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OtterSummer 8.42-ExtraversionOliveOil

Wordplay makes OtterSummers go ‘round. It’s always been this way. Far beyond the cute things The Grand Otter said before she’d learned proper pronunciation, this summer family’s language defines us and the place we inhabit together. She’s The Grand Otter, of course, a slight reconstruction of The Grand Daughter; colloquially, The Otter. Her grandmother is The Muse, or G-ma, or The Grand Mutterer. Me? I’m usually David, but sometimes answer to The Grand Farter, though I have no idea where that moniker originated.

The cats, formally named Crash and Rose, each have about a thousand names, and they answer to any of ‘em. I usually call Crash The Hairball, and that’s pretty much replaced his formal name around the house. Rose answers to Dweeb, because she gets called little else except, occasionally, Dweebhead. However demeaning these nicknames might sound, we always smother them with sweet molasses, no insult implied or intended.

The Grand Otter also answers to Glunkoid, Dweebhead, Showerhog, and Sweetie, depending.

We always coin a few new terms each year, names and phrases that have deep meaning for us and will forever remain meaningless to the rest of the world. These usually start as an inadvertent misstatement, though none of us are above (or beneath) committing some smart-assed intentional twist of the common usage. Either cause creates some sharp break in the conversation while we absorb the immensity of our small act. Then we repeat the new term until we’re all sick of the joke. Then, the term’s stuck.

We also make up songs. Well, I’m usually the one making up the songs to add to my existing collection of what we queasingly call Dadbo’s Top Fifty Terrible Traveling Tunes. These started during that decade when we didn’t have a radio in the car and I gallantly filled in, much to the continuing chagrin of everyone involved; except me.

This year, The Otter noticed the star anise boiling away in a reduction and coined Spider Sauce, a name that I’ve already hijacked a dozen times. Leftover pancakes are Frisbees, since I sail them out into the back forty for the birds once they’ve firmed up enough for the trip.

Every family employs its own unique language, and I’m certain I can’t explain how or why. It might be that the viability of any unit rests upon its ability to create its own dialect, anchored in its unique circumstances. I can’t imagine a project team or a family surviving on the Merriam-Webster alone. Formal language has its uses, like formal manners, but it loses its utility as soon as people start sharing the same bathroom or the same supper table. Listen closely, your family, too, is probably defined by the language you’ve invented.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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