space in the old, Clark candy factory, my colleague, Doris, organized the move. To ensure efficiency, she numbered each space in the new office and labeled all our possessions so the movers could put everything exactly where it belonged in the new space. The extra space in the back corner that collected odds and ends that didn't really have an appropriate home in the new space was designated Room 47. That name stuck. For years afterward, Room 47 remained a closed space where objects could be concealed. A space that contained a plethora of strange junk—all of it useless but too valuable to throw away.

Today, here at our house, we have a small storage closet in our basement crammed with holiday decorations, ancient typewriters, jigsaw puzzles, costumes, and much more. Naturally, that space is called Room 47. 

3. Mr. Hobbs (verb)

In the mid 1970s, Karen and I foolishly attempted to renovate an old row house in Philadelphia. During the demolition phase we needed to get rid of broken plaster, lath, ancient pipes, rat skeletons, and all the other moldy mysteries that accumulate in a damp basement over the centuries. The answer was Mr. Hobbs—a quiet, lanky, gent in overalls who owned an old stake-bed truck. 

A stake-bed truck is simple. Behind the driver's cab there is a big, flat surface surrounded by a fence. Stake-bed trucks are used to haul big loads of unusual shape. Mr. Hobbs and his crew were artists at packing their truck. They emptied room after room of debris and squeezed everything into a towering pile on the truck. Then they disappeared. Magicians.

Imagine our relief as the oppressive, disgusting, stinking detritus of centuries of urban living simply vanished. Swept away by the angel, Mr. Hobbs. Miraculous. 

Fifty years later, here at our house, Mr. Hobbs has become a verb meaning the miraculous disappearance of any evil. Furry mystery in the vegetable bin? I Mr. Hobbs'd it. 

There are more. Someday, if you are interested, I'll tell you about unk, yuggies, scatterbareebus, and cementitious desserts. 

What terms does your family use that only have meaning at your house?

Don—Pittsburgh, December 1, 2021

56 Responses

Mary C Gouveia

December 28, 2021

When my son was small, he had “wascally wabbit syndrome” (trouble pronouncing his r’s), so we had any number of funny family words. He also had some hearing loss due to many ear infections. Some of his words that come to mind are “patty-ho” (where Dad barbecues), “bobo” for elbow, and because his dad had allergy and sinus issues and regularly used a nasal spray, the nasal spray became simply the “nose.” To this day (and my son is now 49), his dad will tell me he needs to get a refill on the “nose.”


December 28, 2021

When my daughter was little, she called air conditioners “hickerdissers”. When it starts getting warm in the summer, my husband still says: “It’s time to turn on the hickerdisser.”

Jackie Keys

December 10, 2021

A factory: my late father’s term for a dish of leftovers shoved to the back of the refrigerator. So called because it made things I.e. mold.


December 10, 2021

Unidentifiable, linty-type stuff or crumbs of unknown origin = greebles.
Crushed chips at the bottom of the bag = crubble.


December 08, 2021

My daughter would call Mozzarella Cheese, Cinderella Cheese and when my son was little, he would ask for " Boys and berries jam" (Boysenberry of course) My children are all grown but these names stuck. :)


December 07, 2021

When my 5-year-old daughter eyed her plate of food and suspiciously stated that those bits looked like onions and she didn’t like onions, my husband quickly blurted out, “No they’re not!” Then he followed with the first thing he could think of on the spot, which was, “They’re rignons!” We were shocked when she accepted this word and calmly cleaned her plate! Thirty years later and they are still rignons in our house.
Flifter is that utensil that you use in the frying pan and you can’t decide whether to call it a flipper or a lifter.
My in-laws always called the cupboard where you keep the liquor The Arsenal.
My Mum-in-love called whatchamacallits “doo-ies “.


