Awkward Meet & Geek, Chicago, March 18 plus a gross story about farts/”Manners” Open Thread

Info and RSVP for the next Awkward Meet & Geek for singles (and “available” poly folks) is here. I hope I will see some of your smiling faces.

The “is there one true right way to do things” discussion reminded me of a story from my childhood:

When I was very little, my parents taught me that if you have to fart, you should try to get away from other people, especially if it happened at the table during a meal. You should also say “excuse me” after you do it. We also called farting “pooping” in our house. Poop was “Number 2” or, and I say this with a visible cringe, “dumpies.”

What this meant, in practice, is that three little kids…and my dad, to set a good example (and possibly because he was the chief offender)…would frequentlyΒ rise from the table, walk over to the doorway into the back room where Muffin the Great Dane was gated during meals, fart in the dog’s general direction, cheerfully say “excuse me!,” and then sit back down. Hilarious, right? It is possible that my brothers and I made this a competition, of sorts. I dunno, my mom was part of a hippie food co-op, we ate a lot of brown rice and carob and grew our own vegetables. We were gassy people.

So, imagine me starting school. Imagine me feeling the urge, getting up from my seat, marching to the door of the classroom, pointing my rear out into the corridor, firing one off, loudly exclaiming “excuse me!” and then sitting back down in my seat. I didn’t understand why everyone laughed. I mean, I thought I did…I thought they were laughing because it was awesome and they were jealous of how stinky & loud it was. That turned out to be not why they were laughing.

I did this a few times before my teacher took me aside at recess one day to say “Hey, about that…why…maybe…don’t” We agreed that if I felt like I had to fart (once the distinction between “poop” and “fart” were made clear), I should just ask to be excused to the rest room, and if I didn’t catch it in time and it was loud/stinky/obvious to others I could say “excuse me.” How she did all of it with a straight face, I will never know.

Lots of us are taught truths and manners and practicesΒ that hold up only in one specific context. So, I’m curious to know, what’s a thing that you were taught at home that did not hold up in the outside world?




687 thoughts on “Awkward Meet & Geek, Chicago, March 18 plus a gross story about farts/”Manners” Open Thread

    1. I am pretty sure I have heard this story and it is still reducing me to a fit of giggles. YES.

      1. Well, in person, you get to see me do the little kid “brace for impact” stance. πŸ™‚

    2. Kind of glad I’m not a kindergarten teacher because I would not be able to handle this stuff with a straight face. Though when one of my campers asked me what the “F-word” was, I worked very hard to deflect (As your counselor, I can’t tell you that. If anyone overheard me, I would get in so much trouble. I’d tell you as a person, but as a counselor, I can’t)

  1. Not nearly as entertaining a story, but in my house we always kept a glass to the right of the kitchen sink that anyone could drink from throughout the day. Apparently this drove one of my roommates insane for months without me realizing it, because she was just like “WHY IS THERE ALWAYS A RANDOM GLASS RIGHT THERE?” In my mind, that was just Where The Glass Goes.

    1. I had a friend in high school whose family did that, only they lined one cup per person in paper towels next to the sink. Then they washed them at night. I could never understand why they would wash disposable cups, I mean, they did have REAL cups they could use.

      1. My mom is huge into that “was disposable utensils/cups” thing. It never made any sense to me that we would buy a ton of disposable forks/spoons/plates before my birthday party only to have to wash them all at night, or why I would get in trouble for throwing my dixie cup in the trash. Definitely haven’t carried that practice over into my adult life.

  2. That reminds me of a recent conversation where a young mother was horrified that her 10-yr-old son called someone a “duff”. “What’s a duff?” I asked. “Designated Ugly Fat Friend,” she replied. I know her son, and I said, “He either didn’t know what it meant, or didn’t realize that it is an insult.” (After all, it has the word “friend” in it, right?) I told her about when my daughter, at about the same age, got in trouble for calling a teacher a bastard– to this day she is mortified by the memory. She just didn’t realize what it meant. I was 16 when someone explained to me that ‘nappy’ did NOT mean ‘a cool hairstyle’.

    1. I never knew that “duff” was a thing, but apparently there is a movie coming out called “The Duff.”

      1. Yes, it’s based on a terrible book of the same name. I’m so disappointed that they chose that particular YA book to make into a movie. It’s so cliche, the characters are such horrible, painful, insulting stereotypes, and the resolution (just when things were starting to get interesting!) is disappointing and more cliche.

        1. That’s a shame. I really like the actress who stars in it, and was considering seeing it. I mentioned the movie because the preview was the first time I had heard the phrase.

          1. The book was the first time I’d heard of it. I had no idea it was a thing people said in real life.

    2. My little brother called my grandparents bastards during a game of Sorry when he was like. . .5. My parents have a wonderful but exuberantly foul-mouthed British friend and brother is a good listener.

      In addition, grandparents are very conservative and we never talk about politics with them. But when I was like 10 and brother was 5, I liked to quiz him about politics in this way: “Brother, who was the worst President ever?; ‘Richard Nixon!’ Who was the second worst? ‘Ronald Reagan!'” I did this once in the car with grandparents. It was. . .awkward, to say the least.

      1. Hee. I grew up in this pretty conservative family, and it was just kind of “the way things were” when I was a little kid, before I started questioning everything. When I was eight years old, my family was out to dinner at a restaurant, and I said something that my 5-year-old sister found annoying or whatever, and her retort was “YOU DEMOCRAT!” at the top of her lungs. Hilarious, but so embarrassing, for my parents, who are kind of private people.

        1. I didn’t think I had anything to say in this thread, until you reminded me! My family uses, “What are you, a Communist?” as a way of expressing surprise that someone doesn’t like something (“What do you mean, you don’t eat chocolate? What are you, a communist?”). This was a joke that my grandparents made during the McCarthy. My dad used it in school, also during the McCarthy era, and was sent to the principal’s office for accusing his teacher of Communism.

          When I was a kid, it was still a running joke, and like my dad, I didn’t understand the ramifications. Thankfully enough time had passed that the reaction when I used it in school was merely confusion.

          1. Oh man, I have the inverse story of that.

            In high school (early 2000’s), as “edgy” teenagers do my friends as I decided it was funny to make jokes about whatever historical topic we were learning about at the time. During the unit about the Cold War, communism/communists were naturally the joke du jour. I don’t remember the reason for it, but one night I jokingly called my dad a communist. The quiet, sad lecture he gave me to this day made me feel probably the worst I’ve ever felt, with regard to how I’ve treated others.

            Apparently, having been born in the early 40’s and lived through McCarthyism, as well as having been drafted to go to Vietnam means “communism” and being “a communist” a REAL THING and not just some joke about old stuff that isn’t relevant anymore. Also apparently having the middle name of “Conrad” meant getting called “CMart’s Dad The Comrade” by mean kids in the 50’s.

            Communism is not a joke in my household, and I totally wiffed that one in a hurtful way.

          2. This reply is for CMart, but nesting stopped.

            I have an inverse story for your story! My father was also born in the 40s and was drafted into the Vietnam ‘situation’. However he doesn’t have the attitude towards it all that your father apparently has. He finds it hilarious when my grandmother (not his mom) refers to people she doesn’t agree with politically as Communists. This includes me, and back in college I would get random 2am phone calls accusing me of helping the Communists take over America. Cuz that is totally what Take Back the Night rallies are about.

            Now that I think about it, my dad probably had a very different experience than yours growing up, because my grandfather was an FBI agent and my grandmother (this one is dad’s mom) worked for the FBI as a secretary. I sincerely doubt anyone at school was calling him names or teasing him about being Communist.

          3. In my house it’s a running gag for opposite reasons (we’re anarchists, we use it whenever someone says something social-justicey thats too obvious to mention). I super-offended my Trotskyist friend one day though!

        2. My BIL and his wife are extremely conservative and had taken to sharing their political opinions with their five year old (WTF?). She was going around the room post 2008 election in this manner: “Daddy voted for John McCain. Mommy voted for John McCain. Uncle Ross voted for John McCain. Aunt Whitnar voted for John McCain.” Not really willing to get into a political discussion with a five year old, I simply said “no, baby, Aunt Whitnar voted for Barak Obama.” She scowls at me, stops her foot, yells “I DON’T LIKE THAT. YOU’RE A DIRTY LIBERAL!” and storms down the hallway. It was so adorable but all i could do was look at her parents in horror. Seriously, guys, I’d be less offended if she called me any of George Carlin’s seven dirty words.

    3. My little sister once said “fer CHRIST’S SAKE” in front of our super-Catholic grandma. The memory just cracks me up because she was young enough not to really get why that was different from “for crying out loud”, but old enough to really put some gusto into it.

      1. Does anyone’s else’s family say “Jeeminy Christmas” instead of “Jesus Christ” as an exclamation? I haven’t actually heard anyone outside my house use that one.

          1. Winifred, one of the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” swears that way. “Oh cheese and crust!” There’s a lot of good G-rated swearing and blaspheming in that movie.

          2. I grew up Jewish, and all through my elementary school years I thought that “Cheese” and “Cheeses” were exclamations people used, and had no idea everyone was actually saying “Jeez” and “Jesus.”

        1. I had a very Catholic friend in college who earnestly asked that we not take the Lord’s name in vain at the lunch table. He volunteered that we could use his own name instead.

          I still, in moments of extremity, find myself muttering, “Mark H. [Lastname]!”

          1. My dinner group in college had a very devout person who said we should say “Holy cow” because that wasn’t disrespectful of religion. His mind was buh-LOWN when one of our Indian friends pointed out that yeah, it totally was — just not HIS religion.

          2. Our college messageboard had a swear filter, and someone left it on holiday mode, so to this day, sometimes when I’m pissed off, I think, “Oh, candy canes!”

        2. We say that, but we’re more likely to say “Jeeminitly” or my favorite, “Criminitly”. And like a lot of Gen-Xers I know, I say “Jebus Chrispies” a lot.

          1. I have recently reverted to inventing the many adventures of Jesus Harriet Christ, who has a very interesting life, often involving glitter.

            In one of Melissa Scott’s books, the characters swear using “Elvis Christ!” and I have always rather admired that, although I haven’t adopted it.

            My grandmother used to say “shootamonga!” when she was trying not to say anything more spicy.

        3. I say “butts” or “monkeys” and I’m not even sure where I picked that up. I frequently swear, but I think I started doing that for more delicate company. Like my parents.

          My mom did recently tell me about her Methodist minister of a father cursing at her once, though. I don’t remember what she said she did, but I know it was a complete shocker.

      1. In UK English ‘up the duff’ = pregnant.

        The variation of language never ceases to amaze me.

        1. Yeah, that’s the only context I’ve ever heard the word ‘duff’ in, too. (Canadian). So if I had to deconstruct it I suppose I would have guessed it meant ‘vagina’.

      2. My family uses a similar word, “duffer,” for grumpy-looking, frumpy, older folks. As in, “Check out the hat on that old duffer crossing the street!”

    4. I’ve always been a skeptic, even when I was about 7, when my friend told me the middle finger gesture and I just HAD to test it–on my mom. She … did not take it well.

      1. when I was 12 some boy at school called me a cunt and I didn’t know what it meant and my usual way of finding out what words meant was to try to use them in a sentence, and so i came home and called my mother a cunt, and oh boy was she was upset.

        1. I was a super early reader, but somehow my mother didn’t realize that meant I was good at sounding out new words. So she’d still try to spell things in front of me. That stopped after the time she spelled F-U-C-K-I-N-G and I painstakingly sounded it out and then chirpily asked what “fucking” meant.

      2. My youngest niece *still* hears about the time she looked up from her thoughtful observation of her hand, gestured aloft, and announced, ‘This is my longest finger!’

  3. Most of my “my family does it wrong” stories are manifestations of our family dysfunction and either aren’t funny or are “laugh or cry” funny.

    However, the special names for things that don’t work out in the real world? Oh, yeah.

    When I was little, the term my mother used for vulva was “tweeter.” I have no idea why, but the first time I went speaker shopping with a friend, I did a double-take and then nearly collapsed in wheezy giggles right there in the store.

    1. I have the “laugh or cry, maybe both” stories too. “Tweeter” is perfection.

    2. My partner’s parents called it a “tutu.” She was pretty scandalized the first time she met someone who took ballet classes.

      1. When my husband was raising his very young daughter alone, they called it a tutu box–not sure if she originated that or not. His daughter came up with some great unconventional names for body parts as a preschooler.

    3. When I was in primary school, a family friend with two young daughters called the vulva/vagina “the money box”.

    4. My grandmother had always called it a “pinka” … I got the sense it was a made-up term, but didn’t know the real one for a good long while. Thankfully her made-up word made it a bit easier for me not to embarrass myself using it elsewhere. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever said it!

    5. My mother’s word for the general down-there-on-a-lady part was “tuny.” (“toony”) To this day I don’t know WHY she called it that, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t something her family said, because “tuny” was also (still is, in fact) my aunt’s nickname for me. As a child, that was DEEPLY confusing, but also something that I didn’t know how to ask about.

      I still don’t get it, really. (None of my familial nicknames make sense. My very Cajun paw-paw called me something that sounded Russian. On my Dad’s side of the family, they call my “Lottie” sometimes and sometimes “Lou” which…none of my names shorten to Lottie or Lou. My names don’t shorten to anything. HOW DID I GET THESE NAMES?!?!)

      1. My Dad’s side of the family still calls me Dolly. My name is masculine and doesn’t really sound anything like that? I don’t know where it came from.

      2. I had some confusion because of an anatomical nickname vs real name issue too… My cousin was named Susan, shortened to Susie. “Susie” was what my babysitter had called any female genitals (“Make sure you wipe your Susie!”). I was old enough to know that my baby cousin was named after a part where pee came from and surmised that my family must HATE her to give her a name equivalent to a butt or the place you pee. In reality, it was our great-grandmother’s name and I rather like it now!

    6. My parents did a thing that was mind-blowingly radical, even for the seventies: they used the technical terms and spoke matter-of-factly about the existence and functions of genitalia. I was an unreal suck-up as a child, a “good” kid who loved big words, and it about broke my tiny heartbrain to be sent to the principal’s office.

      Then again, I was in a Southern Baptist kindergarden while being raised by a female medical student and a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda, and it braced me for the second time I was sent to the Bench of Shame, for singing, “Engrossed is the Bee of My Mind at the Blue Lotus Feet of the Divine Mother.”

  4. My parents had a gas problem when they first got married. My mom was raised in a household where you tried to discretely go away to “toot” (or pass gas, can’t remember which). My dad was raised in a household where you waited until you KNEW it was a really stinky one and then jump on your brother’s head and let it rip! I will say that my dad is smart enough not to fart on my mom’s head, but not smart enough to teach us to do the same. So it was a never ending battle of “tooting is gross, please go to the bathroom” and “hey guys! listen to this one!” Needless to say, dad won. We are a family of pull my finger jokes while my mom is in the background reprimanding us. You would think that since we are all in our 30s she would give up by now.

    1. Yeah, My family was the same. My brother still burps and blows at me, and if my mom is there, she will start going on and on about how she failed as a mother.

    2. My little brother used to come into my room when I was doing homework and sit on my upper back over the top of the chair to fart.

      My mother would often tell him to go outside and shake his pants after a particularly stinky one.

      I love fart and poop jokes. πŸ˜€

  5. Not super funny, but my family calls the TV remote “buttons.” Most people in my region, I found out, call it a clicker or a remote. Definitely not buttons, however.

    Slightly different, but my brother and I pretended to be dogs for a while in elementary school, and my parents would sometimes let us eat dog treats. My brother, ever generous, took some to school because sharing! My mom got a call about how his teacher is very proud of his sharing, but maybe dog treats are not one of the things that should be shared with other people’s children.

  6. In my family, before we left the house as a group, my dad would always ask if we needed to go “pee pee or plop plops”.

    I can barely type “plops plops” without feeling nauseous. Dad sure had a way with words!

    1. My family was very relaxed about bodily functions in general, but my mom absolutely could not stand the words “snot” or “fart.” I remember that she insisted on calling farts “poofs.”

      I wrote my senior thesis in college on fart jokes in medieval literature, so clearly it didn’t take.

      1. In my house, ‘fart’ was considered a four-letter word, punishable by literally getting your mouth washed out with soap. I’ve been trying to think what we called gas-passing instead, but for the life of me, I can’t. I do remember my brother trying valiantly (but in vain) to avoid the punishment by insisting “I said ‘fort!'” (I am old, this was a long time ago. I can’t imagine mouth-soaping wouldn’t get CPS involved these days.)

        Eventually the ‘fart’ prohibition fell by the wayside, but then, so did all the other obscenity prohibitions. It was just too hard to police, I guess, and really, no euphemism does for a body what a good profane interjection does.

        1. My boyfriend’s family calls farting/tooting “losing your manners,” which is charming as hell.

          1. My partner and I call it “making noise”. As in, “did you just make noise?” + wide eyes.

          2. I had a very elderly, very religious child minder who used to call it ‘Killing Fairies’!

          3. When I was little, they were “gassies” (as in, “I made a gassy”). But at some point when we were in elementary school, my dad slipped up and called one a fart, and my brother and I were all agog – what’s a fart? Somehow learning that gassies were actually farts was the most hilarious thing ever, and I’m still amused by it.

          4. When my children were little, farting was “butt spitting.” I don’t know why, but calling it a fart was funny and calling it butt spitting would be funny but would also get an “Excuse me.” Some times you just roll with it.

      2. My mom was horrified by ‘boogers’, so once she pleaded for us to use ‘nose noodles’ instead.

        Yeah, mom, sure. That’s way better.

      3. OMG, my focus at uni is medieval (German) literature and now I have the urgent need to research this!

      4. Eeee! In my house they were “poofy gasses”. My mom’s tried to instill that in my 4-year old, too, but kidnick’s sticking to her guns on “fart”.

  7. For some reason, at the line, “Imagine me starting school…” my brain went straight to COLLEGE-school, and I imagined 18-year-old Jennifer standing in the door of a lecture hall letting one rip.

    It made way more sense when I realized (duh) kindergarten, but I’m not sure which one is more hilarious.

      1. Yeah. Currently laughing my ass off on the bus – seated opposite a lovely old couple who clearly think I’m completely insane. Nothing funnier than farts.

  8. “Lots of us are taught truths and manners and practices that hold up only in one specific context. So, I’m curious to know, what’s a thing that you were taught at home that did not hold up in the outside world?”

