Do you have special words in your family that aren’t found in the dictionary, words only those who share DNA with you can understand? A few weeks ago CJ was visiting. Mrs. C. fried up some chicken. After eating his fill, our son pushed away his plate and announced he’d had enough. I wasn’t finished eating and without thinking exclaimed, “Moosh-vega!”
“Are you having a stroke, Dad?” CJ asked. “What was that you said—moosh-vega?”
“It’s a Portuguese word your grandmother taught me as a child. Your grandmother’s family spoke it at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other holiday celebrated with food. It was spoken all the time in our house when I was growing up, and it was spoken often when you were growing up, too. Have you forgotten?”
“He scratched his chin. “I guess so. Wait a minute; I do remember. But I forgot what it means.”
“It means, “Glad you don’t want anymore because that leaves more for me.” I took another piece of chicken from the platter on the table.
“All that crammed into moosh-vega? Sounds farfetched,” he said.
“It’s really a useful word,” I countered.
He smiled at me. “Yeah, if you’re a glutton.”
Since this exchange I’ve tried to dig up information on the word that figured so prominently in my childhood—moosh-vega. I haven’t been successful. Aside from family members, none of the Portuguese people I know have heard of it. I’ve Googled it but I’m not familiar with the proper spelling and what I’ve written is a phonetic spelling. Making it even more complicated: Portuguese is spoken differently in Portugal, Brazil, and the Azores where our family came from. And a hundred years in America has probably twisted the language almost beyond recognition. In short, no one outside of my extended family is aware of this word.
I’m curious: do you have special words you use to call your children to the dinner table? Do you have a special code decipherable only to family members? I’m willing to bet you have certain words or expressions not understood by the general public.
Language is a feast for the ears, and I’m willing to share my special word with you—moosh-vega. It’s a fine word, but it might be too rich for the vocal palates of many of you. Fine! Restrict yourself to familiar words, words banal enough to show up in the dictionary. I’m a glutton for words real and imaginary. I gobble them up like a whale sucking in krill.