December 07, 2021

When my daughter was little she had trouble sleeping, so we named the backrest lounge pillow on the bed the “big mamma” which gave her much comfort. Our whole family called it this, and it helped her sleep. Fast forward to her freshman move in day at the local university. She pulled out the backrest and asked if any of her 3 roomates had brought with them a “big mamma”. She was met with puzzled silence, and called me later to let me know that none of them knew what that was! I just had to chuckle at that one…


December 07, 2021

Betty’s Room. The junk room you tell people not to go into by saying “Don’t go in there. It’s Betty’s room and she’s a terrible hoarder.”
We had an antique sideboard in our dining room that for unknown reasons got christened Aunt Sadie!


December 06, 2021

What is it with funny family names for chicken recipes? :) Ours is for a delicious chicken in creamy leek sauce served over noodles that we call “Farfetched”, which was christened back in the days when my kids were obsessed with Pokemon. There was a Pokemon critter called Farfetched (a chicken-like bird holding leeks that it used to defend itself) and it just seemed natural as well as in keeping with my family’s somewhat ghoulish sense of humor to say, when that particular dish was on the menu, “we’re having Farfetched for supper.”


December 06, 2021

My daughter’s senior year of high school her car was totaled in the school parking lot by a girl, Lauren, racing through the lot across the parking spaces. My daughter was where she was supposed to be, as we had discussed this being a no no after she did it with mom in the car a few days prior, and then crash. Both cars totaled. So now…
Verb- doing a Lauren is driving through the parking lot across the spaces.


December 04, 2021

To “Branson” someone (verb) is to instigate or enthusiastically join a shopping trip or dinner out, but when it comes time to pay, realize you’ve forgotten your wallet, and therefore must sheepishly rely on your companions to foot the bill. An affectionate reference to a dear gentleman of that name. His friends have paid dearly through the years, but find him a worthwhile investment.


December 04, 2021

Growing up my only grandparents were Mammie and Papa. Mammie had a way of cooking potatoes that we’d never had before. They were basically just sliced and cooked with lots of butter after they were drained but we thought they were special To this day we still call this way of cooking potatoes (Mammie potatoes). My son is 41 and text me a year or so ago to ask how to fix Mammie potatoes. 😊 She also had a Mammie cabinet. My cousin passed a few years ago and I don’t know where that cabinet is but it was always the Mammie cabinet. We had a Papa’s desk drawer that was always filled with candy. Only us special grandkids could get in that drawer with permission from Papa of course. Memories that last a lifetime. ♥️

Julie Mason

December 04, 2021

Yes, “blow the stink off” is still used = get outside, moving, go somewhere.

Cloudy Rockwell

December 04, 2021

I love everyone’s stories! We have lots of family words, too. One is when the cat(s) get jungle-snakey. I’m sure I don’t even need to describe what that is—when they act that way, you know! When I was a kid, and we’d ask my Dad if we could do something or go somewhere, he inevitably said, “Dick Wilkinson.” I never met Dick Wilkinson, but it was my Dad’s way of hedging—meaning, “We’ll see.” And probably the most-used family phrase we have is the Pewter Pepper Mill. Back when we were young, newly-married and impecunious, we treated ourselves to buying a lovely pepper mill, and at every party and gathering we proudly ground pepper for all. Then one day, it vanished. Totally. When we moved out of that apartment, it was rented to friends of ours. They looked for it, too. Many theories abound as to the cause of the disappearance, but in any case, forever after when something cannot be found, it has gone to live with the Pewter Pepper Mill.

Toby Pennell

December 04, 2021

We grew up with a “possible drawer” (junk drawer) because it was “possible” to find anything in it. I have two now.
Later, upon cooking for family I coined “it’s a cobbler” (usually dessert but not necessarily) for any recipe that did not come out looking as expected. It all began with a cake recipe that did not release from the pan and came out in pieces. It tasted fine but did not look good or as pictured.
Early in my marriage, I would ask my husband if he liked a new recipe I had tried. He, trying to be loving and supportive, would say yes. So I’d make it again and eventually he would say “are we having this again?” LOL So we came up with the code word “keeper”. If the recipe was good it was a keeper and if not no hurt feelings but I wouldn’t make it again.

donna allinger

December 04, 2021

When my late husband and I were first married almost 50 years ago, I made no bake oatmeal cookies. He instantly called them fat and heavies, as they would were a heavy cookie and would make you fat. He called them that from then on. Fast forward to 3 children later, oldest daughter was in home ec and they were making these cookies. She declares oh we are making Fat and Heavies, not realizing no one else knew that term outside of our home. No one knew what she was talking about and all she got was silence. From then on they didn’t use names her father called anything as they never knew what was real and what wasn’t. We laugh about this now.


