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The Private Language Of Marriage

I read an article in the International Herald Tribune last Friday that really struck a chord. It was an essay by writer Joan Wickersham about the...

I read an article in the International Herald Tribune last Friday that really struck a chord. It was an essay by writer Joan Wickersham about the ways in which longtime couples develop their own private lexicons with which to communicate with one another.

She talks about this dynamic within the rubric of marriage, but her point applies to any long-term partnership. What’s crucial is that you’re together long enough to have a shared experience that which then evolves into a catch phrase that only the two of you can understand.

By way of example, Wickersham recounts the story of how – right after she married her husband – she got a job in a bank which she hated. Even though her husband had a job that he liked, he convinced her to quit her job (and he his) so that they could move somewhere else and both be happy. From there on out, “It’s like the bank” became their stock way to describe any situation that was especially bleak and dismal. Wickersham has another great story about the phrase “We’re just not serrated knife people” and what it came to mean within the context of their marriage.

My husband and I have been together for nearly 17 years and I know exactly what she means. I’m one of those people who’s obsessed with schedules. Once – on a trip to visit my husband’s parents in Atlanta – I perseverated for hours over whether, upon landing at Hartsfield Airport, we ought to go directly to his parents’ home or stop by and visit a friend first and risk being late. To this day, whenever I begin obsessing about our travel schedule, my husband will look at me and say: “Should we just go home or should we stop at Douglas Jackson’s?” (Not his real name.) It’s code for: Are you really going to go on about this all night?

Similarly, we’ve also incorporated a phrase to describe that feeling you get when you anticipate that someone is going to disagree with you. My husband and I met in graduate school and one of our early bonding experiences was over our feelings about a mutual acquaintance (we’ll call him Simon Collins.) Simon Collins was the kind of person who – no matter what you said – instinctively responded with something negative. I haven’t seen or talked to Simon in years. Nor has my husband. But whenever one of us raises a topic that might possibly prompt criticism, we preface it by saying “No Simon Collins!”  to disarm the other person from any knee-jerk disapproval.

Neither of these phrases would mean anything to anyone but the two of us. And that’s the point.

I’ve written before about some of the things that make for a happy marriage/partnership: having shared interests; establishing a division of labor. But Wickersham’s column reminded me of one more crucial ingredient – feeling like a team. There are lots of ways to do this, but having a private language – a “civilization of two” as she puts it – is one of the principle ways that you can reinforce that bond.

How about you? What strange and impenetrable shorthands have you and your partner devised to communicate with one another?

I’d love to hear them…

Image: portrait of a happy couple – day 358 or Project 365 by purplemattfish via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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  1. dennisfinocchiaro July 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    It’s a beautiful relationship where that happens, isn’t it? I love it. But then, I’m a hopeless romantic :)
    http://www.denwrites.com

    • lawyergal July 13, 2010 at 6:41 am #

      Hopeless romantic? I’d much rather be a hopeful single!

  2. Jackson Rodgers July 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    That’s the beauty of a long term relationship. My wife and I have been married 11 years and together 14. We also have our own private language but often I don’t even have to say anything. It’s like she can read my mind.

  3. Tomcat in the red room. July 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Great post, brilliant, excellent and other adjectives. I don’t think this is exclusive to romantic relationships either. I have long-term friendships with people, with whome I’ve developed some frivilous phrases of lexical insignificance but semantic importance.

    One such example comes from a poetry reading I attended with some friends. After the reader, the poet opened the floor to questions form the audience. One person asked something perfectly innocent and predictable about the poet’s ‘inspirations’. The poet (Gillian Clarke) had clearly miss-head the question, and responded with ‘What’s that? my husband is ill?’

    Me and my friends found this miss-hearing hilarious, and to this day, whenever something surreal, unexpected or banal is said, we frequently respond with ‘my husband is ill?’ to the amusement of ourselves, and the confusion of everybody around us. It’s kind of become code for two things: your question is stupid AND, ‘are you deaf’?

    Great blog btw.

    • Tomcat in the red room. July 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

      Please excuse the several typos in that post. Clearly i mean ‘whom’, ‘reading’ and ‘miss-heard’.
      Sorry…I’ve not long been awake.

    • 1 Sentence Diary July 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

      We have a similar phrase in my family. When some ancestor (long gone, I’m afraid) was getting along in years, she lost some of her hearing. She was asked a simple question, something along the lines of “how are you feeling today” and she answered “gray tuch tuganeh” — my very poor transliteration for the Yiddish equivalent of “radishes I’m carrying.”