    Ohh, this is such a fun question.

    I remember a classmate in elementary school was trying to get her dad to agree something, and another classmate said “Well, butter him up, ask him how his day was,” and the first classmate said, “I can’t, I’ve done that too many times and it doesn’t work anymore.” I found this mind-boggling, because in my house it was simply considered polite to ask everyone how their day was, and that was something you did every day as a matter of course.

    And here’s the really good one – my childhood home was not perfect, but when it was your birthday, you got a homemade birthday cake. PERIOD. Even if there was no party or presents, there would be a cake.
    In high school my best friend was over for dinner one night and mentioned casually it was her birthday. My mom asked if she was going to have a celebration when she got home, and she said no, they didn’t really make a big deal out of it and her parents were working late anyway. After dinner, my mom pulled me aside and said “I want you to keep X here, SHE IS GETTING A CAKE! I WILL MAKE IT RIGHT NOW!” so I had my friend come upstairs with me and listen to heavy metal for an hour and then we all had cake. My friend was absolutely shocked that my mom wanted to make her a cake – just as shocked as my mom had been that she wouldn’t OF COURSE be getting a cake at home.

    I have a complicated relationship with my mom but that’s a really nice memory.

    1. We were a “birthday cakes are mandatory” family too, except my mom is not a super-great baker, so birthday cakes were always courtesy of Duncan Heinz or Betty Crocker (and no other kind was permitted). As an adult, I still struggle with feeling like my birthday wasn’t a “real” birthday without cake-mix cake, even when I’ve had a party and gone out to dinner and had lovely dessert and all the “regular” birthday trappings. Also now my husband gets birthday cakes, which is fun.

      We also had very strict Christmas traditions, which I still enforce because my husband is a saint and humors me. (You open one present – only one, and it can’t be the “best” one but it has to be a “good” one) on Christmas Eve, and the rest happen Christmas morning. I get mildly upset at the prospect of opening presents at the “wrong” time.)

      1. That totally makes sense! I can see why cake mix cake would give you that feeling of the birthday ritual having been correctly completed.

      2. Are you Scandinavian? My family is Extremely Swedish and this is christmas tradition is a very important ritual! But for us, it had to be a small present, like a card from Great-Uncle Emil with a 2-kroner piece in it.

        1. I’m supposedly Irish, Italian, German, and some-sort-of-Eastern-European-that-no-one-can-identify-with-any-specificity-by-way-of-French-Canada, but it is entirely possible that there’s some Scandinavian in there that’s responsible for this tradition. That’s neat to know – I never had any idea at all about how it might’ve developed!

        2. Extra amusing as the Swedish-in-Sweden way of celebrating christmas means you open ALL your gifts on Christmas Eve…

          1. That counts as one of the worst things about moving to Britain. I grew up in Germany, and while I pretty much gave up on celebrating Christmas until I met my partner, Christmas in on the 24th: after it gets dark, you light up the tree and have some music and you open presents.

            I married into a family that Does Christmas… on the 25th.

            At my insistence, we now open a present on the 24th because otherwise it’s just not Christmas enough.

    2. This reminds me of the year that I received a french silk pie instead of an actual birthday cake. I think I was 8. As I was a very literal-minded individual, this did not go over well.

      I did eventually get a cake cake, after a tantrum that I honestly don’t remember.

      My dad still gives me crap about it to this day. And for the record, I love french silk pie, though I still maintain that it is not a proper stand in for a cake.

    3. My boyfriends family are a family of mandatory cake and birthdays in general are a Big Deal. In my family birthdays are only a Big Deal when it is a milestone age, in part because a significant number of family birthdays fall in the run up to christmas. I made the mistake of mentioning that I had not had a cake on my birthday when staying with his family. So I got cake. Several weeks after my birthday I got a birthday cake. It was not home made as theirs is a family with four kids, four dogs, two cats, a family business and his mother runs triathlons so there is not time for home made cake. But there was still cake, and candles, and happy birthday was sung.

  9. We did not have little-kid names for our body parts, so I thought it was HILARIOUS when my parents bought a Volvo.

  10. I have a story about how I encountered something at school I’d never encountered in my family. I had never heard the phrase “put your ____ up” to mean “put your ____ away.” Never. Not a single time.

    In the fifth grade I got in trouble with a substitute teacher when she told us to “put your books up.” To be somewhat fair to her, I hadn’t been paying attention, so I didn’t see my classmates stowing their books away in their desks. I picked up my book and held it up, because that’s what I thought she had asked us to do.

    She, of course, thought that I was smart-alecking, and sent me out of class to sit in the hall, and then sent a note home to my mom. My mom thought it was amusing and didn’t worry about it, but I felt bad that I’d been sent out for something I hadn’t intended to be “bad.”

    1. . . .I had never heard that phrase until just now, and I’m 28 years old. I would be just as confused as you were.

      1. yes, I heard this for the first time when I moved to the south for grad school.

    2. Southern thing, maybe? We also say “take up” to mean “collect” as in, “I’m going to take up your papers” in school.

      1. Maybe. She didn’t “sound Southern,” but I’m thinking that it’s definitely a regional phrase.

    3. I’m guessing it’s regional–I live in the south and I’ve heard that phrasing all my life. I did once get a question wrong on a spelling test (which NEVER happened to me) because my teacher had a really strong accent and, to me, when she said “hid” it sounded like “head.” To this day, I remember my righteous indignation on receiving that test back, because I spelled “head” correctly.

      1. During a spelling test (of random words, not off a prescribed list) our teacher said “mus-am.” I raised my hand and asked “is that like a muse-ee-um?” and she said “no, mus-am.” So I wrote “musam” on my test having no clue what that word could possibly mean. It was museum. It disqualified me from trying out for the spelling bee, so I’m pretty bitter over 10 years later.

        1. In grade 4 spelling one of our lists contained both “coyote” which my family says with two syllables, and “syrup” which my family says with two schwas (note that for me, in neither of those words does a long e sound occur) and received a positive flood of red on the homeworks and tests for that list. Apparently regional variations do not exist.

          Your teacher, on the other hand, needed to go back to school.

          1. I am wondering if your family originates from my home state, where “syrup” pronounced with the long-e-sounding y is a signifier that the speaker is a transplant. Your teacher would have flunked HER test had she taken it here! πŸ™‚

        2. My spelling-bee bogosity was when the word “mediate” was recited as “meditate.”

          For some reason, many of my teachers pronounced “mischievous” as “mis-chee-vee-us,” so maybe it was easy for them to expect letters to be pronounced but not spelled. Sigh, try arguing with a grown-up.

          1. I think that’s a standard regional pronounciation (it’s an alternate in the dictionary), but the meditate/mediate thing was just a mistake.

          2. Wait, but. How do YOU pronounce mischievous? I’ve never heard it any way but “mis-chee-vee-us.”

      2. Hah. I will go to my grave wishing I’d asked for a definition of what I thought was ‘prow’ but which turned out to be ‘prowL’.

    4. Ha ha! Do you know the beautiful and sad song by Joni Mitchell called “River”? The lyrics go like this:

      “It’s coming on Christmas,
      They’re cutting down trees.
      They’re putting up reindeer
      And singing songs of joy and peace”

      A friend of mine, who grew up talking about putting up the dill pickles and fruit (i.e. “canning”) always pictures them “putting up reindeer” as “preserving pickled reindeer in mason jars”.
      I love the song, and it used to make me cry, but now it always makes me giggle too.

    5. Oh, a big one here is “get down.” As in, “We’re at the grocery store, you wanna get down?”

      I had no idea that was a regional thing until I was an adult.

        1. It means ‘do you want to come?’ or ‘would you like to join us/join in?’

          Like, we’re going to a concert, you gettin down? I’m going to the coffee shop, you wanna get down?

          1. Wow, I interpret “get down:” as “have sex” so that is a very amusing turn of phrase!

          2. Ah, gotcha.

            Where I am from, get down means to dance. Dance party at the grocery store!

  11. My dad, who did all the laundry in our house, was firmly of the belief that you may only use a bath towel ONCE, and then you must wash it. I was sent off to college with 12 bath towels (I needed a dedicated plastic storage bin to hold them all), ensuring that my already-look-askance-at-me roommates would be even more WTF. I don’t even think I currently own 12 towels.

    I never figured out where this belief came from, because I cannot imagine that it was the practice in my grandparents’ home while my dad was growing up (he was the oldest of six kids — my grandma would have been doing nothing but laundry, every day).

    1. My daughter has the same belief, even though I’ve been trying to teach her for years (she’s 16) that it’s perfectly fine to hang up your towel and use it two, three, nay, even four (!) times before you wash it. I can’t figure out where it came from either.

        1. I’m vacillating between that, and sending her with only one so she HAS to reuse it. πŸ™‚

      1. Wow in my family (and apparently all my partners’ families so far) people use bathtowels for *weeks*, before washing it…

        1. We also use towels for weeks. Although it’s a lot drier climate here than where I grew up, so I reckon it’d probably be no more than a week up home in a very humid tropical place.

        2. Yeah 8-10 days here, depending on the weather… If the towel hasn’t dried on the rail before its next use, it goes in the wash. Otherwise, its changed when I change the sheets!

    2. It might be a reaction to parents who insisted bath towels could only be washed every [appalling length of time], so when he had his own house and towels, by God, he was going to do it his way. πŸ™‚ I am similar about towel and sheet washing because of arbitrary limits that I perceived as unreasonable and unsanitary as an adolescent. πŸ™‚

    3. My family ALSO does the one-shower-per-towel-then-wash thing, but I fear I transitioned seamlessly to wash-your-towel-once-a-month mode. >_< (Or, when I'm really on the ball, wash-your-two-alternating-towels-once-a-month thing.)

        1. Same here! I give them a sniff test. If it smells damp/ickky I get a clean one!

    4. One of the guys in my dorm was appalled when he saw me hang up my towel after a shower.

      “You’re not going to use that again, are you?”

      “Uh, yeah, I just washed it yesterday.”


      “Uh, yeah, I just washed those this morning.”

      We agreed to disagree. πŸ™‚

      1. TMI, probably, but I *wished* my ex would wash his towel after every use, because he would not get his butt clean in the shower, then he would wipe it with the towel and his not-quite-clean butt would make the towel dirty and then he would hang it back up again and I would know that grossness was there… Oh my god am I glad I don’t live with him anymore, this was not the only part of himself he couldn’t be bothered to clean properly once he thought he had caught a wife.

    5. My boyfriend and I discussed this just the other day in the context of towel-hanging. Growing up, my family used towels once per wash. I generally use them only two or three times now. Boyfriend’s family used towels for a week or so, I think, and he’ll often use them a bit longer. So when I just through a towel over the towel rack at his place, I’ve noticed he’ll refold it – when asked, he said it’s because he thinks it dries better that way. I’ve never had to worry about it much. >.>

      Come to think of it, my maternal grandma had five kids and also has a use-once policy (now, at least). Maybe my mother being the eldest is how she caught the habit, helping out with the laundry.

    6. My mom washes her towels every day because my dad used to wipe his toothpaste and face specifically on her towel, not his towel or washcloth or hand towel, because he is a dick. I’m trying to encourage her that she doesn’t need to anymore, it’s a waste of water, but she’s pretty tied in.

      1. Argh, speaking of mom things that totally make sense given their history but which are a bit squicky now: my mom still runs on farm-water rules — that is to say, don’t flush it unless it’s poop. This makes me gaggy, even though it is doubtless good for the environment, so I pretty much undermine her efforts by flushing immediately if I enter the bathroom after her. Sigh.

        1. My mother had terrific insomnia, and we had a rule that you couldn’t flush at night, since it would wake her up and she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep— decades later, I will still sleepily obey that rule from time to time. I understand my poor ex-boyfriend still gags when he talks about it.

          1. We used to have a dog who slept in the basement happily enough except she would start howling to be let out once she heard someone running the water in the morning. So no flushing in the middle of the night for us either.

        2. This is my first post ever, but I can’t resist! I also grew up with the practice: “if it’s yellow, let it mellow….” Anyone know the ending???
          Anyways…I was alway TOTALLY GROSSED OUT if I had to poop and someone else’s pee was still in there because I didn’t want to get splashed in the butt with it!

    7. My mom does that because her parents smoked and were also once-a-week towel-washers, so by the end of the week all the towels in use smelled like cigarette smoke and she hated it. No one in the house smokes now, but getting to use a new towel that always smells nice was a special thing for her when she moved out of her parents’ house, so she still does it.

    8. I’m pretty terrible at switching and washing towels on a regular basis now that I’m not living in a place with in-unit laundry (sob, parents’ hoouuuse), but growing up we only used them a few times…

      …because I swear my parents HOARD towels. If I need more towels I mention it to my mom when I’m there over the holidays and I get loaded up with them, for serious.

      1. That’s funny. It reminds me of a time when I was about twelve and my mom was straightening up the bathroom. My paternal grandmother had just moved in with us and had brought her furniture, linens, etc. Her towels seemed perfectly fine to me–they were actually softer and thicker than the ones we already had–but I guess they were ugly or something? Anyway, my mom was folding these towels, and she tsked and scoffed, “[Granny] has had these towels for thirty years!” Since the towels seemed perfectly fine, this somehow clicked in my head as, “Bath towels last for thirty years. Got it.” I carried this belief with me until I was almost forty, which, LOL! I’ve had my own household for years, and of course I’ve bought towels, but I would always buy them from Ross or something, because I never felt ready to make the big, thirty-year commitment to “real” towels. Finally, a couple years ago, I wanted to buy some decent towels, so I did weeks of research, because, I was gonna be stuck with these things for DECADES, right, so I didn’t want to buy something I wouldn’t be happy with! I finally chose the ones I wanted (quick-drying towels from JCPenney in a medium blue, 50% off), picked out four sets, and paid for them. Even though I am not bad at math, I had somehow expected them to cost hundreds of dollars, but it came out to about $75 after tax. That’s when it dawned on me: I can buy new towels . . . whenever I want! Not every month or anything, but maybe every few years? So, I am not actually going to be drying myself with these same towels in the year 2043 . . . ? It was quite a moment for me. πŸ™‚

      2. Last year, I opened the last packet of new tea towels from my grandmother’s stash. (She died in 1996, my mother died three years ago). I gave away a lot, I replaced a lot of mine, and there *still* was a never-ending supply of really good linen tea towels, but IT HAS ENDED.

        I also have a couple of tea towels in use from my aunt’s stash, her sister put them aside for her dowry. I inherited some – unused – when I went to university in the early 1990s, (the owner was born in 1893) and, as I said, a couple are still going. I decided I would rather put them to their intended use and retire them gracefully than store them in a bag and have them add to my general clutter.

        Nonetheless, there will be a day when I will have to buy my own. And on that day I shall celebrate not having hoarded tea towels for ten or twenty years that I did not need.

    9. I imagine that his belief came from having used one too many other people’s towels after a stinky/grubby family member had neglected liberal, consistent application of soap. Never again, never again will I dry my hair with someone else’s armpit stink or foot dirt, or use a towel that someone used to wipe their boogers on, or to mop up water off the bathroom floor. NEVER. AGAIN. That is my towel it is brand new get off it get your own.

      The above has been brought to you by Terrible Roommates and Small Children.

      1. Ugh… I’m one who will wash the towels when they start smelling – at my parents you were lucky if even your clean towel wasn’t replete with dog fur (kennel life FTW), so my tolerance for used towels is pretty high. But the worst was when I caught my husband wiping the bathroom floor with with a shower towel and putting it back on the rack. He got a heck of an earful about it, considering I dry my face on them!

    10. Maybe this is cultural, because I always looks askance at my roommates who only had one towel. I don’t think I’ve met a black person who kept using the same towel.

    11. I was taught this at home too and was really grossed out when my fiance (then BF) would reuse his towel for days at a time. We’ve now compromised and both use our towels twice before putting them in the hamper.

    12. I wonder if your grandma washed the towel every day, because there was just one towel all six kids used?

    13. I grew up with that belief. I lived in a very humid town, and it didn’t matter how well ventilated the bathroom was or if you left the fan on or if the towel was hung nice and straight instead of bunched on the rack. It would smell faintly of mildew before it dried, because the air was just thick with water. So, we used fresh towels for every shower. The wet ones got hung up to dry and then put in a separate hamper so they wouldn’t make the other clothes smell like mildew. We had LOTS of towels and washed a load of towels every week. I went to college with about 8 towels and still had to wash them every week.

      I was about 25 and living in a much less humid place before I kicked that habit.

    14. In my family, we didn’t have individual towels; there were just general-use towels in the bathroom, you grabbed whichever one seemed driest, and every week or so they’d get washed. It wasn’t until well into my 20s that I learned other people wanted their *own* towel and thought sharing towels was gross.

  12. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! My family also tried the “go in another room” technique until it got noticeably awkward, fortunately not with teachers or classmates involved. I think my mother thought we children would learn to be subtle about it. We did not.

  13. After I got out of the bath/shower, my mom would say “put your clothes on before you catch pneumonia.” Only she pronounced it pee-neumonia. She was being funny, but didn’t realize that this was my only frame of reference. And it IS spelled with a “p” in front. I guess when I heard people say “newmonia” I thought it was a slightly different, but related, disease? So I was WAY too old before I realized (of course, by saying “pee-newmonia in front of other kids who laughed at me) that that was not how it was pronounced.

    (I also, I think because of my mom, say “lybes” in my head when I see the abbreviation “lbs.” I rarely say it out loud, but in my head, it’s a synonym for pounds.)

    1. Ha, me and my brother were being funny by pronouncing Glock as ‘gee-lock’ but it was also the only frame of reference for our younger sister and she thought it was weird when she heard other people pronounce it differently; I think she only realized when she tried to correct someone.

      (We say ‘lubs’ for lbs.)

    2. Man, I have so many of these from being a big reader (I thought segue was one syllable and seg-way was different, thought misled was the past tense of “misle”, etc.) I wish the “pronounce this word” thing online had existed when was a kid.

      1. I think my most embarrassing example of this was, at 12 or so, trying to correct adult female family members that “bustier” is pronounced “bust-eer.” >.> I backpedaled quickly and learned a little more caution.

        1. My favorite thing about this type of error is that we, the kids who read too much, are always SO SURE of our improvised pronunciation! The story in my family is about me, age 5-ish, aggressively correcting my dad’s pronunciation of “tuxedo.” Like, get it together, dad, you’re a grown man and you can’t pronounce TOOK-si-do?