December 04, 2021

There are a few. When we say something is “beauty blue” we know exactly what color we are talking about. “Squinky” means that’s great!! “Put on a sleeve or I need a sleeve.” Put on a sweater. I know there are more but it almost 3 in the morning. But this was fun to read!!


December 04, 2021

I hope we see this very cool frog on some merchandise soon!


December 03, 2021

My mother used to tell us kids, when she felt we should go outside and play, to “Go outside and get the stink blown off”. I’ve never heard anyone one use that phrase.

Our family station wagon was in an accident once and my father decided it got hit because it was a dark forest green and couldn’t be easily seen at night . When it was repaired, he had it painted a bright, turquoise green that made heads turn. (It was never in an accident again, so his plan worked.) We all call that particular color “car green” to this day, decades later.

My son will occasionally request that I cook “that dish you make.” We all know exactly what he wants for dinner.


December 03, 2021

Shrubbage – the haulers call it Yard Debris, but that’s too cumbersome and clinical for our house.

Sally Smith

December 03, 2021

Exploding chicken – Barber’s frozen chicken Kiev breasts, which my little kids loved. These kids, now in college, still love how the hot butter spurts out when they’re done. The name has stuck in our house to the point that when we’re at the grocery, I might tell one of them to go get a few boxes of exploding chicken. We forget that others who overhear that might be appalled.

Teri Benge

December 03, 2021

The random game
This game starts with 2 people at least it can always have more, the point of the game is to keep up with the random ness. We start with one thing and the next person adds on. Example: talk starts about a sock that leads to another story that has something random that can relate to it and it continues. Sometimes there are sounds, always laughter. My husband often gets frustrated as he doesn’t always understand where we are going with it. I think the game has some mind reading involved. Which having lived with these humans for so long tends to happen. Alot of times it’s just funny to hear my husband say “What are you guys talking about? (silent uggh escapes him)”.
Thanks for the stories you share, I have found so much Joy in the dishes and the true self you share in your creations. The signed card and note last year was such a gift of human kindness.


December 03, 2021

Make that John Prine song.


December 03, 2021

Tushy Toaster — heated seats in the car are Tushy toasters. Best add on EVER invented. Sub zero weather is almost bearable.

Harry J Mersmann

December 03, 2021

Ortnum-Decluttering so that a space/table top is usable.

Carco-This was the name of the family cat when i was growing up and the idea was that you would yell the cat’s name (“Carco!”)after tasting something horrible so that you could lick the cat’s ass to get the taste our of your mouth.


December 03, 2021

We still use words and phrases used by the children of the family. Example: Hapiece for Pepsi and krinsel for pretzel. And a “happening Chihuahua” is a big deal or sometimes, much ado about nothing. That was a misheard John Prince lyric: “It’s half an inch of water [happening Chihuahua] and you think you’re gonna drown.” FYI. Someone has written a book: “Family Words: A Dictionary of the Secret Language of Families” by Paul Dickson.

Jennifer stengl

December 03, 2021

In the 80s my parents made me teavel with them and one location we landed was San Diego and travelled into Mexico. They rented a car in San Diego and we thought it was one of the ugliest cars we had seen. Some type of sedan. The license plate had the letters. UQY in it so from then on it was UQY which we translated into Ucky… From then on evwrything since then that was not so cute we would say oooh that is UQY….