      Poor thing, no doubt she was answering some other question (that she thought she heard) rather than the one she was asked.

      But to this day, generations later, whenever someone answers in a non-sequitor, they are answered with “gray tuch tuganeh.” And you can be sure that anyone outside the family has absolutely no idea what we are talking about!

  4. Summer July 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Really liked your post!!

  5. veutzu July 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    Very subtle observation. I really enjoyed reading your post :) Yes, we also have our own private language that doesn’t make very much sense to anybody else. I’ll keep reading :)

  6. greengeekgirl July 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    Great post :) My husband and I have our weird little chatter, of course–not anything I care to share in a public forum (hehe), but we have it, nonetheless.

  7. Kim July 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Ours is “well, I just assumed…”.

    My mom says this so much that it totally grinds on our nerves. She uses it really sarcastically and often when she is at fault for something and trying to turn in around on you.

    Now, when one of us needed something, but forgot to let the other one know so it didn’t get done. We will say “well dear, I just assumed you cared enough to magically figure out what I needed without me telling you”.

    Half the time, we can’t even get out the first four words before we are cracking up.

    We also use it if someone is just being snarky. One of us will will whisper “well I just assumed…” to the other and we share a knowing grin.

    Thanks for the insights,
    Kim (married 10 years)

    • onsundaymorning July 12, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

      My mom and grandmother do that and it wears on my very last nerve as well. Shortly following the “I just assumed” I always get “How was I suppose to know?”
      Only we haven’t gotten to the point where it is funny.

  8. Chris July 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    Our bath tub wasn’t draining properly. My wife and I each drilled a hole in the little piece of metal blocking the drain, not thinking that there may have been some other way of unblocking it. From then on, whenever we face something beyond our depth or experience, we say “We are not the kind of people who should use power tools.” It’s a caution to ourselves.

    • Rhonda July 14, 2010 at 4:30 am #

      this one made me laugh out loud – thanks for the funny moment!

  9. suitenectar July 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    My wife and I have always seemed to speak our own language from day one. Perhaps its because of our shared experience as divorced parents. We had a unique insight into each others’ plight. Sometimes our language doesn’t involve words at all, but something as simple as a glance at each other. We use keywords to refer to specific things – partly out of necessity as parents of three. For instance, my ex-wife is referred to via numerous keywords including “Nosferatu” and “Wombat”. I have written numerous posts about my relationship with my wife. Please feel free to take a look!

    The lows of love are so much higher than the highs of loneliness. (http://wp.me/pMAmz-2M)
    In cards and love, it’s all about the hand you’re holding. (http://wp.me/pMAmz-g)
    You’re My Happy Place (Freshly Pressed 6/17/10 – http://wp.me/pMAmz-4R)

  10. thegentlehome July 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Great post. My husband and I love watching movies- and do so probably too much! So we often quote movie lines as part of our conversation. In serious topics it can help us relax or put a smile on our face!

  11. rubiescorner July 12, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    I was curious to see what you would say. I have no other insite. I have been married 41 years, and I am still very much in love with my husband. We are growing old together, and loving the idea of retirement which should be in a few years.

  12. Ruby Craft July 12, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Thanks for the article. I was just curious as to what you would say. I have been married 41 years this July and we are still in love and growing old together.

  13. gumballgirl July 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    I am usually a pretty easy-going person, so for me to get visibly upset, especially in public, is unusual. One time, my partner (of 16 years) and I went out to eat at a pizza place called Garibaldi’s. The combination of hunger, hormones, and rowdy children in the booth behind me caused me to lose my temper and berate the parents of said children for not controlling them better. Now, whenever I feel myself losing control, we call it a “Garibaldi moment”.

    http://gumballgirl.wordpress.com

  14. niconica July 12, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    This is an awesome post. :) I enjoyed reading it.

    Cheers, Niconica
    http://niconica.wordpress.com

  15. Ben/Kate July 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    Growing up as the daughter of a first-generation American, I a lot of German aggression (not to mean anger, but there is just a lot of forcefulness innate in a German’s nature); now whenever I start getting to be too bossy or short, my partner of nine years tells me to “tone down the German” which is a much nicer way of saying, “stop acting like your mother!”
    There are many other, probably more fun ones we do. We seem to have our own language (a lot of it movie/music based).
    -K

  16. Brooke July 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    I feel like ours are more like inside jokes than language. Because when we refer back to a time or instance, the hubs is usually making fun of me. Which I’m A-OK with because if you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point.