          1. My dad is very christian, but my family is not a churchgoing one. I have memories of my sister trying to sing Christmas carols. ‘Christ’ was funny.

            I was an avid reader, and there aren’t any particular words that stand out, other than wound, annihilate, chaos, chasm… actually, right now I am a professional church musician. There are a lot of words and phrases I try to not say, such as Job, Jesu, Gethsemane, and lots of other things that are as much of a problem as you think they are.

          2. Oh, yes. I vividly remember a book I was given to read in primary school which frequently featured the word “island”. I had arguments with both parents and multiple teachers over the fact that it was obviously supposed to be pronounced “is-land”; eventually either I or they stopped arguing, but I continued to hold the belief that I was right and everyone else was wrong until about the age of 12.

          3. The first time I encountered the word “foliage” was in a National Geographic article as a kid… and there was a typo. I swear it was spelled “foilage”! It *is* possible I misread it, but I recall rereading the word because I didn’t recognize it. I asked my parents and they were all “oh yes plants” and so I now knew what FOIL-age was. And I kept pronouncing it FOIL-age until someone said I was doing it wrong, and I said “well, that’s how it’s spelled” and then they showed me it was fo-LI-age and I was like… no, the i goes before the l? No? IT DOESN’T? BUT?????

            My mom also tells the story of how she read words like facetious and thought it was fass-eh-tous. I’m at least a 2nd generation reader/mispronouncer.

          4. Kbo, I feel that. I’m guessing my personal miswiring where taut/taunt is concerned stems from reading a misuse at an early age, and even though I’ve known better for years, ‘He pulled the line taut’ still looks WRONG to me.

      2. Avid reader here, my hilariously-wrong pronunciation was related to the word obnoxious. For some reason, I never connected the written version of it to the spoken version of it, so I was at least 9 or so and thinking the written word obnoxious was pronounced “ob-noy-shus.” I also thought lingerie was pronounced phonetically (think “linger-ee” instead of “lawn-je-ray”). Oh, and lasagna! I could NOT get the spoken word lasagna to line up with the written word (I read it as “la-sag-na”). TBH, I still read lingerie incorrectly and then have to correct myself, although I know how to pronounce it when I’m reading out loud.

        1. My “word I didn’t connect written to spelling” was “indignant”. I got it confused with “indigent’ as well, it was a bad scene.

        2. Mine was “usurp”. I added in another p, to make it “upsurp.” Which made sense to me. The king’s brother upsurped him. He surped up the throne. Upsurp!

      3. I have so many of those and they still frequently crop up. The most recent was when I killed a conversation stone dead by describing something as “mo-hag-an-ee”. Everyone in the room just stared at me for a bit before my dad said “You mean mahogany?”

        My family also has a Sherlock Holmes board game called 221b Baker Street and the font means that every time I say the name I call it 22 pound Baker Street. That got embarrassing really quickly the first time I tried to play it with people not in my immediate family.

        1. I once mis-pronounced labyrinth in college with a bunch of people and I was so embarrassed.

          1. I still think ‘dandelion’ would be a far more beautiful word if it was pronounced dan-DEE-lyon rather than dandy-lion.

        2. … you mean it’s not pronounced like that?
          Asks the girl who still occasionally pronounces hyperbole as “Hyper-Bowl” because one of the pitfalls of early literacy is that you read words that aren’t used in daily life so they get added to your vocabulary without a pronunciation guide.

          1. Hah! Hyper-bowl was one of mine, although I’ve managed to correct it.

            The one that I still can’t get right, to this day: is sieve “siv” or “seev”?

          2. Yep! Mine was melancholy, pronounced, OBVIOUSLY, as mell-AHN-cho-lee. My second grade teacher was impressed that I knew the word, once she figured out what the hell I was saying.

          3. In my mind, detritus still has only one t, and is pronounced DET-ree-us. I don’t think the actual spelling/pronounciation will ever stick.

          4. Hyperbowl was one of my childhood mispronounciations too, as was “seeg” for “segue”. I also mistakenly thought for a long time that “picturesque” was pronounced “picture-skew”. The perils of reading books with vocabulary you’ve never hear said aloud!

            Until I was about 10, I thought “Siobhan” was pronounced “Si-ob-han” and that “Chevorn” was a different girl’s name. I found out I was wrong when I met a Siobhan whose name I had only seen written down…

          5. This is a reply to Muddie Mae, ran out of nesting.

            NOOOOOOOOOO I’ve been doing the same thing and I just googled it and now I know I am wrong!!!!!!!!

            Argh. ARGH!

          6. Bosom. I will never live that one down in my family. I still remember the context–trying to tell my Dad about a Mara Jade comic I’d seen, and sort of quoting the wisdom of the letters page as kids do, about how it was nice to see a comic where the lady didn’t have huge…bozzums.

            It’s a stupid word.

            Also, I still have to make an effort not to say “epi-tome.”

          7. I remember the first time I ever said hyperbole out loud I was in English class and pronounced it hyper-bowl (as you would), and the teacher completely took the piss out of me. Never pronounced it wrong again!

            For years I thought mediocre was pronounced med-ee-core. I must have read it wrong the first time and it took about 10 years for me to realise. Luckily I hadn’t had occasion to use the word that often πŸ™‚

      4. I was 8 or 9 before I learned that “ph” was pronounced the same as “f.” I read a whole series of books as a kid mentally pronouncing one of the characters name as “Step-hanie.”

        I remember a girl in high school getting up to do a report on something and pronouncing colonel as “cahla-nel.” That one makes sense to me but I still cringed slightly every time she said it.

          1. I didn’t realize that Hermione wasn’t “Hermy-own” until Victor Krum mispronounced her name.

          2. And MuseN, I had an ex’s siblings get VERY shirty with me for pronouncing it the way Rowling/ pretentious people did when talking about our mutual interest in _The Chamber of Secrets_. I actually felt kind of bad about the scene in GoF where I was “vindicated,” although I’m sure she doesn’t remember it.

          3. This reply is for @The Awe Ritual:

            I’m pretty sure I did the same thing to my poor dad, who had not yet read the books but knew of an actress named Hermione (Hermione Gingold?) I think he finally conceded that although every other time he’d seen the name it was pronounced Hermione, in Harry Potter it must be Hermy-own.

        1. Similar experience with “Nay-zeye” for “Nazi.” Is it more embarrassing to be wrong for a whole report and learn it later, or to be corrected by the teacher immediately and continue on?

      5. … wait, you mean segue and seg-way are the same thing?

        Suddenly the world makes so much more sense.

        1. I know, right?!

          If it makes you feel better, I only learned that last year. I said segue with a hard G, and one of my friends teased me for using business jargon. I guess shortening the word is popular, although now I’m thinking maybe a bunch of other people made the same assumption I did.

          1. I just learned last year (I’m 32) that the exotic sounding French card game in books, pinochle, was actually pea-knuckle. I’d always read it pin – osh- lay. It was pretty embarrassing. I’m pretty new to the segue and seg – way are the same word scene as well.

      6. I knew what the word “chaos” meant for literally two years before I figured out how to pronounce it. It was frustrating, as a little kid, to have an advanced reading vocabulary that couldn’t be translated into speech.

        1. Did you think it was ‘cha-hoos’ too? That was the one I had to shake. (I feel like I should be going through this thread with a pencil. ‘Yep…yep…check…yeah, that one too…oh lord, I forgot THAT one…’)

          1. Not that you asked me, but for me it was “tschay-ows.” I sounded like Dr. Cox from Scrubs being extremely sarcastic about bovines.

      7. Ohhhh yeah this is familiar. In my case I had double the mispronunciation issues because not only was I a voracious reader, I wasn’t speaking English at home (and had only learned it when I was five) so the amount of vocabulary I’d actually heard spoken was correspondingly small.

        The word I’m still bitter about is catastrophe. How on earth are you supposed to guess that pronunciation?!

      8. When I was seven or so, I was reading a book from the school library that had a very funny scene involving an ogre!

        My mom was a little alarmed when she asked what my book was about and I happily informed her, “There’s an orgy in it!”

        1. I just did a slow clap at this while sitting alone in my room. I think seven-year-old me thought it was OH-gry, but “orgy” is obviously a better mispronunciation

        2. I think I was twenty before I could convince myself to read the word ‘ogre’ and not pronounce it ‘orge’ before mentally correcting myself. And I learnt what an orgy was at age 11 or 12, and spent a lot of time reading Donald Duck comics growing up, so there was a lot of mentally correcting myself just in case it came out wrong.

          1. I came across the word “orgy” in _Peter Pan_ when I was seven. I asked the local Designated Adult what it meant, and he said (absolutely correctly) that it was “a kind of ancient Roman party.” Never had an incident with it, thank heaven, but I did have a rather different mental image come up for several years when the word was used, before I was corrected. I understand there is rather less gladiatorial combat in the ones mentioned in certain popular magazines than I envisioned…

      9. Segue and seg-way are the SAME WORD?! I genuinely only just found this out right now and I’m 42. What a revelation! In my head, segue has always been pronounced ‘seeg’.

      10. The segue thing bemuses me, but I definitely spent up through high school knowing that both the spoken word “ordervs” and that the written word “whores-doovers” meant appetizers, but having NO IDEA they were the same word.
        I also got into an argument in 8th grade with my mother which ended when she dissolved into giggles when I shouted that she was being “blah-tantly” unfair.

      11. Artisan. Is not pronounced ar-TEE-zjun apparently. How I made it into my 30’s not knowing that after having spent a not insignificant portion of my restaurant employment as a professional bread baker is really beyond me. I totally blame it on an Olympia Beer commercial that ran when I was a kid. Alternately, I blame it on the Artesians. (Artesian spring water, artisan bread, brains make weird connections)

        1. There was an Atresian well in the town I grew up in, so I keep wanting to pronounce “artisian” that way. I’ve known the difference for years, but my brain still wants to mix those two words up.

    3. Another avid reader–my biggest hang-up used to be words that started with “g.” I thought “gesture” and “gist” started with a g as in guest, and only learned I was wrong in middle school when I said “gesture” wrong in front of my friends. I wanted the ground to open beneath me and swallow me whole.

      1. Jumping on to the end of this mispronunciation thread, I’m still unsure half the time if ‘clique’ is pronounced as “click” or “cleek”

      2. So many pronunciation issues! Especially because I did my reading in English and schooling in French. I had all the pronunciation problems mentioned above, plus yacht (quite obviously pronounced YAH-chit, right?), which was a problem until middle school, and lieutenant, which I don’t think I sorted out until college. (In the British and Canadian systems, it’s pronounced LEFF-tenant, heaven knows why).

        1. It was ages before I figured out that LEFF-tenant and LOO-tenant were the same thing. Also, in the same vein, colonel. Why on earth is that pronounced “kernel”? I always tried to sound it out (coll-oh-nell? huh?) and was totally confused.

    4. When reading the Man of Property, at 9 or so, I discovered a new word, Winifred Forsyte was “chick” which seemed an awful lot like “sheek”.

      I don’t know when I finally learned how “chic” was pronounced. (I can still see the page with chic in italics.)

    5. I thought ‘cease’ was a homophone of ‘keys’ for years and years, and only realised that I was wrong half way through suggesting it when we were brainstorming for words that meant ‘stop’ in an English lesson in Year 6. The memory still hurts!

  14. I was the kid who took instructions way too far. My favorite example is when my parents told me, “Don’t put metal in the microwave, it can cause a fire.” Simple enough, right? Well, to my overactive 8-year-old- imagination, I thought if you even put the SLIGHTEST bit of metal in the microwave for a nanosecond, then the microwave would erupt in a nuclear explosion that would burn everything in a 5 mile radius. So for years, I had this abject fear of putting metal in the microwave. If I saw someone leave a spoon in their bowl, I’d freak out. This wasn’t really an issue at home, but when I started dating my husband (I was around 20), we were at his apartment and his brother put a dish covered in foil in the microwave and hit the button. I flipped my shit and dashed to the microwave and yanked it out. At 20, I did realize it wouldn’t cause a nuclear blast, but I still had this fierce anxiety about the metal causing a massive fire or explosion. I got teased pretty hard about that one.

        1. I didn’t have a microwave, and had rarely used one until I moved in with my partner at age 25. I am 33 now, and the one time I tried to cover something with foil in the microwave (the instruction booklet said it was okay!!) there was horrible smoke and charred foil. So I have gone back to studiously avoiding anything metal in the microwave, ever, even though I have seen other people successfully do it.

      1. Massive metal sparks, with potential for fire and/or explosion…..Yup, that’s what happens. *evil grin*….try it……

        1. not “metal sparks” but “electric sparks” which really not less lame. It’s dramatic and awesome but hard on the microwave and wrecks your stuff. Youtube has examples so you can ooh and aah whilst not having to purchase new appliances…

    1. I had something similar. When I was around four we had this big wooden table, and my parents used to lecture me about not letting water spill on it because it would [eventually] damage the table. But this gave me this absurd idea that the water would somehow *instantly* eat a hole in the table–which was sort of a problem, because I was always filling tiny bottle caps with water for my plastic zoo animals [I don’t know] and my hands shake a lot.
      Weirdly, the first time I spilled water on the table doing this didn’t make me realize I’d misunderstood; I wiped it up as quickly as I could, so I figured there was probably a slight delay before the table was destroyed. And I never mentioned it to anyone, because I wasn’t actually supposed to be doing that anyway, so I’m not actually sure how I eventually figured out what was really meant.

      1. I think I had the same belief when they told me to always use coasters because of the water rings. Because water on wood is like hydrochloric acid!!!

        I’m also pretty sure I gave water to my animal toys like that. You’re in good company here.

    2. I had something kind of opposite happen.

      One Mother’s Day I decided to get up and make my mom breakfast. I was probably somewhere around 10. So, we used to have a wood stove in the house, that would be left to just go overnight and heat the house and stuff. So I got up and made my mom coffee, right. And then I was like, oh no, I put coffee in this cup, it will get cold. But then I thought, wait, I can put it on the stove to keep it hot!



      My dad had told me that it was okay to heat china.


      And I look on the bottom of the plastic cup I am going to put my mom’s coffee in. Because she had these plastic cups she liked to use.

      And it says.

      MADE. IN. CHINA.

      Well I’m guessing you all can imagine how that turned out haha.

    3. For the record, you can put metal in the microwave for however long you need to if you follow the rules.

      1. only steel
      2. no metal touching other metal
      3. no metal touching the sides.

      I have literally put steel bowls in industrial strength microwaves for over 10 minutes with no problems.

    4. I was terrified of lightbulbs for a while after my parents worried in my hearing that one might blow (the fuse, and stop lighting up) and I heard blow (boom, raining glass, we’re all gonna die!).

  15. My mother always told us that if we looked at the microwave while it was working, it was going to melt our eyeballs.

    I don’t know where she got that, but by the time I was in 4th grade, my father heard her say that and finally disabused us of that notion.

    1. Betting that what your mom was really saying was “Quit watching the microwave and get out of my kitchen; your food will be done when it’s done.” πŸ™‚

      1. Or she was genuinely worried about their proximity to the microwave harming them. My grandfather was that generation. There was a certain zone in front of the microwave we he’d shoo us away from if it was going, and he’d placed the one in his house in the very corner of the kitchen to protect us all from it.

  16. My dad always mutes the commercials when watching television. I had no idea this was not universal until I got to college and I’d instinctively do it when watching TV with my dorm-mates. My friends would always look around in vaguely annoyed confusion that someone had randomly muted the TV.

    I have to say that my dad’s training stuck – I hate listening to TV commercials!

    1. I always hate that because then I can’t tune out while watching the commercials, I have to pay extra attention so I can unmute at the right time! (same with fast-forwarding through them)

  17. Like the commenter above, most of mine are just sad, but I do have a couple around language that are weird.

    I was raised by very repressed parents, in the context of a cult, and so my parents didn’t use obscenities or profanities, ever. From K-2 I went to a super hippy dippy private school where kids were well-behaved and genteel. So when I started public school in grade 3, I literally knew no bad words. The first week of school I was kept in at recess multiple times because my classmates figured this out and would spell words and ask me to say them. And nobody explained what I’d done until it had happened several times; I was just supposed to know. I guess normally kids are exposed to bad language and are told they can’t say those things? I just had no clue.

    1. I wasn’t even raised by particularly repressed parents– my mother swears like a longshoreman– but I was a gullible little kindergartener, and one of the kids in my class TOTALLY got me with this with a word I hadn’t heard at home. I was horrified and mortified, even though my mother was really understanding about it.

    2. When I was a wee Drewlet, I gleefully used some four-letter words that I’d heard some older kids use. My mom looked at me and asked if I knew what those words meant.

      Spoiler alert: I did not; I was going by context.

      So that night, my parents sat me down in the living room and had a little profanity seminar, going over the commoner words, spelling and pronouncing them and telling me what they meant. Oh, and stressing that these words were NOT TO BE USED. Freaked me the hell out. ‘Scuse, I mean “heck.”

      1. AH! I love that they covered the spelling for you! Because of my dad’s pronunciation (??), I was under the impression until age ten that “shit” was spelled “shet.”

      2. My ex did a less-freaked-out version of that with his stepson. He didn’t personally care if the kid used profanity (he was in construction, where apparently there is a profanity quota for a building to go up successfully.) He did understand that his son would have troubles socially if he didn’t understand that certain words make people uncomfortable in certain situations. He also thought it was important for the kid to understand *what* he was saying.

        So…we started saying “Don’t say that at school” when the kid would use profanity. Eventually, if we were going somewhere that wasn’t school, but that needed to be a profanity-free zone, we would say, “Don’t say anything you can’t say at school.”

        As far as explaining the words, that was on a case-by-case basis. With the “do you know what that word means?” question and then a quick, brief explanation of that word (not a whole giant all-the-bad-words) vocabulary lesson. Most of his responses, were, “Oh. Ok.” and then he kept using the word. A few of the definitions made him decide he didn’t want to use the word anymore.

    3. This happened to me too! My parents must have managed not to say “fuck” in front of me before I went off to school. One time in first grade I was in the bathroom and there were Big Girls in there and they pointed to “FUCK” written on the bathroom stall and told me to say that word, so I did, and then they all went “oooOOOOOOOOOooh!

      Also I think I called a kid a chickenshit on the playground, and got in trouble. I had had no idea what it meant, though I guess I *did* realize it was a bad word, or I wouldn’t have bothered.