Carol Hagen

December 03, 2021

This is a little off color..maybe more than a little. Growing up with 4 siblings, family meals were huge! When we had pork loin, Mom would extract a huge chunk of meat from the fridge. My sis the zoo keeper likened it to an indelicate part of a pachyderm’s anatomy. Since then, we always refer to pork loin as elephant p***s.


December 03, 2021

The Catapult. A broken but lovely platform rocker my grandma sat in that now acts as a holder for dear puppets.
Does Room 47 have any extra ClarkBars cuz really I haven’t had one of them in years!!

Rhonda Dodd

December 03, 2021

My Mom used to make a special lemon cake for my Dad for his birthday. One year when I was in high school, the whole thing just wouldn’t hold together when she went to ice it. She was in tears. Daddy came into the kitchen just as Mom said, “I’ll just throw it away.” Daddy said, “Yes, I’ll just throw it away” picking up the cake bits and eating them with his fingers. Then we all dug in to the ugly, terrible, horrible, throw-it-away cake and had a great time.

I had a special rug made for her kitchen that said, “Lavonna’s Kitchen. ’I’ll just throw it away.’” To this day, I still use and have passed on the idea that if something looks wonky, but you know it is just fine, say, “I’ll just throw it away” while taking whatever it is and eating it (scary looking bar-type cookies) or hanging it on the wall (school art) or tossing it on the bed (homemade throw). If it was made with love, just throw it away (into your mouth, or onto the wall or the bed).


December 03, 2021

Nathanomous, a term of extreme intensity. It usually gets applied in telling a family member you have a nathanomous itch! (followed by an out-of-control scratching fit). Nathan – our friend who inspired this odd adjective – was not a particularly itchy fellow, nor did he have bad manners with scratching issues, but he tended to be extreme and loved making up words and keeping a cannon of inside-joke phrases alive within each friendship. This may be the first time he has heard of his namesake word, if he happens by a twist of fate to read this comment, for he moved away many years ago.

Gail-Lee McDermott

December 03, 2021

My first thought of Froggy-finger Chicken was over-breaded Glades Frog Legs. Glades Frog Legs should only be washed in milk and dusted in lightly fine peppered flour. I’m a South Florida Girl (use that loosely, I’m 71) and that’s how my grandmother did Glades frog legs. But newcomers, if they were so lucky to receive fresh Glade’s frog legs, breaded them like fried chicken!

Family only words? i can only think of one. Flutterby. Butterfly. I’m sure some will come to mind at 3AM. Thank you.


December 03, 2021

My husband’s old high school friend and our neighbor was drunk one night taking about something. He kind of has trouble with s’s. He is a very serious person generally but when he’s drinking, he’s so not. His wife said, “your talking s**t” and he replied, I’m not talking smith!”
It’s stuck in our house. You best not be talking smith!


December 03, 2021

Grease up (verb) — put sunscreen or lotion on (this one is so old I can’t recall how it started) “Make sure to grease up before you go outside” or “This dry air is killing my skin. I need to grease up.”

Donna Smith

December 03, 2021

“Playing plum tree”
We had 2 apple trees and an elm tree in out backyard that served as bases for our family baseball games. There was also a plum tree off to the side. My sister was too young to play but needed to be in the game with all of us. She was assigned the plum tree position, while the rest of us were at the other tree bases. She was safely out of the way, but thought she was in the game. So “playing plum tree” came to mean having a position that sounds like a job, but is doing something safe and out of the way of the real job.

Claudia Eberly

December 03, 2021

I love your household words! ‘Froggy’ in our house means silly, goofy, & full of energy. My hubs came up with the term to describe our cat when stoned on catnip: big, black, buggy eyes; running 10 paces, turning sharply, & running in another direction; attempting to play with several toys at once, then galloping off. Now it’s used to describe any being who is happy, energetic, & silly.

Rita Therese

December 03, 2021

Clown = Mr. Gacy


December 03, 2021

THAT was awesome. I am certain that many homes will adopt most of what you’ve shared.

