“I have Bless You on my Cardigan”

When my daughter was about two years old, she had a bad cold. After several days of sneezing and snot, she was grumpy and irritable. She sneezed noisily then started sobbing. It took me a moment before I understood why she was so upset. She wailed, “I have BLESS YOU on my cardigan!”

In a two year old’s mind it is a logical conclusion. Every time she had sneezed, I had exclaimed, “Oh, bless you” and wiped her nose. She thought that bless you was the word for the slimy green stuff that is expelled when one sneezes.

Since then, snot is called Bless You in our house.

Just as the evening fun time with Papa is called “Toben“.

Some of our family sayings stem from misunderstandings, many more from the German/English language confusion. There are some words that are not translatable or feel clumsy when translated, eg. “Machst Du den Kettle an?” is a request to put the kettle on. There is a word, “Wasserkocher” but we don’t use it for some reason.

We talk about it being very gemütlich as the words cosy and comfortable don’t seem to express the feeling of gemütlichkeit.

It means that we confuse our guests sometimes with our strange family language.

Since moving to Switzerland some French words are sneaking in. The children ask if I have seen a crayon gris, and I tell them I have extra pencils in the cave.

What are your familyisms and where do they come from?


  • samaryd

    My grandmother had great delusions of grandeur, only enhanced when my father went to grammar school. She was desperate to get some of his grammar school friends back for tea, to show off to the neighbours. My father eventually invited a friend who was nicknamed Claude (can't remember why…) Anyway, my grandmother, a broad Cockney of a long line of Cockneys on both sides, was thrilled and desperate to live up to the 'honour'. Claude recounted what was evidently a surprising story, only to have my grandmother respond, in her best telephone voice, "Oh my gawd, Claude!" Deane family legend ever since…

  • MmeLindt

    That is fantastic. Love that familyisms can be passed on to the next generation.

    In my parents's house, a wall mural is called a Muriel. And they always comment on the lovely ambulance that a Muriel gives a room. (Ambience).

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