      1. Yeah, if you’ve never heard it, it’s just a word you’ve never heard, and at that age those happen all the time. πŸ™‚

        My folks were furious with me for teaching my sister the word “No” as a toddler because they’d manage to stop me learning it as a statement of negative intent until I was five or six.

        1. Ha! Apparently, my parents managed to avoid using the word “No” around me as a toddler. Then when I was ~18 months old, they took me to a family reunion/gathering at my grandparents’ house, where my great aunt spent a lot of time telling me “No”. I’ve been (repeatedly) told that I spent the entire 3 hour flight home singing “No no no no no no” while hitting my poor father with a pillow.

          1. Heh! My parents used “COME HERE” instead of “No” in a stop-doing-that sense. I learnt it eventually but even now it makes me super angry that to make their lives a little easier they denied me the primary method that toddlers use to learn to differentiate themselves from their parents and to express agency and opinion. I’m glad you got it at the right time! πŸ™‚

    4. I went to a tiny Christian primary school, and was then homeschooled for a while – with parents who also didn’t use obscenities or profanities – so I only really began to be exposed to profanities when I finally rejoined school at fourteen. By that point, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t know what they were; merely that flinching and thinking badly of people every time they used one wasn’t a very useful paradigm for interaction with the outside world. (It didn’t last very long, shockingly; within three or four years I was even using them myself.)

    5. I guess sort of relatedly — my mom would call us kids and our dad “omadhauns,” which is Irish for asshole (we’re like, fourth generation, so I don’t know why she still did that.) I didn’t realize that this wasn’t English until I told a friend at school that she was an omadhaun and she couldn’t figure out what I was talking about. I didn’t have a good definition because I only ever heard it in the context of “you cut that out right now”

      1. @rmd714 – was the word AmadΓ‘n (pronounced omadhuan)? The literal translation in Irish Gaelic is “fool”. My Nan and Mum call us that, “eejit” (idiot) when we’re being silly. To my understanding, the word is an affectionate way to tell someone that they’re being a nuisance or silly, rather than the expression of omg-you-are-being-a-jerk-shut-up that the American English “asshole” connotation has.

        My brother and I used to break into shocked giggles when we heard an adult swear, right up until we were 16 or so. Our parents and extended family don’t use American English or Irish English curse words – the only people we knew who did were fellow classmates. So hearing an adult swear was like hearing an adult say “cool” or “awesome” – a lame attempt to glom onto our language.

  18. This is not quite the same thing, but it counts from a withholding-knowledge standpoint: throwing up is not something you tend to do in anything other than a private setting, so it wasn’t until one of those late-night chat sessions with friends my freshman year of college, when the subject came up and everyone was sharing stories about it, that I chimed in, “Yeah, and it really burns when it comes out your nose!”

    **record scratch** Turns out, this is NOT something everyone (anyone??) else experiences, just a delightful genetic quirk that my mom and I both have that she NEVER TOLD ME WAS NOT NORMAL. From that day forward I swore to protect any future children I might have from such public embarrassment, and from that day forward my friends have never given up hope that they might see me shoot liquid out my nose (THIS HAS NOT HAPPENED TO DATE, sorry guys).

    1. This happens to me every time, I thought this was normal! I have a rather gross story where a veggie pizza incident resulted in a mushroom emerging from my nostril. Horrifying at the time, still gross now, and yet, I am oddly proud of my projectile talents in a weird way.

      1. Why does this make me want to go home and play Super Mario World? I’m going to blame the snow.

    2. This happens to me too! I don’t think it’s nearly as rare as your friends thought it was.

    3. Ooh, if we’re talking about biological quirks, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I learned that not everyone gets terrible, throbbing headaches every time they cry. I never understood people who found crying cathartic until I learned that my mother and I were just the lucky winners in the Terrible Sinuses Lottery.

          1. That is really, really weirding me out. Do people just..not..find crying horribly physically painful??? Do their jaws remain unharmed??? How do you cry if it doesn’t hurt???

    4. Well hell, I thought this happened to everyone too. Stomach acid in your sinus cavity is the WORST.

      1. I have puked a grand total of maybe three times since childhood, even when it would have been beneficial to do so, so I don’t have a frame of reference.

        I have, however, gotten wasabi up there more than a few times when someone made me laugh right as a took a bite of sushi. Anything like that, maybe?

    5. I also had no idea this was not common. The “best” (?) experience I had with this was when I broke my ribs, and I very quickly discovered that Tylenol-3 made me extremely nauseous. This was great “fun”, vomitting with a busted rib less than 24 hours old and having rice being shoved out of my nose. Blech!

    6. Another biological quirk: the septum (the inside cartilage in your nose that separates your nostrils) is supposed to go pretty much straight up and down, like a capital letter I. I was born with a septum that was shaped more like an S, restricting a lot of airflow through my nose. When I was 18, I had surgery to straighten it out because it was causing some mild sleep apnea. I distinctly remember the moment at a post-op doctor’s appointment when I breathed in through my nose and realized that I could actually get a full lungful of air breathing through my nose. I had never realized I was supposed to be able to do that! I thought that it was normal to be able to get away with breathing through your nose for one or two breaths, but have to switch to a mouth breath after that, because that was the only way to get sufficient oxygen.

      1. Same (well, I haven’t had surgery). I simply can’t get a lungful of air through my nose.

        I remember cringing the first time I heard “mouth-breather” as an insult. That was the first time I realized a lot of people did most of their breathing from their noses. I still actually don’t understand why it’s an insult. I like to breathe! And I have to do it through my mouth. Harrumph.

        1. Yep! That insult never made sense to me, because how else are you supposed to breathe? Also, I always dreaded going to the dentist, not because of any pain but because I would be gasping for breath the entire time. You can’t breathe in through your mouth when it’s full of fluoride paste/toothbrushes/people poking at your gums. I didn’t realize that most people would be able to breathe comfortably through their noses during dental work, so I never mentioned to my parents or dentist that I couldn’t. I thought it was some kind of terrible but necessary how-long-can-you-go-without-enough-air endurance test.

        2. Mouth-breathers unite! (Though for me the mouth-breathing is as much a result of severe and unending childhood allergies as my deviated septum.) Because of needing to breathe through my mouth until I moved to a less pollen-dense area for college and because of my large front teeth, I also never learned to keep my lips shut over my teeth, which I remember a friend pointing out somewhat unkindly in high school.

    7. My version of this is burping when someone gives me a massage. My mom does it too…I had no idea it wasn’t standard until I was 13 or so.

    8. I was in my teens when I figured out that exposure to bright light is *not* one of those pepper/feather cliches that makes *everyone* sneeze, and I’m a genetic oddity because it does so for me.

    9. This happens to me, too – it’s part of why I have such a pathological fear of vomiting.

  19. My mom works in public health, and has never been one of those people who believe you should protect kids from knowing about their own body parts or how they work. In our house, we all grew up knowing exactly what genitals were called, and one of our favorite things to do was ask mom about gross anatomical facts, or how x y and z horrible diseases worked, which she would always answer using precise medical terminology.

    Anyway, as a preschooler, one day I came down with a case of itchy crotch that I apparently found painful enough to go to mom about. She checked it out and matter-of-factly told me yep, my clitoris looked pretty red and swollen – looks like a job for hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone was applied, I felt better, and nothing more was said about the matter… until she took me to the grocery store the next day and I apparently had a flare-up of the ol’ itchy crotch and waited until we were in a very long line of strangers to have a tantrum and shriek as only a preschooler in pain can: “MOM, MY CLITORIS HURTS! MY CLITORIS HURTS!” Everyone stared at my mom like I had sprouted two heads.

    I actually don’t remember most of this happening. My mom didn’t want me to think there was anything wrong with knowing what a clitoris was, so she didn’t hush me when it happened, and she also didn’t repeat the story for laughs until I was an adult. A+ parenting if you ask me.

    1. When I was heavily pregnant, my perinium started screaming in agony one day.
      Texted my midwife to ask her if there was anything I could do about it, and got a reply back “sorry, who is this?”.
      Turns out, she had lost her phone, and my number hadn’t come through on her contacts list yet…

  20. My family finds it very difficult to receive help of any kind, and asking for it is out of the question, so it was ingrained in me to refuse pretty much anything I was ever offered. That meant that until I was adult, I refused a lot of things offered to me that I actually wanted because my default answer was always, “Oh, no thank you!” I finally trained myself to stop doing that and learned to accept that piece of cake, thank you very much.

    On a funnier note, in elementary school a boy in my class wrote me a note asking “Will you go with me?” I asked, “Go where?” I genuinely had never heard that phrase–I had no older siblings and was a little sheltered–and I did not understand the question! He kept asking it and I kept replying “Go WHERE?” until he finally gave up. πŸ˜›

    1. If it makes you feel any better, I had the same confusion when my first boyfriend asked me out…in college. Fortunately, we got it cleared up more easily.

  21. My father didn’t teach me this, but I learned from his example. Nobody’s supposed to hear what you do in the bathroom. So every time I had to pee (or whatever), I turned the tap on so nobody would hear it. When I was eighteen or nineteen my first partner found out and told me how ridiculous it was.

    1. In Japan some bathrooms have little noise machines you can turn on when you are going so that the sound of your pee is muted. So there are millions of people out there who don’t think this is ridiculous.

      1. I have trouble going in public restrooms and I find myself fervently wishing that white noise machines were standard in bathrooms. Even worse if you are going into the bathroom with someone, talking. “Let’s pause the conversation while we pee” just makes me uncomfortable, then I can’t go. Wow, a little TMI there.

        1. Yeah, going to the bathroom with someone was something I always avoided, and before getting out of the stall I waited for everyone to leave first.

        2. I have had bosses who felt the IDEAL time for a conversation about that upcoming project, meeting, memo, whatever was right when we were entering our respective bathroom stalls. Just… no.

    2. My mom does this, too. For me the necessity of covering the noise is correlated closely to how close the other person is — in a studio apartment, you bet I’m going to be turning the faucet on full blast to cover the noise.

      1. Definitely! When my boyfriend first mentioned it I was aghast that he had noticed because it meant he listened rather than staying aware from the area.

    3. I went to a high school where it seems the entire female population (cannot comment on the boys) was raised this way. I felt a bit gauche for not doing it after a while, but couldn’t justify wasting the water.

    4. I never turn on a faucet, but I sometimes turn on the fan if there is one, especially if I know the walls are thin. Like, if we can have a conversation through the door without raised voices, I’ll probably turn on the fan.

      I’m a lot less shy about it than I used to be (I mean – we all know what the bathroom is for, it shouldn’t be that big a deal, really) but I do wish public bathrooms weren’t all bare metal and tile.

  22. My dad taught me that a cure for hiccups is to pull on your left ear while drinking water. It works most times, but I’m not sure if that’s just because of the water drinking or if the ear pulling really does something.

    My mom taught me to call the dirty lumps of ice and snow that build up behind your tires “carbuncles.” I still do that.

    1. I think it’s the focusing on another task (ear pulling) that gets your diaphragm to relax and hiccups to stop. In my family, it was attempting to drink water out of the opposite side of the glass you’d normally drink from (yes, like backward tipping it into your mouth). I don’t know how I didn’t end up with a glass of water down the front of my shirt every time, but it works on occasion.

      1. I learned a similar trick – saying the alphabet backwards, one letter in between each sip – and it totally worked. I still do it when I have the hiccups now, although I just pause between each sip. Maybe it’s the slow, measured swallowing or something?

      2. Oh, my God! We do that, too! And if that doesn’t work, we get up and walk into the kitchen and grimly swallow a spoonful of sugar. Usually the hiccups stop before we actually get to the kitchen. I’ve only ever had the sugar not work ONCE. And that time the hiccups were bad enough I went to Urgent Care.

      3. Omg, this makes so much sense, AND explains why drinking water upside down (usually achieved via handstand) didn’t work – it wasn’t distracting enough. I spent a fair amount of my childhood upside down. My vocalist brother-in-law reckons he can prevent himself from getting the hiccups via his superior diaphragmatic control from years of singing. I am…70% convinced.

        1. I’d say the diaphragm control works about 85% of the time (oboe and recorder) – some hiccups are resistant, but the vast majority relents.

  23. My mom is a nurse, and always brought home samples of antibiotics for strep throat and stuff, so I had no background in “see a doctor when you’re sick and then you go to the pharmacy” because Dr. Nurse Mom just took care of it.

    When I was a freshman in college I got strep, and had to take a prescription to the pharmacy, which I realized once I got there was something I had not only never done, I also had never observed, and I remembering being so baffled by the whole thing. And also I was used to “fancy” Z-Pack style name brand antibiotics (because: fancy samples), so the whole “take a generic three times a day” was very strange.

    1. Oh man — I also never went to the doctor for being sick as a child, with the added mild embarrassment that the medical professional in my family is a veterinarian. The only time I went to doctor was for things that dogs generally aren’t treated for — seasonal allergies and eye glasses. (I mean, dogs are treated for seasonal allergies, but not with nasal spray.)

      1. My mom also gave me a measles shot or something at home once when I was 8, which I still don’t think I’ve forgiven her for. I mean, no kid likes shots, imagine your sweet, loving mother coming after you with a sharp hell tool full of pain.

        1. Ha, my grandma was the county nurse for a couple decades, so I got a lot of vaccinations from her. πŸ™‚

          1. * swoons from flattered-ness *

            ((I have read many authors who assert something like: we read to feel less alone. I used to think that this phenomenon mainly relied on learning that other people had experiences that mirrored our own. But now I think it also results from the relief of finding out the “normal” stuff that hurt us maybe wasn’t necessary or okay, and the delight of discovering the “normal” stuff that shaped the good parts of us maybe isn’t boring or embarrassing.))

    2. Heh, folks with medic family, unite! (I have gone to a general doctor that wasn’t my mother once. I am an adult, and I don’t know how to navigate doctors/insurance at all).

  24. In my family, my father did the vast majority of the nightly cooking. My mom hates cooking and knows how to make like 3 things. So a bit of the reverse of the assumed set-up for most people around me, I guess. Also, in my extended family, only the men cooked. So this was my normal. When I was 6, I was at a sleepover for the first time, and the mom was working late or something. The dad was all like, “Since mom’s not here, we’ll have to order pizza.” Outraged, I incredulously said, “You aren’t cooking for us? What kind of dad ARE you?” Which, wow, rude. Everyone just stared at me and then burst out laughing. Thankfully, they thought I was joking. Really, though, I thought this guy was the worst dad ever since I also assumed that the mom couldn’t cook either, so my friend must be starving!

    1. My dad did most of the cooking, too. I never had an incident like you describe, but I remember all those “just like Mom used to make!” commercials being kind of like… but… mom doesn’t really cook…

    2. Same, but with driving. The moms drive. Women in general drive. Dads/men don’t have their licenses, or at least don’t drive well. I still get weirded out when people insist that driving is manly or that men are supposed to be better at driving.

    3. Once a friend of my daughter’s was appalled to see me ironing clothes–in her world only DADDIES did the ironing!

    4. Oh man, my family is just like yours! My mother is a terrible cook. My dad is an amazing cook and cooks nearly every day. My parents are also feminists. Imagine my awe at my friends’ mothers who were making bold inroads into the masculine world of the kitchen, which even my glass ceiling-breaking, power suit-wearing mother wouldn’t touch!

      1. My younger brother, when very young indeed, greeted the idea of being a doctor like his mother with scorn: “That’s a _girl’s_ job.” He wanted to be a chicken. Or a tugboat.

        1. I think being a tugboat would be pretty amazing. Not to mention a very stable gig.

  25. My dad was a psychologist, and so were a lot of the other adults I knew in my parents’ NPR-listening type of social circle.
    So I grew up thinking that every house had a copy of BF Skinner’s Walden Two – the same edition that apparently all colleges used in the ’70s – like it was the phone book, or Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms.

  26. Ahaha this is fantastic thread.

    1. My family called it tooting; we were to go into the bathroom and say “excuse me” afterwards. I still can’t say “fart” without flinching a little. The aggravating thing is that the stealthy parts of this training stayed with me even when my parents had relaxed quite a bit. My mom will still occasionally turn to me and say, “You NEVER pass gas!” NO I JUST DON’T DO IT IN PUBLIC, OKAY?
    2. My mom cannot STAND to use the word “butt.” She squawks and waves her hands around when you use that instead of “bottom” or “rear” or “bum.”
    3. Words I have not heard elsewhere: “clicker-dicker” for remote control and “tenny runners” for tennis shoes/sneakers.
    4. The most persistent manners problem my mom passed down to me is to do with money: basically in her world, if you go out with friends, you better goddamn FIGHT to pay the whole check, but if you borrow even a dollar from another person, you have to pay it back pronto. It still makes me mildly panicky that apparently it’s common practice for some people to ignore debts under five dollars — like, if they catch your coffee, they won’t take the two dollars for it later. AAAA.
    5. I didn’t really have a handle on how MUCH pop four liters is until I went to college and cheerfully told my new friends that my dad, my mom, and I each drank that much diet Pepsi every day.
    6. For my mom, one-pot meals are all “glop.” THIS REALLY OFFENDS SOME PEOPLE.

    1. 1. Fistbump of toot solidarity!
      4. I also come from a family of check-grabbers, but I’ve gotten more OK with just splitting the check when I’m out with friends. We’ll also do the “I’ll get this one and you get me next time” thing, and I think it tends to balance out. I had to tell one friend that I wasn’t keeping a ledger when he got really stressed because I had grabbed him a couple of dollar burgers before he’d had a chance to pay me back for the last ones. For me, grabbing someone a Coke or a cheap burger is just what you do if they can’t get away from their desk.
      6. “Glop” is adorable and I may steal it.

    2. In my house we call the TV remote the “commercial control” because we religiously mute the commercials. I don’t think anyone else calls it that.

      1. We have the Roku remote that controls the Roku box, and then the actual TV remote is called the “loudness remote” because we only use it to change the volume.

      2. We called it “the uh-uh stick” after the desperate grunt you make when rushing to mute the commercials before they start. (God forbid you hear .02 seconds of commercial…or miss .02 seconds of the program after the commercial break. I nodded along in sober solidarity with the commenter upthread who mentioned how tiring it is to have to pay rigid attention to the commercials just to make sure you’re timing your muting and un-muting correctly.)