Lisa Wright

December 03, 2021

Our Room 47 is called the Goat Room, after a brief spell of sharing a farmhouse with some people who kept goats and occasionally had to bring one inside for medical purposes. No goats, but typewriters, puzzles, decorations, odds & ends. I wonder about people who don’t have a space like that.


December 03, 2021

Pohengly: clingy, needy (usually applies to children or pets)

Hamsert: amusingly full of themself, smug, confident (usually a temporary state reflecting some recent achievement) (I’ve heard “boy-howdy” used in similar circumstance)

Hannah Pearce

December 03, 2021

I love this so much!!

We use “you’re on good solid ground” because when Bruce was getting his letter from his adviser in med school to be able to go into residency, he used that phrase a lot. We use it to reassure ourselves and others that we’re doing ok. The same sweet guy was there giving out diplomas at the end of med school and to every single person he ended with “and I salute you” so we use that a lot too! Example: hubby completes a chore, and I follow up with the double whammy: you’re on good solid ground AND I SALUTE YOU


December 03, 2021

Moving is overwhelming. My folks built a house in the woods and then moved from the suburbs to the new house. They were careful to mark all boxes “kitchen” or “bathroom” or “books and records” etc. until they got tired of thinking. So there were a bunch of boxes marked “Misc.” Even now, 30 years later, whenever we can’t find something, no matter whose house, one of us will suggest it’s in “a box marked miscellaneous.”

Andrea Kenyon

December 03, 2021

In my house, there has always been, and always will be – cats. At present time, only two. The record is eight. I couldn’t tell you how many cats have been gracious enough to grant me the privilege of being their servant over the many years of my life. They have all had distinct personalities, preferences and habits, but one thing has always been consistent. Fear and loathing of the vacuum cleaner (with one notable exception – Bonzo loved to be vacuumed, preferably with the upholstery brush).
This fear and loathing has lead to the name of any and all vacuum cleaners within my household being known as –
“The Growelley Monster ". Use of this term anywhere other than at my house, (or in homes of friends who are also blessed to be cat servants, and understand completely the meaning of the term) will brink blank stares, glazed over eyes, and thoughts of the state of my mental health.
A Growelley Monster lurks inside my closet, where it will, usually weekly, sneak out. It is then chased from room to room by “Mummy”, who wrestles it’s hideous, growling monster ass back into the closet after a long and noisy chase throughout the house.
“Beware the Growelley Monster” – it eats everything in it’s path – kibble, cat hair, toys – it cares not what, only that it must satisfy it’s unnatural appetites, and must always be hissed at while hiding under a bed or couch. Higher ground is also good for the braver felines, who prefer to cautiously watch from the counters.


December 03, 2021

“Smelly White Room” is our term for the lean-to type room attached to our garage. It’s probably a 1990’s era addition to our 1938 house. When we first moved in, 6 years ago, it was a damp, airless space complete with white carpeting and unpainted sheet rock walls. It is now approximately equivalent to your “Room 47.”

candice bigelow

December 03, 2021

i love the idea of froggy fingers chicken.i can see it.

in our home it is – ball barbarians-

my husband was repacking bicycle gears/our youngest was 4 years old. he told her all the little metal balls were ball bearings -having very active rough and tumble play sessions with her 6 year old brother and his bestie we ( both sets of parents) used to -very much with affection -call them the barbarian trio.

the word stuck in her head so she heard barbarian instead of bearings and to this day -she’s 34 – that is what slips out at times. ball barbarians…slips out of ours also at times.
side note her husband builds high end bicycles soooo…. he winces but smiles.

i love to hear other inside family words-makes the world a softer place.

kindest regards

Susan Clark

December 03, 2021

Johnson Strap: when panty hose were no longer wearable, the legs were cut off at thigh height and used to secure boxes and other odds and ends. My mother did this for years, and in the 90s a sister dated a young man whose last name was Johnson. He couldn’t believe we didn’t just buy something to secure the odd box, and offered to purchase something that would do the job.

