Mumbo Gumbo.

My wife is brilliant.

And it’s rubbed off on our daughter.

Now, you might be thinking at this moment, “Yeah…sure. Everybody thinks their kid is brilliant, and a lot of husbands feel that way about their wives.” That’s probably true, but I have proof of my family’s brilliance. They’ve started their own language. And it’s…it’s…absolutely brilliant. Allow me to explain.For years (we’ve been married 13 years, next month), I’ve kidded my wife about her “Elizabethan English” (Mrs. Digital’s Christian name is “Elizabeth”), I’ve kidded her about words she uses that can’t be found in any dictionary I’ve seen in a bookstore. Words like splinky. Now I don’t think I’m revealing any family secrets when I tell you that “splinky” translates in English to “feeling unwell.” If you have an upset stomach or some other minor ailment, you’re feeling “splinky” (at least if you are over at my house). Something can be “dead as a doorknob” (as opposed to “dead as a doornail“) or if you are a hypocrite, you’re labeled a “pottle cat” (derived from the phrase “a pot calling the kettle black.” ) After a while, I began keeping a list of these creative words and phrases, as I began to realize that they were not only unique, but creative and, well…useful.

Ten years ago, we had a baby girl. As she grew and began talking (and talking, and talking) she began to take after her Mom, coining some really useful words. As she recounted a story, I asked her when it had happened. Without missing a beat, she said “yesternight.” Now think about that. We have yesterday…why not yesternight ? I mean, there’s a certain economy of phrase there, plus an appealing symmetry, as well as a sense of whimsy. I like it.

Another charming addition to the Elizabethian lexicon is causserop. A causserop is a cough drop. Easier to say – and more intuitive to spell, I must say.

A couple of days ago, she discovered that her last compact mirror had broken somehow. I teased her and said, “ooh…now you’re in for seven years of bad luck.” She replied, “Daddy! I”m not superstitious. I don’t believe in all that mumbo gumbo!” I laughed, and explained the prhase is “mumbo-jumbo.” She didn’t care. She said “I like mumbo gumbo better.” Come to think of it, I do, too. I’m originally from Louisiana, where a gumbo is essentially a stew that’s ingredients oftentimes include whatever you have lying about the kitchen. So “mumbo gumbo” is a unique little turn of phrase that is both just different enough to your ear to be catchy, and charmingly descriptive in it’s own way. And as soon as I get a few free hours, Mumbo Gumbo‘s gonna be the name of my next song, with lyrics that explore all the words and phrases my wife and daughter have made up. It’s too good to pass up.

So there you have it. I have a couple of budding linguists in the house. And I’m learning to speak another language. And the next time you’re feelingsplinky and paying for the fun you had yesternight, don’t pay any attention to those pottle cats, ignore their mumbo gumbo, have a causserop, and get to feeling better. Y’hear?

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