  17. Julie July 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    Of course, I can’t think of any actual examples as I’m reading this. But my husband of 6 years and I frequently say the same thing simultaneously, and we have a strange tendency to finish each others sentences. A couple of times, this has actually freaked people out.

    Congrats on making Freshly Pressed.

    JS

  18. sylviangirl July 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Great post!
    My boyfriend and I have been together for about 5 years now and we have developed a great little language between the two of us. I love it that we can say things and no one else knows what we mean. It’s also great to know that tons of other couples do the same too :)

    http://sylviangirl.wordpress.com/

  19. iwillnoteatthedarkness July 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    My best friend and I have several of those catch phrases due to my weird hearing. One time, we were in my car going somewhere (to shop probably) and she said, “I’m having the itch to go out.” What I heard was, “I’m fixin’ to hitch my toe out.” Incredulous, I looked at her and said,”What in the world does that mean?” Well, we finally figured it all out and had a good giggle over my silly hearing. From then on, though, every time we get dressed up to go out we say, “I’m fixin’ to hitch my toe out.”

  20. Adam Day July 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    Very good read. My wife and I have been together for 2+ years now. Many more to come!

    Check Us Out! A Little Place For Some Internet Traffic Road Rage!
    Road Rage with A & A

  21. thecodger July 12, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Navigating the waters of marriage can be tricky business, but as long as you have a good RADAR system, a solid hull, and a map, you’ll be all set. Just be sure to keep the missus outboard!

    The Codger
    http://thecodger.wordpress.com/

  22. Rachel July 12, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    So true. This can also apply to long-term friends too, I suppose.

  23. Cara Bristol July 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    Great post. My husband and I have a lot of private phrases. When we stock up a grocery item, we call it, being “Y2K OK,” referring back to people stockpiling for the advent of the year 2000. We have many more. I think in any close relationship, you would develop a private language as you share experiences.

  24. louisianefille July 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    My husband and I have been married 13 years, together nearly 15 years all told. I swear, sometimes we seem to read each other’s minds.

    I think it’s part of what binds each couple together, having those experiences and private phrases that are yours and yours alone.

    Great post, btw.

  25. Naomi July 12, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    *smile* This was a wonderful post, I really enjoyed it. My guy and I are quite new at this but are already starting to do this. He introduced me to an online web comic called “Real Life” towards the beginning of our relationship. During his R&R, after he came out of the shower, I immediately went up to him saying I loved the cologne he was wearing, it smelled wonderful, what was it? He laughed and said it was shaving cream then pulled me close and said that was our first real life “Real Life” moment.. and yes, there have been more “Real Life moments” since. ^_^

    ~Naomi

  26. Cecilia July 12, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    The one private phrase my husband and I have used from nearly the beginning of our relationship is “la la,” from “La La Means I Love You” (the Delfonics). We lived for a long time in Japan where affection is looked down upon, so if we’re on the cell phone and within earshot of others, for example, we will say “la la.” We still close our emails this way. We worked together, and my husband once mistakenly included one of our emails in an email to a colleague, but fortunately no one understood what “la la” meant :-)

    • Leah July 12, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

      My husband and I have something similar. We often end a call, an e-mail, or a text with Lovage. Even though lovage is actually a plant (not a fill in for “love you”) it’s just something we’ve been doing for nearly 16 years! :)

  27. notesfromrumbleycottage July 12, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    What a great post, it really reflects marriage at its best. Every now and again when we want to comment on the riduculous the husband or I repeat a line we heard at a gathering – “You know, dogs are kennel animals.”

  28. The Social Writer July 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    Love that title! So appropriate, that’s exactly how marriage works and entering that comfort zone is what sets us up for the long haul! There’s only one person in the world who can wrap you into that, your partner, and you’ve captured that experience perfectly.

    I rarely look @ the freshly pressed home page @ wordpress.com, usually too rushed online. But that’s how I found you, and I’ll be digging in there more often.