Obviously, nothing was ever found that was as adaptable as a leg off a old pair of panty hose. Easy to tie, easy to untie, pretty much don’t breakdown over time. Mr. Johnson? Didn’t make the final list for marriage, but lives on in the family as the person our “Johnson Straps” are named after.

Chris H.

December 03, 2021

Love this, Don, and I so agree! I wrote a blog post about family “code” myself a while back ( It’s especially funny when things slip out with non-family members—they never appreciate why that nonsense you’re spewing is exactly the right thing to say…

Rosalyn E. Brown

December 03, 2021

Hi Don! I enjoy your creations – and now your creative verbiage as well!
In reference to your terms mentioned in the 12/1/21 blog, I find that most of our home is contained within Room 47, and we are desparately in need of Mr. Hobbsing (it ) ASAP!!! Love Calamityware, and don’t want any of it included within Room 47!!

Laura Cavaluzzo

December 03, 2021

In our house, the auxiliary refrigerator or freezer that lives somewhere other than the kitchen (back porch, basement) is called the Bacciagalupe. No one remembers why that exact name was chosen, but it nods to the practice among Italians (at least in our area of New Jersey) to have two kitchens — one in which to eat, receive guests and make daily meals and one in which all the serious (and messy) cooking and canning was done.


December 03, 2021

Isopoded—verb. As in “You’ve been isopoded.” There is a plastic isopod that the kids place on one another or hide where another one will find it and then yell “You’ve been isopoded.”

Nan M

December 03, 2021

We have a few. Two off the top of my head are “Nanner” referring to an accidental, extremely stupid statement and named – unfortunately – after me and my propensity to make such absurd statements. An actual example is “It’s our anniversary! We’ve been married longer than I’ve been alive.” (Instead of longer than I lived prior to our wedding). The family then responds, “Haha. That’s a nanner!”

Another is “pumpkin 3” referring to a certain bathroom that was repainted years ago in a color named"pumpkin 3". As in “Pumpkin 3 needs fresh hand towels.”


December 03, 2021

Wonderful and useful terms! My contribution is the term “Ana Rag” (noun). Ana was an amazing woman who cleaned our home for a too-brief time. She was a human dynamo – a wizard at making everything sparkle and shine. She required only that we buy the supplies she preferred, which included a package of 48 white, terry washcloths from Sam’s. She worked her magic with these, using about a dozen of them each time she cleaned the house. We then dumped them in the washer, fluffed them dry, folded them in neat stacks, and they were ready for re-use the next time. Sadly for us, Ana moved away. Luckily her rags and system stayed with us. When we want to clean or dust anything, we get out the Ana Rags.

Tina Salazar- Goff

December 03, 2021

Please make Froggy-finger chicken a shirt!?!?! That’s a must have picture that needs to be worn everywhere!!
The only sayings we had were when our kids were small were the Mesa monsters ( we live in N.M. our home is bumped against 2 large Mesa’s on the west and north side of our home) would come and get them if they didn’t get in the house before it got dark. We had to get them in the house before the mosquitoes came out because of West Nile virus, and this was the only way we could do it. We don’t like poisons, and we have very aggressive mosquitos.
So the Mesa Monsters were furry, and had horns. Sometimes the far off neighbors calling peacock would be our Mesa Monster calling his wife.
But that’s it.
You really need to make that frog shirt……

Marta Wild

December 03, 2021

Love it!!!
Being born and raised in the former Czechoslovakia, I am the butt of jokes with my grown children and grandchildren with our customs and sayings from back home. Adds to family fun!


December 03, 2021

Love your blog! Thanks for explaining the meanings of your special words and I look forward to more….

ellen m karcher

December 03, 2021

Hotdog cup. We are vegetarians and my husband loves tofu hotdogs. He has a special cup that he fills with hot water from the “Instant hot” faucet and he sticks the hotdog in it to heat up. He leaves the hotdog cup in the strangest places, and when I find it anywhere out of the cupboard at least I know he’s had lunch.

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