      3. We have 4 remotes for the TV in our house, and they are collectively known as the Sticks of Power.

        1. Heh. Somewhere along the way, and I have no idea where, I picked up on calling TV remotes the Godstick.

    3. Oh my. It is common practice for me to ignore debts under like 50 bucks. I tend to work out a “paying the whole check” exchange with people I see a lot so we can worry less about the actual dollar amounts. And I think I still owe one of my coworkers 10 bucks. I’m the worst.

    4. I love that your mom can’t say “butt,” but sees no problem with “clicker-dicker.”

    5. My dad started cooking a lot when I was in high school, and he would make meat-in-sauce-over-rice dishes with whatever was around, which didn’t look pretty but tasted awesome (resembling Indian food, but not necessarily intentionally trying to recreate it). We called it slurry. “What’s for dinner, Dad?” “Slurry.” Luckily, I was old enough to know that would be an insulting thing to say about anybody else’s cooking.

      1. My dad’s signature dish is “mish-mash” which is basically macaroni noodles, ground beef and tomato sauce. Growing up I also ate “beanie weanies” which is cut up hotdog and baked beans. Still a go-to when I don’t feel like cooking.

    6. “For my mom, one-pot meals are all β€œglop.” THIS REALLY OFFENDS SOME PEOPLE.”

      True story – my dad’s family had a dish they called glop (a pasta casserole). They had it with his family and he asked my mom afterwards if they could make it at home. My mom’s response was, “That’s delicious but we’re calling it something else.” We call it $HomeStreet Goulash now.

      1. My mom makes an orange jello salad thing that’s holiday tradition in our family. Except ‘orange jello salad’ is a weird name, so we called it orange goo. It is delicious orange goo! I found out that my mom finds it upsetting, so I try to call it something else, but even she calls it orange goo now.

        1. When I was a kid, my godmother made a dessert that was a mixture of cottage cheese, Cool Whip, and Jello – sometimes it was lime flavored, and sometimes strawberry. Depending on the color, it was either “Pink Stuff” or “Green Stuff.”

          But it sure was tasty.

      2. My parents and I have two dishes like that: one is called glop (a chicken and wild rice casserole) and the other is called slop (“Mexican” “lasagna,” both terms used loosely). We also refer to pop as “hee hoo,” as in “he who drank last bottle puts new in fridge.”

    7. We have two in-family food nicknames that are funny/gross to outsiders:

      1. When my brother was in his experimental learning to cook stage (which my mother encouraged in all of us), maybe age 10 or so, he made some sort of stir fry with Chinese cabbage, carrots, celery, etc. that we someone all came to refer to as Slop. No other stir-fry gets referred to as such, only this one particular concoction of my bro’s, which tasted just fine but I guess was not very visually appealing!

      2. One of my mom’s dinner standards when we were growing up was salmon patties, which was canned salmon, celery, onion, etc. all mashed/mixed and fried in a pan until crispy and brown on the outside. Us kids always loved them, but one night, my father rolled in after work and asked what was for dinner and when mom told him it was salmon patties, he said “Ugh, shit cakes!” Which we all thought was hilarious, and after which we never had salmon patties for dinner again. But we’ve had shit cakes dozens of times since. πŸ˜€

    8. In my house the tv remote is the “dooberee” which I have never encountered anywhere else. Or the “thingummy”, “thingamajig”, “whojamaflip” or the “watsit doodah” or any other filler word (wow now I type it out my family has a lot of filler words) because for some reason the word for TV remote always seems to leave your brain This does seem to be the word with the greatest variation between families, to the point where if I am in a room with a TV and someone asks “Where is the *insert strange word*?” I just assume that they mean the remote even if the word is completely unfamiliar.

    9. My mother makes a horrible box cake; she doesn’t use any non-stick cooking spray, she uses Crisco and flour and overcooks the crap out of it, then covers up the heavily floured edges with a ton of icing. So, when I was growing up, we never ate the outside edge of the cake and I still don’t. I offended my MIL very early on when I referred to the little bit of left over cake as the “rind”. I’ve been married for 20 years and she still fumes if I don’t eat it or if I ever make reference to rind on her cake.

      Also, our family didn’t eat mayonaise or mustard and referred to them as “spoo” – awkward!

    10. In the first house that my husband and I owned there was this half wall between the dining area and living room that seemed to collect things like papers and car keys. We decided to give it a name because “Honey where are the keys? They’re on the half-wall-divider-thingy” was too long and awkward. Somehow it was referred to as “the nostril” and it stuck. I don’t know why. Anyway, later were selling the house a few years later and the realtor was coming by at some point when we weren’t going to be home and I was leaving something for him. I said, “I’ll leave it on the nostril.” Luckily, he was an old friend….

  27. My family acted as if a mortal sin was being committed if you accidentally walked in on someone who was using the toilet, or getting dressed. To this day, I have never seen my mother naked, and I’m in my late 40s. One time, I was visiting my grandparents and opened the bathroom door to find my uncle on the toilet. He yelled at me to “get out!” My grandparents’ bathroom had two doors, each one opening onto a bedroom, and they were the kind of knobs that self-lock when you turn them and push them in. They never worked properly. I used to cringe when I used their bathroom for fear someone would walk in on me.

    My husband’s family is the opposite. His grandfather used to TAKE BATHS in front of him, he’s seen his mom and dad naked, and people thought nothing of using the toilet in front of one another. The first time he took me to stay at his folks’ house, his father came walking down the hall naked, headed for the bathroom, early one morning. I was mortified! I caught a glimpse through the partly-opened bedroom door, and then my father-in-law motioned to my husband to shut the door.

    We also weren’t allowed to fart in front of one another. And my mom’s term for farting is “making stinky air.” LOL

    1. My family was like yours. My dog is really smart and learned how to open doors. She also needed a midnight bathroom trip for a while. So one night I was taking her out and she decided she needed to detour and visit mom. Who was in bed with her boyfriend. I quiet screamed to the dog, but glimpses and I’m trying to burn that out of my brain.

    2. Huh!

      With my partner I am totally happy to do any and all bathroom-related things in front of each other, but my family was always “do not walk in on someone ever, be highly embarassed if you do”. I still cringe when I remember the grand total of about two occasions on which someone has walked in on me on the toilet, and I did not know that this was not a universal thing.

      1. My mom, my sister, and I have no problem being naked around each other, go together into bathrooms, sit and talk to each other while one of us is taking a shower, etc. Dad is left out of all of this (I would say “obviously” but apparently nothing is obvious in this thread πŸ™‚ when either my sister or I are around.

    3. My family was like your husband’s. I grew up with 3 sisters and no brothers, so we were all pretty unfazed by toilet and bathroom doors open if you needed to talk to someone at that particular moment (my husband, apparently from your side of the camp, was quick to inform me he was NOT OK with this). Also, I thought changing clothes in front of other girls was the norm. I was always confused when I had girlfriends over and they’d go into the bathroom to change (why?), or wriggle around under their clothes trying to get out of one thing and into another without revealing even a scrap of underwear. What did they have to HIDE??

      Something we always did in our family was read in the toilet, and we kept a shelf full of National Geographics in there for that very purpose. My little sister (aged 4) once saw someone reading a National Geographic and said “look mummy, that boy’s reading toilet books!” But generally reading any book on the loo is something that I’ve since found out lots of people think is weird and/or gross.

      1. We are total bathroom readers here, on both sides of the family. We’ve even got our little daughter started down that road, by handing her board books to look at while having her diaper changed. ::laughs::

    4. My mom was the complete opposite to yours–I still have conversations where she’s getting dressed and I’m sitting on her bed facing her. Granted, I never saw my dad getting dressed, and my mom isn’t ever in the room with me when I’m getting dressed (unless I’m in a hospital/needing help getting dressed after a shower), but yeah, I’m still not fussed about people seeing me naked.

  28. My mom was convinced beyond dissuasion that the most dangerous thing you could ever do was to run during a thunderstorm, because lightning was always attracted by fast movement. She once tackled my dad in a parking lot when he started to walk quicker than usual to get out of the rain; she then screamed at him for ten minutes straight, accusing him of “wanting us all to be killed” because he was too lazy and pampered to walk slowly and “safely” and get wet

    To the day she died she was convinced that anyone hit by lightning must have been running at the time.

    1. Also never run from anything immortal; it attracts their attention.

  29. Everyone in my family tends to narrate our cats’ actions and hypothetical thoughts. I have occasionally done this with the cats of people I have just met. It tends to get a confused response.

    I also was never really taught euphemisms for genitals [until I asked my parents to tell me which words were “bad” words, because I didn’t know any and was curious, but that’s another story]. When I was four my parents took me to the zoo, and I was very intent on referring to all the animals with the proper pronouns, but there was no information anywhere that I could use for the walrus, and it kept moving out of view. Apparently when it finally came to the window for longer than a second I triumphantly shouted “MOMMY, MOMMY, IT HAS A PENIS!” In a large concrete room. It carried.

    And only sort of related, but my dad has always been the IT guy in my house [since he moved out I’ve taken on that role, but that is beside the point] and always refused to tell us how to fix things ourselves. Which means I don’t have any scripts for talking to tech support people, which means if something goes wrong that I can’t fix myself I will be moderately screwed. But that is…also beside the point.

    1. My cat says it’s totally normal to do cat narration, and she feels sorry for cats whose people don’t do this for them.

    2. I mention conversations with my dog and her responses and sometimes I think that people these are actual conversations. Dog conversations are common around here.

  30. I remember two silly examples.

    Neither of my parents were terribly religious and I guess it never occurred to them to explain it to me. I’d never even heard of religion until I was 8 or so. I was walking home from school with a friend when she asked, “Are you Christian?”

    And I thought she was asking if that was my name so I said, “No, I’m Amber.” =P

    Also we weren’t allowed to say ‘pond scum’. We had to say ‘interesting creatures’. Got me laughed at once on a field trip.

  31. This isn’t specifically about my family, but it factored when I moved away from my hometown.

    Where I’m from, a lot of people call liquor stores “package stores.” I don’t know why, but every liquor store is named XYZ Package Store. My ex made fun of me a lot for that, but I didn’t see why. That was what they were CALLED.

    1. I’m from the land of package stores, too. It is what they are called there.

      1. I’ve lived in MA for a year now and have yet to hear anyone call it a package store OR a packie. I feel betrayed. (But not as betrayed as the time I tried to buy wine on Memorial Day!)

        1. Oh my goodness, when I went to college I hung out with a couple of people from Massachusetts. We were talking about getting some beer, and one of the guys kept referring to the 7-Eleven as “the packie.” I thought the term was a jab at the shop proprietor (a very sweet Pakistani man) and flipped out at the guy.
          Everyone looked at me really funny, and several years later I visited Mass with a friend. And I felt really, really stupid.

          1. Around here they’re all called “the LC” for liquor commission but no one explained it to me until I was much older than people generally are without knowing what it is. Apparently “the store that sells booze” was a hilarious thing to say.

      2. Yes. Do not refer, in tones of great excitement, to “packies” in the United Kingdom, particularly because it is pronounced exactly the same as AN ACTUAL RACIAL SLUR (as I Could Make Jam found out). Especially when stores that sell liquor in the UK are stereotypically staffed by people of Pakistani descent.

        So “Ah! You have packies here too!” is not as adorable to chirp out loud in this circumstance as you’d think.

        1. Oh totally. Always say off-license or newsagent (because most of the chains that sold just booze have gone out of business over here, most alcohol shops are also newspaper and magazine stores).

    2. It’s because of old laws that required that the alcohol be concealed inside another wrapper or a container when it leaves the store, or “packaged.”

    3. Where I grew up they were called “board stores” (because all liquor stores back then were owned by the provincial government and administered by the Alberta Liquor Control Board). The board store was also where you went to get age ID if you didn’t drive.

      So of course when someone new to town asked where they could get age ID, you’d tell them to go to the board store. Guess how many of them went to the lumber yard.

    4. In Pennsylvania, they’re called “state stores” (or the more descriptive “liquor stores”) because they’re controlled by the state’s liquor control board. But if you want beer, you have to go to a separate beer distributor store that only sells beer by the case.

      So if I’m buying stuff for a party, I have to make like, 3 separate stops between the grocery store, the state store, and the beer distributor. Yay.

      1. My brother and his fiance are in PA, and every time they visit our IL homeland they stock up on wine. So much wine.

        1. +1 PA is a pain when it comes to buying booze. In West Virginia, you can buy beer and wine in the grocery store (unless it’s a Baptist-run operation), but for your hard liquor, you have to get it at the Rite Aid.

      2. I’m from Pennsylvania, and the first time I was in a southern state’s Walmart I was like “What?? is this?? There’s a liquor aisle IN WALMART?”

        1. Targets in Virigina sell their own boxed wine *inside the Target*?? What is this wonderful madness???? I vacationed in North Carolina a few years ago and the whole week, I kept raving about how I could egg, wine, AND beer all in one store! It was so magical!

          Ironically, I don’t even drink that much. But I hate having to make 3 separate trips to 3 separate stores– with weird hours and quantity policies just because of blue laws πŸ˜›

        2. I’ve had various exes that were SO CONFUSED at my surprise that I couldn’t buy wine at Kroger. Because every grocery store sells wine and beer down here in the south.

          1. Unless the grocery store is run by Baptists. I grew up in Houston, and there was a chain of grocery stores called “Randall’s” that sold no alcohol at all. Now I live in St. Louis, and there is a specialty-liquor store called, “Randall’s,” where you go to find types of booze you never knew existed. The first time someone said, “I want some German beer, let’s go to ‘Randall’s'” confused the hell out of me.

        3. Target comes from my home state and they can’t sell their wine inside Target here. NERD RAGE! (We’ve been trying to get our stupid alcohol laws modernized for years but the liquor store lobby keeps beating us.)

        4. Haha. I’m in Alabama, and Wal-Mart and other grocery stores and such can only sell beer, wine, and stuff like wine coolers here. No liquor. We have the ABC store (also referred to as the state store) and package stores. Then I visited a friend in Indiana and was shocked and amazed that you could buy stuff like Crown Royal at their Wal-Mart.

      3. I was so confused when visiting Texas/Florida that I couldn’t buy liquor at the grocery store. Or on Sunday. Or at certain times. How do people keep track of all these RULES?!

        1. I still remember the excitement when my closest state store started opening on Sundays (but only from 12 to 5 EST). That was like, 15 years ago. Also, the other state stores in a 5-mile radius still remained closed on Sundays because why not?
          Several years ago, grocery store chains like Wegman’s started moving in here and offering beer and beer-related beverages for sale INSIDE the store, in quantities smaller than a case of 24 cans, but with separate cash registers and hours. They also have in-store restaurants and cafes that will sell you a glass of wine if the LCB feels like it that day or the wine machine is working or something. That is probably the closest PA citizens will ever come to being able to buy beer, wine, and groceries all under one roof.

    5. I live in NC and down here they’re ABC stores. You can get beer and wine in a grocery store, but for anything else you go to the ABC. I visited Pennsylvania once and was…very confused.

  32. My mother never bought Kleenex – she thought it was silly and wasteful when toilet paper would do just as well. It wasn’t until I moved in with my boyfriend after college that I found out it actually works way, way better for blowing your nose, because, well, it’s designed to. I still feel weird and extravagant when I buy boxes of it at the store, though.

    Both of my parents also imprinted me with the idea that you should always buy the cheapest kind of whatever you need, even if the quality is worse, so as not to waste money. I’ve mostly gotten over that one, but every once in a while I backslide. The last time, I bought a $10 iron that’s so poorly made that there’s no plug for the water reservoir, and water splashes all over whatever I’m ironing while I’m ironing it. I keep meaning to replace it with a decent one, but the idea of paying $50 for an iron pains me (even though I’d spend that much on books without blinking).

    1. My family didn’t really use Kleenex either – it makes my husband crazy when I’ll walk right past a tissue box to the loo so I can blow my nose!

    2. I once ran out of tissues when DD was sick. She was about 4 or 5 and NEEDED a tissue. I told her to use toilet paper, which resulted in a huge 10 min tantrum b/c you use toilet paper to wipe your BUTT not blow your nose. I had to duck into a different room to laugh hysterically at her and then call my mom to let her know what DD said. I also bought tissues.


    So my family runs a veterinary clinic — my dad is the vet and my mom was the office manager and technician for twenty years. They see a fairly wide variety of clients, including some people that one might not choose to associate with otherwise (particularly if one has the hang-ups about class that my mom does.) I soon learned that when my mom tacked, “But they LOVE THEIR PETS,” onto the end of a story about a client, it was because she was excusing herself for sharing some mean/juicy gossip about their lives and/or making fun of them.

    So in my house, “But he/she/they LOVE THEIR PETS” is the non-Southern equivalent of “BLESS THEIR HEART.”

    1. Nice! We learned in CCD (Catholic Sunday School) that weren’t allowed to hate anyone, and that we had to love everybody even if we didn’t like them. So, “I only love you IN GOD’S WAY” became a sick playground burn for a while. “I love you the minimum amount to avoid damning my soul eternally, after that, you’re on your own, jerkface.”

      1. I bet nuns and priests say the same thing to other nuns and priests if they hate them. πŸ™‚ I’ve probably read too many medieval murder mysteries set in convents and monasteries, but I always imagine them as seething with secret intrigue and animosity!

      2. If I ever have someone tell me “I forgive you as a Christian” again I will lose my shit at them. (As in, forgive you enough to make God happy, but not because they’ve actually forgiven anything. Especially irritating when you don’t think you did anything wrong in the first place. Ugh.)

      3. I grew up in the south, where it is not uncommon to hear the older generation talking about how they “love so-and-so *in Christ*.”

        Which is the pious way to say that you hate someone’s guts. πŸ™‚

      4. That reminds me of Gena Rowland’s line from Hope Floats, “Oh, I love ALL of God’s creatures. I just love some of them better stuffed.” (referring to her daughter’s cheating husband.)

    2. Oh, I am SO using this! Being a transplanted Yankee, I’ve never quite felt at ease saying “bless their heart” – I kind of sound like a kid trying out cuss words for the first time. As an animal rescue volunteer, “but they love their pets” will work for me and make my husband laugh!