    Susan
    http://thesocialwriter.wordpress.com

  29. bettiebluebell July 12, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    The ‘pigeon thing’ with my partner is the first and one of many times that sum up my sense, or lack of sometimes. We were travelling in Japan and trying our hardest to sleep in a train station one night before flying home. But just as we settled we would get moved on by some guard or another. To avoid this further we just kept going deeper and deeper underground until there was no other living thing around. Then suddenly we saw a pigeon. I wasn’t sure how we found the underground hovel, so we were really baffled to see a pigeon strolling along. To my alarm, my partner decided to throw it some bread. I bellowed (and it echoed around the walls) ‘Don’t fed it, there will be hundreds of them here in a minute’. From that day, 6 years ago, when ever I say something utterly foolish in a panic, he just utters ‘it’s the pigeon all over again’ and shakes his head! I know when I hear these words that my probable catastrophising thoughts have gotten out of hand again!

  30. Blackwatertown July 12, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    When we’re involved in a particularly convoluted, arcane or obscure discussion, one of us may break of and say “If only Pam was here” or just simply “Pam”.
    We haven’t seen her for years, but we remember how she always used to raise her eyes to heaven at the bizarre meanderings our conversation took.

  31. Amy July 12, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    My husband and I definitely have our own language (together 16 years) but most of the time we don’t even have to say anything. We’ll just look at each other and know what the other is thinking. This language is even more pronounced with my sister. My husband can’t stand to be in the same room with us sometimes because he can’t understand a word of what we are saying to each other.

  32. ripepeach July 12, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    Man’s #1 need is for companionship. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” Then God let Adam name all the animals, 2 by 2, until he realized for himself that God was right. Imagine that…this “private language” is a vital part of teamwork & companionship that every man craves. The intimacy that this playful banter develops is unsurpassed in bonding strength. Dear Lord, I pray that the “secret language” between my spouse & I would grow into a deep, complex, and fullfilling form of communication that strengthens our intimacy more & more each day. Thank You for the sacredness of marriage & the blessings it offers. In Jesus name I pray amen.

  33. delialloyd July 12, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    I am overwhelmed and gratified by the outpouring of comments on this post. (And thanks to the good people at Word Press for featuring this post today and bringing many of you over.) The stories you’ve told have made me laugh out loud and also remember other catch phrases from days gone by with college friends and family members. I’m so glad that this topic resonated with all of you. I will now go back to chuckling over catch phrases from the good ole days…

  34. Moroccomama July 12, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    When my husband and I were first married 10 years ago, he used to work construction. One of his co-workers used to announce “basically we’re done!” even when they were no where near finished. Hubby and I used to say “yeah, just gotta dig a whole, pour a foundation, throw some walls up, and basically we’re done”. We always use that phrase when we’re procrastinating on something. Thanks for reminding me of this.

  35. Erin Currin July 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    I love being able to say 2 or 3 words that will make him just crack up and no one else has a clue what’s going on… :)

  36. Derek Templeton July 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    Mrs Templeton and I own our own hardware business and our relationship is normally ok.

    That was until a few weeks ago when Mrs Templeton ordered a case of 30 T Cut Metallic Paint Restorers when she knows we only have cases of 6.

    I was furious, absolutely furious with this issue of overstocks

    http://derektempleton.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/you-cant-trust-anyone/

  37. Kanchana Rubino July 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Has anybody gotten the point in your relationship where your conversations are like this…
    He: Hey, did you…
    Me: Oh, yah. What about the er..
    He: No, I was running around with the..
    Me: Oh.. got it. Do you wanna..
    He: Sounds good.

    :) My hubz and I do this sometimes. I think, one of these day, we will wake up and tell each other the same dream!

  38. leaderinlearning July 12, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    My husband and I have been together for 16 years and we each have a “look” which we use in public situations to communicate. He knows instantly when I am upset, he knows when to back off and when to pay attention and I know how he’s feeling.

  39. Robert Bain July 12, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    I too have many different shorthand codes with my wife but my favorite is during conversations with others. When they are telling you something that you feel is BS, we simply say that that is fascinating – then we delve deeper.

  40. livewriter2000 July 12, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    My husband and I know what we are thinking without even speaking. I have a nickname for his chest I call it heaven and know one else knows this. Our first dance song was Just Like Heaven and I just ept smiling because I knew what heaven meant to me.

  41. livewriter2000 July 12, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    Correction: Our first dance song was Just Like Heaven and I just kept smiling because I knew what heaven meant to me. :)

  42. laurenmeetcha July 12, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    Love this post! Getting to the point in a relationship where you can share subtle thoughts and emotions through a language developed of shared experience is wonderful!