  34. When my friend’s daughter, A, was very small, it used to annoy me no end that her nursery insisted on using the word ‘silly’ when they meant ‘naughty’. They seemed to have some sort of ethical objection to telling a child they had been naughty, and felt this softened it and made it less upsetting to the children. In practice, however, it just meant that the children understood ‘silly’ to mean what everyone else means by ‘naughty’, leading to all sorts of tearful upset whenever some unsuspecting person outside the nursery innocently used the word ‘silly’ in relation to anything A had said or done…

    1. This is part of my problem in general with word substitution to make things more acceptable. The new word just takes on the same connotations unless you’re doing other things to change attitudes. I used to read a book review site that did letter grades, and there was one person who argued for taking away “F” grades, and having “D” be the lowest grade given…I pointed out that all the bad feelings about “F” reviews would just start occurring for “D” reviews….

    2. In my family the word “naughty” is absolutely forbidden, and we used “silly” instead. However, this was because my grandparents, and thus my parents, firmly believed that most childish misbehaviour is out of tiredness / hunger / misunderstanding / some other unmet need, rather than the maliciousness that “naughty” implies. I tend to agree with them!

  35. When I was in high school, I saw a note that had been left by someone in the previous class, so I read it. (It had words, therefore I read it. I have a problem.) This note heavily featured the word “cum” and I showed it to a couple of classmates, laughing that I hadn’t realized this person was so stupid they couldn’t spell “come” properly. I was duly educated. In fairness, I barely knew what “coming” meant at the time — my sex education was lacking in some respects.

    1. “words therefore read” is a problem I share. “words in handwriting” are impossible to resist, as a subgroup of “words therefore read”

    2. A coworker and I went to my apartment at lunch time one day. She turned on some daytime talk show (Jerry Springer?) while I made our lunch. I just kept hearing the phrase “baby got back” over and over. When I walked into the living room with our plates, I asked “She got back from where?” She couldn’t speak for over a minute.

  36. My mom always referred to a post-meal walk outside as ‘taking a constitutional.’ Which, now I do too. Talking to a coworker one day, I used this expression. His face registered shock and horror. I was all ‘wait, what?’ He then explained that in his house growing up, ‘taking a constitutional’ was their euphemism for defecation. He had never heard my usage before. I hope I’m right in thinking my usage is the more common of the two…

    1. Somehow I think of taking a constitutional as a walk but your morning constitutional is private time in the bathroom.

    2. I think you’re right. I’ve only ever heard “taking a constitutional” in reference to going on a walk, or the “relating to an established set of principles governing a state” definition.

    3. I’ve heard both of these contexts, and have therefore never ever used them! I’ve heard the walk one far more, though, so to me yours is indeed the more common.

  37. Oh, those stories are great! As to the “home vocabulary”, I am usually humiliatingly late in noticing that I have used a word in a meaning known only to the weird group of people that is my family. The best example is our word for an electric heater, which is a compound of first syllables of three curse words, which might be translated into English as “shitpissfuck”. It originated in the cold September of my birth — it was so cold, that my parents had to buy an extra heater to heat the bathroom. They were young and poor, so they bought a cheap one without wheels. It was heavy and hard to carry, so each time my dad took it out of the closet or tried to move it, it fell and (according to the family tradition) heavily bruised him, so he would utter the curse words that became the name for the appliance. From that moment , the word lost (in our ears) its vulgarity and has since been used to denote each and every electric heater in our possession. I was not until my late teens, when I was got snowed in a mountain shelter/cabin/hostel with a creepy shelter guy, a bunch of friends and a priest guarding a hoard of troubled youth, that I found out that it was a word used only in my family. (Sweet, naive, blue-eyed and pigtailed me asked the creepy shelter guy — in the presence of all above mentioned people — for a “shitpissfuck in the girls’ bedroom”).

    1. I’m sitting a coffee shop laughing like a maniac now. +1 awesome would read again.

      1. πŸ™‚ Yeah… My best friend’s brother renamed/brainwashed their family cat so that it answered only to “Barf”. The fact that it might have been a reference to one of our favourite films does not make the time that the cat got lost and we spent three hours walking around the neighbourhood yelling “Barf! barf! barf!”.

        1. I had a similar problem with a cat named “Boob” and I was afraid my (male) partner would be arrested when we lost her one time and he went around the neighborhood all afternoon shouting, “BOOB!”

          1. My ex-husband did not realize I wasn’t making up how absorbent our then-toddler was until she spotted a free-standing version of Daddy ‘s favorite video game in her point-and-name-things phase. “Daddy! Lookit dammit!”

  38. Not a family word, but one I picked up and still use “foot-feet” to describe vehicle control pedals (accelerator/brake) and the like.

  39. I’m so astonished by this story that I can’t think of any examples. My family never discussed breaking wind nor did it outside of a bathroom.

    1. Ha! My mom is very reserved and prim and proper, so I’m pretty sure it was my dad’s gross behavior that prompted the whole thing.

    2. I’m pretty sure I learned that there was a word for farting in school (and not the hippy dippy school, but my hellish public school), because as far as my family is concerned intestinal gas Does Not Happen. If it should, improbably, occur, everyone just pretends that they heard/smelled nothing.

      A friend of mine many years ago, who came from a similar family as mine (and yours), started dating the man who would later be her husband, and the very first time she went home with him for a holiday, discovered that in his family, when you had to fart, you left wherever in the house you were, stuck your bum in the washroom and did it, and then went on about your business. This happened *regardless of occupancy of said bathroom at the time*. She discovered this when she was in the washroom and one of her beau’s uncles opened the door, backed into the washroom, farted sonorously basically directly in her face, and left, shutting the door after himself. She was taken aback (and half-smothered), but thought it was somehow personal until she told her boyfriend about it (“Can you BELIEVE…”) and he was like “well, yeah.”

        1. Oh man, me too! (I have a cold so it resulted in a lot of hacking as well, but worth it!)

  40. So growing up we were discouraged from wearing underwear to bed after we were potty trained. This, I don’t think on the whole is that super weird? Maybe it is. But generally we slept in just big T shirts.

    HOWEVER there comes a time in every girl’s life when she goes to a sleep over or has a friend stay over. And I think I only went once or twice before I realized that on these occasions I should be sure to bring shorts, or sweatpants or something to sleep in. (I don’t remember anyone explicitly telling me, but I figured out that I should definitely wear underwear at ALL times at other people’s houses. I think just because they always did.)

    Unfortunately, this was not something everyone in my family figured out. So we had taken some friends on vacation with us, and one of these friends implored that underwear be worn to bed that evening since they were sharing a smaller bed. Of course there was soms hocked “OMG why haven’t you been doing that.” From me and my friend.

    However when my mother realized that some of us had in fact been wearing underwear to bed because to do otherwise would be “Gross” she responded with the memorable and emphatic “YOU”RE ALL GOING TO GET YEAST INFECTIONS AND YOU DESERVE IT.”

    1. This is why loose pyjamas exist. The best kind IN THE WORLD EVER are satin ones (or whatever cheap satin-like fabric my pyjamas were made of as a kid), because they build up static and then you end up in bed, in the dark, watching your pyjamas spark when you move. Never have I felt more like a superhero than when I was shooting lightning from my bedclothes.

      (Also they’re airy so you don’t get yeast infections)

    2. I was brought up to sleep without underwear too, and when I started sharing a bed with someone else on the regular, I thought it was the weirdest thing ever that he wore it under his pajamas. I did eventually pick up the habit from him, though, and now I feel all strange and exposed when I don’t.

    3. I had a friend who had a great story about this–she came from a family of underwear-sleepers and she had a sleepover with a girl who came from a family of no underwear sleeping, and when she observed her friend take off her underpants before bed, she said “ew! gross! why are you taking your underwear off?” and her friend looked at her in horror and said “YOU HAVE TO AIR OUT THE HOLE!”

      1. That was the reasoning in my family, too! You have to let your parts breathe! Our parts being, of course, our front bum and back bum – apparently my siblings and I came up with this terminology, and our parents just went with it.

    4. That’s amazing. I’ve always worn underwear to bed, but it took a very long time for my mom to convince me that if I had put a clean pair on after the bath and before bed, I didn’t need to put on a different clean pair in the morning.

      I can’t sleep without underwear. I think part of it is due to struggling with really horrific, heavy periods when I started.

      1. I can’t sleep without underwear either, possibly for similar reasons. I think I was a teenager before I realised that a lot of people actually take their underpants off to sleep.

  41. I live in a different city than the one I spent my teen years in. In my teens, Old!City’s above-ground walkways downtown are called “+15” (I was told because they are 15 feet above street level? The few third-storey walkways I can think of were, I believe, called +30). New!City’s downtown walkways, underground or above ground, are all called “pedways”. I sure got a lot of “what are you talking about” when I called the above-ground ones +15s…

    Maybe not related, but the discussion did make me think of it. We weren’t allowed to drink anything with our meals when we were living with our grandparents, because then we would drink more and not eat our meals, and then complain that we were hungry. I don’t think they would have ever refused to feed us, but my grampa came from a family with 13 kids during the Depression, so I imagine he’d been raised “eat when it’s out, otherwise too bad”. To this day I can’t drink with my meals. It takes a lot of effort to tell myself that it’s OK to have a drink while I eat, and I’m constantly reminding myself to remember to offer drinks when I have guests over for supper.

    I also call a calculator a boop-boop.

    1. We have these in Minneapolis-St Paul and we call them skyways. I’ve heard them referred to as skywalks in other areas.

    2. I got a lot of weird looks when I moved to Austin and persisted in referring to freeways like an Angelena. Sometimes people would insist that they didn’t know what I was talking about, and I’m pretty sure those people were just being purist assholes, because there isn’t THAT much difference between saying “183” and “the 183.”

      1. As a fellow Angeleno, I feel you! I remember being very confused by movies and books that referred to highways in such weird ways (without “the,” how do I know what you’re trying to convey? Take 84 what? Where do I take them?). I hold fast to my roots here in Northern CA, and have even converted my husband.

    3. Is THAT where the drink-with-food prohibition comes from?! That is exactly my knee-jerk can’t-do-that reaction, and from a similar place. Grampa was the oldest of an orphaned series of siblings, and he raised them, and if we drank with dinner, unless we were choking to death or something, we got yelled at. If he had to take meds with meals (and since he took something like 12 meds per day, of course he did eventually), he took a single swallow of water to wash it down with, and then ate food and did not drink anything until after it was all over.

      1. I think there’s also the belief that if you drink something with your meal, it dilutes the stomach acids and leads to indigestion. At least that’s what someone I knew who did that told me.

        1. Omg I actually have heard that from my family. And apparently the only acceptable drink with food is mineral water, because it stimulates digestion.

    4. We were raised that when we had a dinner with fries you ate them last because then you wouldn’t fill up on fries and not eat your meat or whatever. It was as if the drink and main were the meal and the fries were dessert. Friends think it’s weird that I’m 35 and I still more or less eat them like that, plus I’m raising my daughter like that too.

  42. In my family, if someone gets a plate of snacks, anyone eats them. You just reach over and take some food so as not to interrupt conversation. We’ll also sample each other’s food at restaurants by reaching across the table with our forks, and try each other’s beverages. I’m still trying to learn not to do this.

    1. My family did not eat off each other’s plates without invitation and never shared glasses. After leaving home I got used to sharing beverages and that sort of thing, but for whatever reason, in my head straws are a personal item and not to be shared. I keep a plastic insulated Starbucks cold cup with a straw by my bed full of water for nighttime sipping, and the first time my boyfriend rolled over me and had a sip of my water I was kind of taken aback. I’ve gotten used to it now but the instinctive BUT IT’S MY STRAWWWWW reaction was strong. πŸ™‚

      1. I’m with you! I’m happy to share food, drink, whatever, but straws and utensils are personal. I’d be weirded out if someone sipped from my straw instead of taking off the lid and drinking from the rim.

        1. I feel like it’s a nonsensical attitude on my part considering our relationship and everything, BUT MY STRAWWWWWW. I’ve pretty much gotten over it–we even share a beverage at the movies, same straw and everything! Look at me Being Normal! I always think to myself.

    2. I was delighted when I found out that my family is not the only that says “excuse my reach” and grabs whatever they want instead of saying “pass the [whatever.]” We were aware this was rude, but it’s so much more efficient for us. >_<

          1. If you try that with my husband’s family they start apologizing profusely for not hearing you ask for it and not passing it sooner. It’s like, guys. I didn’t ask. It’s within arms reach. I was just going to grab it.

        1. I did this in high school the second or third time I met a friend’s parents. They were at the same fast food restaurant my mom and I were at, so I walked over to introduce myself. Her parents invited me to sit down and after I did I realized I was still hungry so I did the head nod of food sharing, he nodded back, then I reached over and took a few of her stepdad’s fries. I wish I had a recording of the bewildered, credulous looks that passed across their faces when I did it again, and then again before my friend was like “Friend??!!” and I understood that my friend’s parents Were Not Amused. In my family, sharing food was a form of bonding* but in her family, once it was on your plate it became private property, and a mild nod toward the direction of the other person was not a silent agreement that food sharing would commence. Which confused me because at school my friend and I shared food all the time! Or did we. Hmm. Maybe I had been stealing her lunches for like a whole year.

          *Okay so it was totally fine in my family to reach over and snag a bit off of someone else’s plate after the silent, mild nod of agreement, but god effing forbid you reached for another biscuit from the communal biscuit basket without formal verbal permission even if it was absolutely loaded with extra biscuits. I have never understood this as an adult. How is it okay to eat food that someone else has already claimed and is actively eating but not okay to take an unclaimed food item that is just sitting there, on the off chance someone else might have wanted it, too?

          1. Yes! My sister and I always casually take bits of food off each other’s plates (both at home and at restaurants) and my dad is HORRIFIED by this. He grew up quite poor and food insecure, so food on his plate is HIS and don’t you dare try to touch it or you’ll get a fork to the hand. He yelled at me once for taking a fry off of my sister’s plate without asking, and she and I were both so confused–“but…. but OBVIOUSLY if I said, ‘May I have a fry?’ she would say ‘yes’, so why bother asking?”

      1. One branch of my family was so notorious for this that to this day my parents and sibling and I all call it the [Family Name] Reach.

      2. Semi-related: when I was about 6 or 7, I had dinner with my grandparents, and heard my grandpa describe the act of reaching way across the table to grab a serving dish of food as a “boardinghouse reach.” Some days or weeks later, my whole family was having dinner at my grandparents’ house, and I wanted the bread or something, so I cheerfully called out “Boardinghouse Reach!” and leaned way over to grab it. My mom was horrified at my bad manners. I knew I was supposed to ask someone to pass things, but for some reason I decided that because the action had a name, I could shout the name and that would magically make it okay to do. Kids are weird.

        1. “excuse my short reach under your long nose”…….yah, best not to say this in front of any but your father who started it….

      3. I say, “Excuse my fingers” every time I touch something that someone else might eat, which I learned from my dad. Which, like, it’s meaningless–I’m already doing it! you HAVE to excuse my fingers at this point!–but I can’t keep from saying it as I do it. Just the other day I got a laughing, “You’re so polite!” reaction from a friend while we were cooking together.

    3. Semi-related, dinners growing up usually involved a big serving bowl of salad. Towards the end of the meal, it was okay for me to casually graze on the remaining lettuce, cucumber, etc. I did this at summer camp once (also when dinner was winding down), and a counselor chided me with, “Does your mother let you eat from the bowl?” I blinked at her and went, “Yeah.”

      1. I’m one of those who’s fine with sharing, but pulling with a personal utensil from a common plate really threw me. I have a friend who, late in a family style dinner of Chinese would start plucking specific bits out of the common bowls with his chopsticks. (Not serving chopsticks, or spoons.)

        It took me a while to get over it. Double dipping… usually ends my having that sauce too.

        1. I will sometimes say ‘scuse me, I’m Chinese’ as I start double dipping with my personal chopsticks because, well, I am, and it’s totally normal to graze straight from the common bowls with personal chopsticks. I guess I kind of know that it’s rude? To some people? But I’ve never really thought about it before.

          1. I was pretty thrown the first time I saw someone do this at a farmer’s lunch in China, but after a few minutes of careful thought I decided that I was probably more likely to end up with stomach issues from eating the giant plate of cucumber vines than I was likely to catch something from someone else’s chopsticks. (Spoiler: I was, even though the vines were weirdly delicious.)

    4. I have … issues … with food sharing, because in my family and with some partners I have had, there seemed to be an understanding that food on my plate was everybody’s food. Like, however much or little I had, I obviously had served myself (or been served) more than I could possibly need, so other people should save me from it by helping me eat it. (It did not help that I was a relatively slow eater as a child.) There’s also the charming thing where I order something, offer someone one of their own, and they go “no, I’ll just have some of yours.” Which then ends in me handing them mine and buying another, while my teeth clench and my stomach knots.

      1. Ditto. I nearly punched someone in a restaurant when they reached over and took part of my dinner after insisting they weren’t hungry. “But we do this all the time,” she said, baffled, nodding in agreement at the very close friend sitting next to her. I’d known each of them about a week and of course did not have the same unspoken agreement built from years of eating together.

  43. When I went to college, I had to train myself to say “twist-tie” instead of “hicky-hacky”, which is what my family has always called them. We also say “flipper” instead of “remote”, which seems to confuse people too, though not as much.

    (We also have a tendency to refer to butter as “Boutros Boutros Ghali” or “boutros” for short, but I’ve always been aware that that’s a weird family joke and not an…actual thing that people say.)

    1. The last step before I leave the house in company is to say “Is everybody Freddy?” and my dad, when giving permission to do something, frequently would do so with the phrase “Watermelon bottom”. (At some point, someone in his family had smushed “go right ahead” to “gourd head”, which then of course became “watermelon bottom” because, uh, the weird sense of humour is congenital, apparently.)

      1. Whenever I leave the house with my mom and/or sister, we yell “Weeeeeeee’rree outta here!” in high pitched parrot voices, from a very old TV show we watched when I was little. The first time we did it in front of my boyfriend, he looked at us like we’d all grown second heads.

        1. For a few years I lived with a friend who was big as a Simpsons fan as I was (if not more). We got in the habit of quoting Homer’s “Taking Bart across state lines; if not back, avenge death!” quote* whenever we’d leave the apartment for anything– especially to visit the scary, dark, root cellar-like basement to do laundry. We’d sometimes replace the “taking Bart” part with whatever we were actually doing–leaving for work, grocery shopping, etc, but always included the “avenge death!” part verbatim.

          The first time my parents heard this, they were not amused.

          *He and Bart were on their way to mess with a Thomas Edison museum because Homer was jealous of Edison’s accomplishments.