    Great post!

    -Lauren @meetchalive

    http://www.meetcha.com
    http://www.blog.meetcha.com

  43. jelillie July 12, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    My wife and I work in ministry. We have had to develop a very good non verbal dialogue for Sunday mornings in particular because so often we don’t get to speak at all during the service.
    We’ve had whoile silent conversations from altar to pew with just subtle hand movements and looks.

  44. Kfred July 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    Oh, after 29 years, my wife and I have our own shorthand language, sure enough.

    It’s really very simple: She speaks and I follow the directions. Simple to implement. Extremely hard to learn, but, I have finally made it.

  45. GB July 12, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    My girlfriend and I have been together 9 months, and we’ve got one of these.

    My roommates and I had to make a run to Target for some household items (which was only gonna take like an hour), and I asked if she wanted to come along, since she doesn’t have a car, and it’s right near the mall. I dropped her off for some shoe-shopping, then called (after slightly less than an hour) and asked if she was about done… She was highly amused (and annoyed) when I mentioned that I’d purchased some frozen food, and we consequently needed to get home fast (cutting her shopping short a bit). She wasn’t pleased.

    We made up in pretty short order and had a nice dinner, but ever since then, whenever she wants to make light of me being in a hurry for no good reason, she pops a grin and says, “There’s no time! Frozen food!”

    It’s kind of adorable.

  46. Patricia July 12, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    I have been married to a realist for 33 years and we have no catch phrases – it is just tell it like it is straight forward no nonsense but it worked for us.
    Now I love words and laughing out loud…I was delighted when my healing coach lobbed onto my wanting to use Duct Tape to keep from falling down….now for each homework assignment we Duct Tape something to my to do list….and it keeps me laughing which helps me be more creative.

  47. gmomj July 13, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    This is so great I loved reading this post and these responses.
    All my husband has to say is “take cover” and I know one of our 6 young adult offspring is about to hit me up for money or co-sign on something and Daddy has already refused.
    When we leave for work together and see our cars are not parked where we left them or there is a pile of soda (or beer) cans in our yard,we just mention “usual suspects”. He knows what I mean I know what he means, our alien spawn,at it again.

  48. imotherofpearl July 13, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    We have many shared code phrases, but my favourite is “Just like the Pickled Fairy”. My husband and I were at a shop called the Pickled Fairy many years ago, and the cashier wrapped my purchase with such extreme care and attention (glitter, ribbon, the whole shebang) that we were still waiting ten minutes later.

    Now, whenever someone is taking too long to do something, we say ‘just like the Pickled Fairy.”

  49. The Mad Penguin July 13, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    Absolutely love this post and it is so true. There are times when we just say one word in the middle of a crowd and we both burst out laughing for no apparent reason (to other people). And yes, it makes you feel like a team. The best feeling in the world when you love someone so deeply.

    Also Like Tomcat say it’s not just exclusive to romantic partnerships. This happens at work too with my colleagues when you come up with your own jargon to describe something in very few words. But then again, that ‘team’ context is there.

  50. CultureChoc2010 July 13, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    So true. Loved your post.

  51. Amiable Amiable July 13, 2010 at 2:24 am #

    My husband and I just celebrated our 22nd anniversary. When we were dating (24 years ago), he planned a ski trip for us to Killington, VT – we were both novices. When we arrived, he turned into a walking (and skiing) panic attack. I still don’t know why. But whenever he starts getting irrational about something, I say, “We’re not in Killington!” The anxiety is always diffused with the resulting laughter. There’s also his nickname for me, “Big Happy Nothing,” which relates to whenever I do something nice for someone, and is the reason for my blog’s name. I loved reading your post and the comments!

  52. Sammii July 13, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    Your post is very interesting! I am not married or even involved with anyone, nor have I ever been. However I am in my early twenties and starting to experience things regarding love. I am Christian and searching for God’s will for me, and for the first time in my life found someone I can relate to in the way you describe. It’s odd that I understand what you are saying considering I’ve never experienced a relationship but he’s my best friend and we came very close to having a relationship but weren’t sure that was God’s calling for us. Though we were never actually involved we are closer to each other than anyone else and almost have that connection you describe so I understand somewhat. And maybe will experience something even stronger than that with him or someone else at the level you and your husband stand. :O]

  53. tightknot July 13, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    The hub and I agreed from the beginning to avoid any kind of name-calling. No matter how upset we get, we are not allowed to insult or tell the other person to “shut up.” Obviously, we also avoid cursing. Now of course we get into healthy arguments every now and then. However, to release any frustration or let the other know how upset you are, we address each other as “snookam” not so lovingly…that’s our word for “you, beepin’ beep!” It makes us laugh and forget the issue at hand. Great remedy.

  54. natinanorton July 13, 2010 at 4:55 am #

    Lovely post and congrats on making Freshly Pressed!

    One example of shorthand between myself and my husband is when we’ve gone apartment hunting. We always have a predetermined set of questions and requirements with us and all it takes is one scratch of the nose to indicate a nay vote.

    Natina

    http://crosswordcharlie.wordpress.com/

  55. TheIntentionalSage July 13, 2010 at 5:06 am #

    I think another one of the important components of a healthy relationship is that both parties allow the other the opportunity and chance to be who they really are. That is, they each allow the space for each other to follow their own desires, wishes, hopes, and dreams. I think a great example of this comes from the Hendricks (Gay and Kathlyn). From what I understand, they run a thriving Institute helping couples to understand the important factors.

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

  56. neverthewoman July 13, 2010 at 5:21 am #

    Perhaps lamely, or because our marriage is not particularly “close,” the only one I can think of is our euphemism for intercourse later that night…”Can we go to the movies tonight?” We have been together for 15 years, married for 12.

  57. Katherine July 13, 2010 at 6:02 am #

    Most of our “catchphrases” are based on longstanding family stories that have been woven into our own lives. They’re now so tangentially related to the original story that even explaining wouldn’t make them make any sense. And as time goes on, we see them being woven into our sons’ lives and stories, too, and that makes it even cooler. I love thinking that some of these phrases will someday be three and four generations removed, pulling our family tighter through threads of history.

  58. Lulu July 13, 2010 at 6:06 am #

    My boyfriend and I have our own language, like other posters said here. Most of the words are abbreviation on my native language or his native language. The interracial relationship between us has enriched our personal vocabulary.
    When we don’t use the abbreviations we are used to using, we know there is something wrong ;not necessarily something wrong with our relationship, but there is something that bothers each other mind. Sometimes silence and only body language;smiles, eye contacts, eyebrows, the way we hold hands are our private language:-)and only we who know the hidden meaning behind all the non-verbal language we send; and that’s private.
    I love your post a whole lot!!

  59. leeschmidt July 13, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    Cool post… I’m not married, but I love the little things I’ve come up with my partners in relationships. It’s cool to see these were actually really healthy and not lame as others thought. And having a shared ‘secret’ language is great fun. Especially when out and about on the internet.

    http://leeschmidt.wordpress.com

  60. modernsalt July 13, 2010 at 7:14 am #

    Very much food for thought. I’m involved in a long distance relationship and your post has made me think about our own “secret” codes. It does help my boyfriend and I remain close despite the miles. :)

  61. sayitinasong July 13, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    In addition to partners and husbands and wives, I find that life long friends also have developed the same “code”. I guyess it’s all about shared experiences.

  62. fightforthewrite July 13, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    interesting

    http://fightforthewrite.wordpress.com/

  63. 1sttime2010 July 13, 2010 at 10:47 am #

    I love this! This is exactly how we work. When my boyfriend is doing something annoying I just put up my arm as though I’m dangling from the end of my tether. This always sends us into giggles. What a great piece.

  64. alexdonald July 13, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Myself and my ex, who have remained best friends, still use our own lexicon and funnily enough we even have our own way of spelling words! I think it will probably be inappropriate to continue it especially when we fall in love with other people but it’s hard to stop!

  65. damyantig July 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    great post, and very true of most long-lasting couples!

  66. innova July 13, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    When I was 42, married and two children, that woman was 29 unmarried. I was to teach her using the PC – in 1992 as per the instructions of my CEO. The PC was in other office. The first day I left the office – signaling her to come with me – came out on the road – and it was raining slowly. I stood there – she came, looked skywards and opened her umbrella and asked me to join her. I was nervous and hesitated and surprised at her invitation. But we went separately and we have to cross the road, so I waited for the traffic to ease. When it was ready, I looked left and right and she was not seen. Again I looked around, she was just behind me! Shocked but composed. We crossed the road, and stopped a taxi and I asked her to get inside. She went in, moved to a corner and asked me to sit next to her. I just opened the front door and sat there and we went other office.