          1. Oh, my best friend and I do this a lot – we’re parked under the Sun Sphere, you shot who in the what now?, and on an on.

          2. No, I ran out of nesting levels! anyway, yes! I use so many Simpsons phrases in day-to-day life that I don’t even know which ones are which anymore. “We’re parked in the Itchy lot,” “communism works…*in theory*,” “your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter,” etc. It’s a bit scary.

          3. “I’m on my way! Hehe…What did you say, Marge?” <— frequent exchange between me and my partner when we're getting ready to go somewhere.

          4. Dating someone totally new to me (like, I met them online and not through school or mutual friends) has really emphasized just how often I quote TV shows, particularly the Simpsons. There’s a Simpsons quote for literally every situation, apparently.

            One of my friends made a keyboard shortcut for “the fingers you have used to dial are too fat…” quote and now sends it every time he makes a gajillion typos

          5. My boyfriend and I have started saying ‘boo-urns!’ when something annoying happens, after that episode where everyone is booing Mr Burns and Smithers tries to tell him they’re actually saying ‘boo-urns!’ It’s…just part of our vocabulary now, probably always will be. Not to mention we quote Simpsons ALL the time as well. I’m so glad we’re not the only ones!

            @Muddie Mae- I can’t nest this under your comment, but your username is a Simpsons reference right? πŸ™‚

          6. @mossyone, I say “Boo-urns!” whenever something disappointing happens. It’s so handy! But some of my coworkers are around my sister’s age (so, mid-20s) and don’t get the reference at all. They actually weren’t allowed to watch The Simpsons growing up.

            This is not the first time I realized that other families/parents kept a very strict eye on what their kids were watching, even if they had more than one kid and there was a big gap in the ages. (We’re all about 4-5 years apart in my family so my mom’s philosophy was, “if the 3 year old wanders through the family room while the 17-year old has MTV on and catches 30 seconds of that Kennedy chick whoo-hooing about Spring Break, I’m not going to care. I have four children, a job, and a nursing exam to pass”).

          7. @mossyone, it is! “Muddie Mae Suggins” is one of the aliases Homer’s mom used when she was in the underground.

      2. Haha! In my family, we often say “goat head” instead of “go ahead” (to which the general expected response is “Who’re you callin’ goat head?”).
        Your mention of “gourd head” reminded me πŸ™‚

    2. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my husband and I told various people that we were going to name her Boutros Boutros Ghali because she was due on UN Day. We still sometimes refer to her as little Boutros Boutros.

    3. We had the same weird butter joke! I had no idea it was the Secretary-General of the UN until I was about twenty. My parents would also sometimes call coffee “Kofi Annan”.

  44. My mother never liked biological terms for pelvic features and their various functions, but she also sniffed at the common euphemisms and slang terms most other parents taught their children. As a result, we lucky five ended up with home-brewed winners like “wee-wee” (vagina and/or vulva), “beeper” (penis and/or scrotum), and “squeak” (fart). (You see, I’m sure, the inevitable confusion with these words’ existing definitions- which Mother then, hilariously, had to banish from the home. She carried a PAGER for work, and the door SQUEALS.) We girls caught on to the unorthodox nature of these terms pretty early, thanks in particular to one female family friend who loved ribbing Mother about this topic, but our younger brother was not so fortunate. He came home from second grade one day, deeply embarrassed and furious. Once his face approached a safer shade of magenta, we finally coaxed him to tell us what had happened. But all he would say was, tersely, “It is NOT called a BEEPER.” He’s in high school now and still has not entirely forgiven her.

    1. Soooo I have a little flock of Zebra Finches and they make a “beep beep” noise, and I got all boys so I wouldn’t have to worry about babies. I call them the Beeper Boys or the Bachelor Beepers. O.o

  45. My dad has this thing about umbrellas being antisocial and raincoats being sensible. As a result, I didn’t have an umbrella until I was about sixteen. It was a revelation to discover that it’s possible to go out when it’s raining and not get the front of your hair utterly soaked.

    Also, toasters. I think we might have had a toaster when I was very small, but then it broke and its replacement broke and my parents were like, screw this, toasters break all the time let’s just use the grill. And it took me going to university and coming home and saying, no you DON’T UNDERSTAND TOASTERS ARE AMAZING THEY MAKE TOAST WHICH IS BOTH QUICKER AND BETTER for them to get a toaster again. They use it all the time now. It has not broken.

    1. I lived in Vancouver BC for six years, a city where it rains something like 160 days a year and over 2/3rds of the population is under 5’6″, and after about three years there I declared one day that when I am Empress of All, no one under 5’6″ will be allowed a standard umbrella. They may carry a special extra-long umbrella or be escorted to their destination by a person 5’8″ or taller holding a standard umbrella, or they may wear a raincoat, but no more bloody umbrellas for short people.

      I am 5’9″ and I nearly lost an eye almost weekly while living there, and was jabbed in the boob-to-waist region basically daily by short people holding umbrellas right over their heads.

      1. I’m 5’2″ and have pretty regularly worn a rather old umbrella to crowded events/conventions as a costume piece and I manage not to smack people with it.

      2. I’m 5’3.5″ (the .5 is important.) I have a rule that if I’m sharing with someone taller (so, basically, if I’m sharing with almost anyone who isn’t my mum) they carry the umbrella.If I am carrying my own umbrella I pay attention to people walking towards me and lift/tilt accordingly.

        1. I was walking the same direction once as a young woman who managed to jab me in the cheek once and the boob three times, even though after the facejab I was actively attempting to fend the umbrella off. I couldn’t pass her because every time I tried, she’d wander to one side or the other and block me with the umbrella. I also said “Excuse me!” several times but I believe she was wearing headphones so it did no good.

      3. Oh man I remember a school trip where I had an umbrella and was sharing with a shorter friend. She kept insisting on holding it, and thus it was resting on the top of my head, with the metal bits on my head. I held it and she complained about getting wet. Finally after having the metal bits in my head one too many times, I told her to get a fucking rain coat, I wasn’t sharing (or stooping for her comfort?!)

      4. You can do this if it’s also a law that anyone over 5’3″ has to keep their damn elbows tucked in.

        /5’0″ girl with actual nose breakage paranoia.

    2. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where, amongst my family and most of the people I know, it is considered cowardly and a bit pathetic to use an umbrella, sort of a “you must not be from here” kind of thing. Like, the town I grew up in has 230 days of solid rain per year, but I think I’ve used an umbrella maybe five times in my entire life?

      My roommate, who just moved here from the East Coast, walked home in the rain one day and I was like, “How are you dry?! You’re only wearing a light jacket!” She looked at me like I was crazy and pointed to her umbrella which had **kept the rain from falling on her**. It was revelatory. But I still don’t use an umbrella.

      1. Being mostly familiar with West Coast rains (which in my experience tend towards the slow and drizzly and cold) I too was not that much of an umbrella user – too fussy, and I like wearing hats, so it was never needed. But then I moved to the Midwest, where the water comes down like WHOA and it is HUMID and HOT and suddenly I understood the appeal of umbrellas instead of rain coats.

        1. I did the opposite migration: from Kansas City to Vancouver, and I took my umbrellas with me and then stopped using them because honestly, it’s just annoying to carry a wet umbrella everywhere for something that is essentially the sky having a schvitz.

    3. My family also absolutely disdained toasters. Toasters are for Lazy People Who Are Too Lazy And Stupid To Grill Toast. Ditto ready meals, pre-made sauces, anything else that makes cooking *easier*… Then I got to Uni as a seriously depressed 19 year old with an eating disorder and honest to God, the fact that a toaster was provided in my accommodation saved my life.

    4. All this talk of umbrellas confuses me. Perhaps you’re talking about bumbershoots? [/familyism]

      1. I don’t think particularly familyism – I’d have known what you meant if you said bumbershoot in conversation!

    5. I used to be a toaster person (it’s rare for a German stove to have a grill) – my partner is a ‘toast under grill, All The Time’ person. At first, it felt weird – so much effort – but I like the taste much better and would not switch back voluntarily.

  46. According to my mother, lady parts are are unilaterally your “fanny”, and to use any other word is vulgar.

    Urination is “tinkling”, and if you say “peeing” or “I have to pee”, you will be immediately and swiftly corrected, because that terminology is also vulgar.

    As for me, I pointedly refuse to say “fanny” or “tinkle” because they sound juvenile and because I’m a rebel. πŸ™‚

    1. My mom also thinks “peeing” is vulgar. She generally uses the utterly vague “go to the bathroom.”

    2. Fanny is what I always said too! Only I thought of it as a rude term, my mum would never have said it, I think I learned it from school and can’t remember what she preferred me to call it. Also learned ‘minnie’ at school for when you wanted to be a bit less rude. I didn’t even encounter the word ‘vagina’ until I was about 11 and the age when people give you books about periods, but as I had never heard it said aloud I thought it was pronounced with the ‘gina’ part sounding the same as the name Gina. Didn’t encounter the term ‘vulva’ until even later. Bizarre.

      Anyway, I was really surprised to find out that in America, ‘fanny’ is sometimes used to mean bottom.

      1. I kind of like “minnie.” I’m American and haven’t heard that one before.

        Also, one time I ordered an Orangina in a restaurant (fizzy orange juice, basically), which afaik IS pronounced like the name Gina, but when the server brought it he said “here’s your oran-gyna!” like in vagina, and I was like “did he say that on purpose or…?”

      2. . . . this knowledge makes the male lead in An Education even creepier. (His nickname for the underage young woman he gets involved with is “Minnie.” Though it’s set in the 60s, so maybe that wasn’t common usage in the UK then?)

      3. My mother is an American primary school teacher who moved to Australia in the mid 70s. She often tells a story about the reaction she got when she told a little girl in class one day to “sit on your fanny”!

  47. My brother and I both narrate our actions using weird voices. I have no idea how this started or where we picked it up because neither of our parents are inclined to this kind of whimsy.

    In fact, I had no idea that my Very Serious brother did it as well until I was helping him move in with his girlfriend last summer. I was alone in his living room building boxes and narrating the construction of said boxes when she walked in, stared at me, and gasped β€œOh my god. It’s genetic.” She had me follow her back into his bedroom where she said to him β€œPut the shoe in the box” and rather than agreeing to do it he just started repeating β€œShoe in bahx. Shoooouuuueee in baaahxxxx. Shoey box. Boxey shoe. Box. Box box.” while, well, placing shoe in the box. Fortunately she thinks it’s a charming quirk.

    I blame Monty Python.

    1. My husband does this! One day it backfired on him. I told him that I would make pancakes for breakfast the next day and he announced “POOOONCOCKS” in a huge voice that was overheard by several people.

      1. ::giggling madly::

        (Not least because that’s the sort of daft thing I might do.)

        1. Oh my lord this is exactly what my boyfriend and I do. …in fact I am pretty sure that the last time we made fancy breakfast there were pooncocks and squishages. And feggs.

      2. I have a weird habit of switching the vowels in commonly used words for comedic effect. So Netflix is variably Nootfloox, Nartflix, Natflox, Neetfleex and quack is “quock” and bread is “brod” and eggs are “oggs”. But the word “cake” has tripped me up many a time when I have uttered “pancocks” out loud without my brain catching up with my mouth.

    2. I talk very soothingly to food I’m cooking. Sometimes if it’s slow to cook I assure it no one is going to eat it, I’m just trying to make it more comfortable. I also narrate my actions opera-style by singing impromptu songs about what I’m doing, and talk for my pets.

          1. I’m an animal shelter volunteer, and last public outreach I brought out one of our “special needs” dogs to socialize with the public/have him be adorable at them so they’ll want to adopt him. I spent a *large* potion of the event catching myself talking to a deaf dog.

          2. I was having a long conversation with a horse in the barn that I was grooming and I suddenly realized i never heard any one else talk with the horses and anyone else must think our conversation is a little odd. Of course, I talk to everything, to the point my summer camp kids started a rumor I could talk to animals, and said “If clever hound was here, she would talk to the bug really nicely and make it go away.”

      1. I talk soothingly to anything that’s giving me a hard time. I get some looks when I’m telling the juice bottle, “I know it’s hard to open. It’ll be okay.”

        1. IΒ΄m the polar opposite, anything nonliving causing trouble is filthily cussed out.

      2. I only talk to the cooking utensils, never the food (I can’t eat it if I’ve just had a conversation with it!). But the utensils and I, we are partners in this cooking activity, so it is polite of me to request their participation.

        I also whisper “shush” to items that clatter when I drop them, as if that will stop them from making noise.

        If I verbally express my frustration with an inanimate object for not functioning the way I want it to, I must immediately pet the object soothingly, apologize, and reassure it that I know it was trying its best.

        My father sings operatically about whatever he happens to be doing at the moment; I haven’t started doing so yet, but I know I will someday.

        1. Ahaha I had a conversation with my mom awhile back about talking to inanimate objects. I got rid of my old car a year or two ago and got a new one (well, new to me) and I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty, like it was a pet I’d gotten rid of. I talk to my car all the time. I was going to say I don’t usually talk to other inanimate objects, but you know, that’s probably not true.

          One of my classmates likes to sing while he welds. It would be a lot more interesting if he were singing about welding…

          (You know, I have friends who don’t like musicals “because they’re unrealistic”. Clearly they haven’t met the people in this thread!)

          1. You mean it’s not normal to put something down, point at it, and tell it firmly to stay?

            And I firmly believe that anyone who believes machines can’t have personalities haven’t met enough of them. I had a car who was fine if I swore at other cars/drivers, but if I swore at her would Immediately start to sputter and backfire.

          2. Well, since I do that all the time, I certainly think it’s normal πŸ˜€ Also “come on…! You can do it…!” when waiting for something to happen.

          3. I got a new-ish car a couple years ago. I almost didn’t buy it because I felt bad about getting rid of my previous car. I’d had it for 10 years! I talk to the new car too. πŸ™‚

          4. Glad it’s not just me! I’d had my old car 10 years, too and it got me through a lot of stuff, including moving halfway across the country! I still miss it sometimes, even though (in most ways) my new car is better.

        2. I say ‘ow’ if I drop something on the floor. Possibly in sympathy for the thing that just hit the floor.

          1. I have been known to apologize to walls when I run into them. In addition to talking for/with my animals, feeling really sorry for the stereo I was replacing, and asking the pancakes if they’re done yet.

            You are all definitely my people.

        3. “I can’t eat it if I’ve just had a conversation with it!”

          OMG! When I was in high school, I went to a restaurant that specialized in serving Very Large Lobsters with my boyfriend’s family. These things were large enough that people would frequently ask to see how large they were. So, the waiter would bring one out to the table to show it off. After they brought a 5 lb lobster to our table and did a whole spiel that made it look like the lobster was doing tricks, I ordered a salad. I love lobster, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to eat one that I had met personally.

          On the lobster note, my mom once ordered a lobster that was served whole when she didn’t mean to. They set the plate and the tool kit down and she said, “What am I supposed to do with this?” The waiter explained how to get into the lobster shell and then left. She looked at me, disconcerted, and said, “But it’s LOOKING AT ME!?!?!” She couldn’t bring herself to eat it until I stuck my napkin over its eyes.

  48. Me and my fiance call farts “blorts” because one time early in our relationship I let a spectacular one out by accident, and to cover my embarrassment I just very somberly said “blort.” because that’s what it sounded like, and J about died laughing.

    My mum is incredibly proud about certain things, like not asking for directions, always doing as much or more to return any favours she has grudgingly accepted, and always doing things like DIY etc. herself – some of it has stuck for life. J got very offended a couple of times when we moved in together and I fiercely insisted on mowing the whole lawn/building large pieces of furniture/decorating myself, and I could be very frosty as a child if friends’ parents offered to buy me stuff because I’d incorrectly absorbed my mum’s favour thing and thought it must be some kind of insult.

    Up til I was about 16 I never washed using body wash. I would use hot water, shampoo for my hair and the suds for the rest, and just my hands. I didn’t smell bad! But when I got together with J he was very confused by the lack of body wash, realising that this was something weird I covered by saying we used bar soap (which we do for our hands) and then got some body wash and a shower poof. I feel like I smell worse since I started using it to be honest – I smell lovely immediately after the shower, but when the fust comes back it is way more intense than I remember it being a couple years ago even though I’m showering at the same frequency. I’m going to experiment with minimal product for a while again.

      1. I use bar soap and not body wash, too, but I think Kat might be saying they just used water.

      2. Same here. But then, I have sensitive skin and I have to use very mild, unscented things or I get rashy.

        When I was growing up, once a week my mom wold run a bath, She would bathe, then my older sister would bathe, and then I would get to use the now-cold, sudsy, grey, disgusting water. My mom used very cheap soap, usually something with a strong scent. It’s no wonder that I had constant skin irritation all over my body. My doctor told her it was a staph infection, so she had to buy some prescription anti-biotic wash (Phisohex?), cover me in it, and then make me stand, cold and crying, for 5 minutes before washing it off. I hated it. My mom bitched about it. My sister thought I was disgusting and said so, loudly. When I reached my teens and started showering daily, it went away. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I discovered I simply had a mild case of eczema and wasn’t a walking staph-colony.

    1. I… don’t use body wash either. I use my hair-stuff and face-washing-stuff and that’s enough soap for me, unless some part of me is actually visibly dirty. IMO the water pressure gets me clean enough, and always has.

      Hygiene is one of those weird things where everyone has grown up knowing there is One Right Way to do it and you usually don’t see anyone else’s hygiene rituals outside of your family, so you never question it, and then you get close enough to someone else that you find out their Way and you’re like “OMG YOU WEIRDO.” Or at least, that’s what’s happened to me a few times, so I always try to keep in mind that there’s no actual One Right Way to do hygiene and everyone learned different things and it’s okay.

      (Also, SCIENCE! has once in a while proven that, say, using antibacterial soap doesn’t make you cleaner and might make things worse, so I do think there’s such a thing as hygiene overkill. There’s a whole racist/colonialist history of soap too, that I’m not going to get into here, but my point is “clean” is not an objective, fixed thing, even though people like to think it is. What “clean” means to you depends a lot on cultural factors.)

      1. I am super interested now in the colonial history of soap… can you point out some sources for more info?

        Also I did not know body wash was was even a thing until college. And although I *knew* about shampoo and conditioner, I didn’t use it… I just used regular bar soap on my head (short hair yay!). My roommate thought this was all rather strange.