    After two hours session, I wanted to call it a day and asked her to pack up. Meanwhile I went to pantry and had some water, and collected my papers and was getting ready. But she was still sitting there.

    “Come on… let’s move” I said

    “I want to ask you a question” she said

    “You can write it down all the questions in a paper, so we can discuss it tomorrow” I said thinking about the question was connected to PC

    She was sitting still..

    “It’s getting late in the evening – it’s better we move out” I said

    “What is your opinion about love” she asked me without moving an inch.

    It was a terrible shock. It took some time for me to compose myself. But I acted as if I have not heard her question, hoping that she would get up and move out

    “I asked you – what is your opinion about love?” she asked me again.

  67. sam July 13, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    i love this post, and all the comments that followed. iwillnoteatthedarkness’ especially had me in stitches.

    it’s kinda hard to explain, and ms wickersham says exactly what i’m feeling in her article, “I’m not sure anyone else would get the joke. Writing it here, I’m not even sure I get it. I definitely can’t explain it. But it’s ours. We know when to use it. It makes us laugh.”, but just to share..

    my siblings and i say “flu jab!” (even the tone matters! :)) when we kid-punch each other because there was once we went on a holiday just after i had gotten a flu jab, and everytime they touched me it would hurt. it’s also a secret tease-ment of my sister who is incredibly ticklish and hates for anyone of us to touch her! it doesn’t really mean anything, but it reminds us of the times we spent together. :)

  68. Nardeeisms July 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    Whenever I cook something delicious, my husband says “This tastes burnt!” It is a compliment of the highest caliber.

    The phrase originated years ago when my brother and I had gone to a fast food chicken place. After one of the patrons had finished gulping down a three piece meal, he took the almost “licked clean”, empty plate full of chicken bones back and demanded a refund. Why? He said because “this chicken tastes burnt!” After I told my husband about it, we laughed and ended up using it as a family joke.

  69. Lola July 14, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    My ultra conservative 90 year old grandmother was getting a quote from a cleaning lady and immediately after she heard the price she held out her hand and said “stop right there!” meaning she was through even considering it. We use this phrase often.

  70. Maureen Thomson July 14, 2010 at 6:16 am #

    Several years ago, when my marriage was on the verge of breaking up (which it ultimately did), a close friend came to spend a few days. After a breakfast of homemade muffins, I was cleaning up the kitchen (my then-husband had already left for work). I turned around to find that my male friend had put the leftover muffins in a Ziploc bag and tucked them into the freezer (which is exactly what I was about to do.) This prompted me to exclaim. “That’s what I need in my life–a man who puts the muffins away.”

    In the years that followed, as I divorced and then dated, the ongoing line between my friend and me–and by which every man was evaluated–was their potential to “put the muffins away” which of course really meant, did they pitch in to get the job done?

    I’m happy to report that I did eventually remarry and my husband does indeed put the muffins away.

  71. SMoua June 8, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Love this article. I am in my early 30s and I’ve been with my partner for 6 years. We too, have developed our own terms and language….

    for example: “don’t not pull a “Laird.” = don’t get angry over something that’s not worth it. (Laird is the last name of a former boss who yelled at me.)

    As time passes, I realize more and more- how blessed I am to be with such a wonderful person.

    SM

  72. Leah October 27, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    I loved reading this! I had a really great friend, whom I’d known since childhood, that I shared such a connection. It was the type of friendship where, even after months or years of not seeing each, we would pick up right where we left off when she was in town. We had an entire conversation, where we didn’t use whole or completed sentences, only words to preface our message, only to have the thought finished by the other with the same type of non-sense. It was beautiful really!

    And now, with my partner, we sing songs to each other about the situation we’re in. For example, if one of us is leaving and the other doesn’t want to say goodbye, one might sing, “Please don’t go! Dooon’t goooo-oo-o!” (bad 80 song). Ha! We typically have some soundtrack or another in our lives!

    • delialloyd October 28, 2011 at 8:42 am #

      Thanks Leah. I know that song…(dating myself, sigh) and love that you sing it with your partner. It is priceless to have that sort of intimacy with another person, friend or lover. Thanks for dropping by!

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