        1. If you look up old soap ads, you’ll find a ton of really disturbing, racist stuff. Basically, soap started being marketed during the era of British colonialism, and it was treated like the way to bring civilization (i.e. whiteness) to the native people whose lands they were stealing. In America the imagery was the same, with African-Americans as well as Native Americans.

          This ad shows a white boy literally washing the blackness off of a black boy’s skin. Another shows a crate of soap washing up on a beach and a dark-skinned “savage” finding it and becoming civilized. And here’s one that literally talks about the “White Man’s Burden.”

          Further reading: Anne McClintock, “Soft-Soaping Empire: Commodity racism and imperial advertising” (pdf)

        2. I think the only reason I didn’t use bar soap or shower gel on my hair too was because my mother was so insistent on us keeping our hair beautiful and smooth (because any form of dryness resulted in even MORE tangling, which required more detangling spray, which resulted in more tearful children..yeah) that whenever I tried to simplify she wouldn’t have it.

  49. My family always had Apple computers growing up (my dad is an Apple fanboy), and to do a lot of basic keyboard shortcuts, you use the Command key. This key sometimes has a little picture of an apple on it, but it also usually has a little celtic-knot-looking thing with four little loops on the corners. My dad called this the “butterfly” key, so when he taught us keyboard shortcuts, that’s what we said: butterfly-Q for quit, butterfly-S for save, butterfly-C for copy, etc.

    It took me until computer class in middle school, when my classmates looked at me like I had three heads for suggesting they butterfly-C to save themselves time, to realize that most people say apple-C or command-C. I’ve mostly trained myself out of saying butterfly-anything when I’m talking to anyone who isn’t in my family, but that’s still what I think of it as.

    1. I never heard of “Command” until Apple took the little apple symbol off the keys. Before that it was always “Open-Apple-[whatever].” (I guess the “open” apple referred to the fact that it was just an outline, as opposed to a filled-in apple symbol?)

      Now the keys actually say “command” on them (at least on the MacBook I’m using), but they didn’t when I was growing up.

      Wikipedia says the apple symbol was removed in 2007, but more importantly, it says the Command key is also referred to as the “Apple key, clover key, open-Apple key, pretzel key, propeller key, squiggly button, or meta key,” so I don’t think your “butterfly” is actually all that strange.

      I might start saying “squiggly button” now, though.

      1. YES. Open-apple-C! I grew up in Cupertino during the 80s and I learned that one real good. (There was an outlined apple on one side of the spacebar and a filled one on the other side, for I suppose double the commands.)

    2. I always call it the “splat” key. Splat-Q for quit, splat-V for cut, etc.

      1. I’ve heard “splat” as another name for “asterisk,” ie, “*” — from the same people who use “bang” to name the exclamation mark (“!”).

        Let’s not even start with the five-plus names for the # symbol.

      2. Yes! Splat. The only folks in my current job who understood me when I said “Splat-C” were the IT folks, and that’s because the director of IT MAKES everyone use Macs. (I would have anyway because fangirl, but still.)

  50. In my family, we always used to use empty Dundee Marmalade jars (back when they were the nifty ceramic ones) as pencil and pen cups or holders around the house. For many, many years I thought that “dundelade” (portmanteau of Dundee and marmalade) was the real name for a pencil cup.

  51. In childhood, there were two things that TV showed me happening which I believed were laughably unrealistic:

    1) when drying yourself after a bath, you actually rub the towel all over your body to soak up the water rather than just wrapping it round yourself and wandering around or lying on the bed until you mostly air-dried.
    2) people apologised to each other after fights or hurt feelings rather than just shouting, fuming, then after some invisible
    limit was crossed, wilfully or naturally forgetting the whole thing

    At university I discovered both these things were actual things and had to phone my mother to ask if she’d HEARD???

    However I cannot compete with this guy, whose parents raised him to believe there was no such place as Finland:

    1. I recently moved to Colorado, the driest dry to ever dry, from Vancouver BC, which has 40% humidity on a dry day. My entire life until now, I was always kind of weirded out by that film staple scene where woman is going to bed, woman puts on hand lotion as vital part of bedtime ritual, because of course that wasn’t realistic, who does that? Turns out, I do it if I live in a dry climate. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night reaching for the lotion I keep next to the bed because my hands are so dry they wake me out of a sound sleep.

      1. Ooogh, Colorado. Lovely, gorgeous place, but when I was getting a severe double ear infection on choir tour, it was hellish. I was so relieved when we got back down into Texas and humidity, I couldn’t even articulate it.

        The second time there, it was lovely (early summer), but I wasn’t sick at the time.

    2. That explanation for Finland’s nonexistence is strangely fascinating. (Although the Japanese using an English word to name their fake country is totally a weak spot in their conspiracy theory.)

      My family always had fights and then just went on the next morning (or whenever) like everything was fine. I HATE this, and I’m trying to not perpetuate the pattern in my own life, but it’s hard because I never really learned how to apologize after a fight or Use My Words. This also led to my parents treating any display of negative emotion as embarrassing or ridiculous, like you’re throwing a tantrum, and that’s something I’m still trying to excise from my brain.

      1. My mother has some problems, and appeasement was always the only thing anyone could do. Then when I was married, I spent a long time in this weird state where I was afraid to be mad at my husband (who did a lot of things any reasonable human would have been *furious* about). I didn’t really have a good model for how to have a mature disagreement as a child and then as an adult, in my most important relationship the process went, something horrible occurred, I was unhappy, but I went straight from being unhappy to forgiveness without letting myself feel anger or making it imperative for him to react to my anger or unhappiness in such a way as to not do the same thing again later. I’m trying to process my feelings better and use my words, and also to respect my feelings of anger or ill-use or whatever.

  52. These stories are all great. This is the best thread ever.

    Okay, so here’s mine. My grandmother was super, super Catholic. I was the eldest (for a good while the only) grandchild and when we visited I was allowed to sleep in her bed with her. We would say our prayers before going to sleep.

    So one night, I was maybe four or five, and we said our prayers, and I was thinking solemnly about God and things and I realized there was something I didn’t know. “Granny,” I asked, “what’s a virgin?”

    I could feel these waves of disapproval emanating from her side of the bed but I had no idea why. Finally she said, “It’s a holy person.”

    “Oh, okay,” said I, and went to sleep.

    Then when I was in sixth grade and had a bunch of girls over for a sleepover one of them went around the room and asked everyone if they were a virgin. What can I say, I always felt honesty was important. When she got to me, I thought about it for a minute, and said, “No.”

    My friends were totally scandalized until one of them thought to ask me if I knew what a virgin was…

    1. Yeah. My mother told me it meant “an unmarried woman”. I realised when I was 12 that there was something not-quite-right about this definition, but still had to have it explained to me by my Friend Who Had Much Older Siblings and Read Stephen King. /o\

  53. A lot of mine are not great things, but here’s one:

    I had a mom, dad, stepmom and stepdad basically since I was born. So at some point around 6 or so, I deduced that since my mom and dad had been in a relationship, my stepmom and stepdad must have also been in one, since they were both “step”.

  54. For some reason when we were young, urine was called ‘widilee’ and breast milk ‘oni-oni’.

    Also, someone once told me that the balls of sand on the beach (eg in this picture -,%20crab%20holes.JPG ) were crab eggs. I still gleefully stomped them because I figured there were so many, but I didn’t realise I was wrong until I was 20 and STUDYING BIOLOGY AT UNIVERSITY.

    1. Oni-oni sounds like a toddler’s name for it that stuck. I remember my little sister called it “hma” (pronounced sort of like “huh-mah”) and nursing itself was “hma-ing.”

    2. I’m afraid I fell into the habit of referring to breastmilk/nursing as “boob” – as in, “Do you want some boob?” or “Oh, you’re hungry; here’s some boob” – and now I’m at the point of showing her animals nursing their young in books and saying things like “Oh, look, the pig’s giving its babies boob.”

      I’m sorry, little one, for any future confusion this causes.

        1. There are crabs living in the sand who roll the sand they dig out of their holes into little balls and deposit them into the beach around the entrance to their homes.

  55. My mother, thankfully, didn’t start calling the library “lie-berry” until I was old enough to know she was being silly.

    However, I was in college before I realized that stapling an envelope over the answer section of a puzzle book wasn’t normal behavior. (My grandpa was an engineer, and took “lead me not into temptation” as part of his job.)

  56. When I was young, we had a garbage disposal branded in-sink-erator, which was supposed to be a pun for “incinerator”. I thought it meant that it was an in-sink “erator”, and the proper term for a garbage disposal was an erator.
    I found I was wrong after trying to tell my dad the “erator” was broken and him not understanding what I meant at all.

    1. The disposal in my childhood home was a “Dispos-all” The first time I saw an “In-Sink-Erator” I sniffed at what a cheap pun it was, predicated on a previous generation’s wide access to household incinerators as it was. (I was an insufferable child who read a lot of books.) In the part of Canada I lived in for six years, the most common brand of disposal was a “Garburator” and so disposals are referred to as garburators–to the point where a dishwasher with a hard food disposer feature is referred to as having a garburator.

      1. We had Kohler brand faucets at my childhood house, and I once thought it was just a different spelling of “cooler,” as in “make the water cooler.”

  57. My family called the blinking car lights that tell the car behind you that you are going to turn, “arrow lights”

    So I’m 16 and in French class and my classmates are obsessed with cars. All of them were driving at that point except me. (I wasn’t ready and knew it and was teased about this a lot by classmates and teachers) And so they convinced our French teacher to do a lesson on cars/driving. Our teacher agreed so we were assigned homework to bring in 15 car-words in French.

    And I couldn’t think of 15 car-words in English. I got as far as tire, steering wheel, window, brake, seat belt and windshield wiper and went to my mother for help. She provided some other words, including “arrow light.” I dutifully looked them up in my French/English dictionary and copied them down. Except “arrow light,” which wasn’t an entry so I looked up “arrow” and “light” but knew compound words seldom translated that simply.

    The next day in French class we compiled our lists and I brought up “arrow light,” explaining I hadn’t been able to find it in the dictionary. My teacher asked me what planet I grew up on. I broke down and cried that I missed my Latin class, where I wasn’t graded on my failures as an American teenager the way I always seemed to be in French class.

    1. My university French 2 course (which I was taking for fun) was full of insufferable girls who’d taken 3 years of French in high school and insisted on being called “Giselle” during French, so my mental picture of what high school French courses are like pretty much falls in line with what you are saying. I took Latin in high school. πŸ™‚

  58. In my family, if somebody sneezed, you said “Kezundheit.” When I went off to kindergarten, nobody else did that. They all said “God bless you” instead.

    So I came home & asked my mother, how come they say “God bless you” after somebody sneezes, instead of “Kezundheit”? And she said, “Oh, it means the same thing – Kezundheit is German for God bless you.”

    I remember thinking about this very very hard, and asking, “Does that mean that, in Germany, at the end of mass, the priest says Kezundheit to all the people?”

    I think my mother then fell about laughing, and explained she hadn’t literally meant it means the same thing; but mostly I remember how hard my little brain was working to figure how “the thing you say when somebody sneezes” and “the thing you say when you are praying” could possibly have anything to do with each other!

    Ironically, after years of exchanges that went something like




    What does that mean?

    Oh it’s just the thing you say when somebody sneezes, it’s German…

    I finally gave up and switched to saying “God bless you” out of sheer exhaustion.

    1. We say that in our family! Only it’s Gesundheit, and I believe it means “health.” πŸ™‚

      1. It does! It is in fact what you say in German when someone sneezes. I was pretty confused when I first ran into people using it in English, actually.

        1. It’s Yiddish too. So everyone in my family (Ashkenazi Jews) says Gesundheit. In fact, I was in 4th grade before I heard God bless you. I had heard “BlessYou” as one word though

        2. Even though my Dad doesn’t speak German (my Mum was born in Australia but only spoke German until she was about 6), we routinely used Gesundheit at home, to the point that it was weird when I started noticing that other English-speaking-people said ‘bless you’ instead. To this day, I usually say Gesundheit. πŸ™‚

        3. I like the Spanish version, which is “Salud!” and literally means “health” as well.

          I like the idea of people going around yelling “HEALTH!!!!” at people who have just sneezed.

          1. I picked up the idea somewhere in childhood that it was unlucky to bless someone with the same word in the same sneezing fit, so my daughter was vastly amused by me when a friend had an immense one— “Geshundteit! G’bless you! Salud! Nostrovya!”

            It wasn’t until I was forty that I found out— I think via a sidebar in _Esquire_— that it’s rude to bless someone twice for the same sneezing fit at all, or if someone else has already blessed them. And of course, there was the time I worked in a Jehovah’s-Witness-dominated company (they did most of their hiring within their congregation), and saying something when someone sneezed was considered pagan and Not Okay at All.

          2. In Swedish we say “Prosit”. I never really thought about what it meant until I took Latin in our equivalent of high school, and the teacher explained that apparently the Romans thought that a sneeze was an omen that the gods had decided to do something to the person who sneezed. Prosit means “may it be good”, so basically when we sneeze everyone tells you that they hope the gods haven’t decided to do something terrible to you.

            I can’t remember if this is a myth or real, but I also remember hearing that in Medieval Europe, people thought that your soul left your body when you sneezed, and if you didn’t say a specific word very quickly the soul would just…. Float away.

          3. Awe, I started doing that – using a different language for each sneeze – from my twenties, picking it up from my late ex! I still do it now. It’s a matter of pride to me not to use the same language twice in any sneezing fit. No-one’s ever told me it’s rude; in fact people are invariably amused and ask me what the different languages are.

          4. @ Toestands ‘Prosit’ in German is used for ‘to your health’ when you’re about to drink an alcoholic drink (the usual form is ‘Prost’ but ‘Prosit’ isn’t unknown), so that would have confused me.

            For a while I moved in a circle that commented the first sneeze with ‘Gesundheit’, the second with ‘SchΓΆnheit’ [Beauty], and the third with ‘und viel Spaß noch’ (and have fun). I’m still sometimes tempted…

    2. My grandfather taught us to say ‘gezince-eleven-guzina-bayner,*’ as anvance on ‘gezundheit.’. I have no idea where he got it from.

      *proper spelling unknown

    3. I use that word too, (not gonna pretend i can spell it) and when i moved to London I, of course, said it in the kitchen at work. Once I said it in front of one of our German bakers who stopped dead in his tracks, shocked beyond belief that not only had I said it, but pronounced it correctly. He had forgotten that white Americans all came from somewhere else.

  59. I was in high school before I learned that “honky” wasn’t just a silly name my dad liked to call me and my brother.

    1. Yes, I had to explain to my niece that “bohunks” were not (necessarily) good-looking men. It took me a while to figure out what she meant by it because the boyfriend she used this epithet to describe was clearly a native Hawaiian.

  60. My entire immediate family breaks out into full on choral numbers – someone will say a word or a phrase, and then suddenly the whole room is singing. Sometimes it’s earworms from Disney, sometimes it’s various Broadway shows, a lot of hymns because my family was pretty fundagelical growing up, and this one musical version of Acts called Upside Down. People exposed to us for the first time always look very confused, and I always get self-conscious singing around other people because they politely listen instead of joining in. I spent one road trip with a friend’s family feeling very strange because nobody was even talking, much less belting out showtunes…

    We have also been known to have entire (fairly long, like ten minutes or more) conversations that consist almost entirely of various movie quotes strung together. Several of them were quote sets, so if one person quoted one line, someone else would reply with the next one.

    Also, whenever one of us kids would say “Rats!” in frustration or whatever, my dad would reply, “Cats!” and this turned into a game where you kept going, naming animals that were somehow connected to the previous one.

    1. My family had The Game, which was played by saying a title or name or common phrase that began with the same word as the previous one had ended with. This Game always began spontaneously and was “won” by capping a phrase with something that couldn’t be played off of. We could do this for hours, and often did in the car, which would be my mum and I rattling off phrases rapid-fire while my dad hunched over the steering wheel, brows beetling, til he came out with a devastating one which would have won the game, had he said it fifteen minutes earlier.

      1. My little brother and I once got into a joke argument where one called the other a dumbass, and the other retorted something like “well you’re a crumbass” and then for around 3 years we would spring out of our bedroom at each other when we thought of another word that ended in -umb/um. Highlights included wingardiumass and bifidus digestivumass.

    2. My family isn’t quite as full-on musical, but we’re similar. A word or phrase will trigger someone (usually my dad or me, we’re most willing to sing solo) to sing a line or two from a song, sometimes from a musical, sometimes a folk song, sometimes other random songs. My sister and I have a running joke where if one of us says “I -” and then pauses to think, the other generally sings “…am the neighborhood super-spy!”, which is from a tv show we watched as kids.

  61. When you fart in my family, someone else calls you out, normally by saying “I heard that.” Now imagine the embarrassment that occurs for everyone involved when I accidently do this to strangers in public…

    The other quirk comes from us all reaching for food across the table. At one point my dad decided this was uncivilized and if the Queen wouldn’t do it at a state dinner, we shouldn’t do it either. Of course, this just immediately turned into us putting on a little old lady voice and saying “Phil, pass the potatoes.” So now anytime we want someone to pass something, you normally point at it and whine “Philllll,” just like the Queen does.

  62. When I was a kid, my mom worked and my dad stayed home, so I internalized a lot of (awesome!) ideas about gender roles. One story I remember is when my grandmother was visiting and packing to go home, I looked at her pile of dirty clothes and said, “Wow, Grandpa’s going to have a lot of laundry to do when you get home!” She just laughed, of course.

    One story my mom remembers is when my dad told me one day that he was going to go to a meeting, my response was a loud and vehement, “DADDIES don’t go to MEETINGS!” because my mom’s job was endless meetings and so I just thought that was A Mom Thing.

    My mom also remembers that when she was a little kid, she thought that all men were blue-eyed and left-handed (because her dad and brother were) and all women were hazel-eyed and right-handed (because she and her mom were). It’s so interesting how kids try to categorize the world like that.

    1. Hannah, I over-extrapolated from my parents, too. My parents were co-workers. Ergo, I inferred that co-workers are usually married. The day that one male news anchor left the morning show my family watched (and his female co-host) and another male anchor joined, I was very confused. How could Tom and Jane be getting divorced? I hadn’t seen them fight *at all*.

      1. I did something similar. My Dad is a research scientist, so for many years I thought that writing grants was just something that all Dads did in the evenings.

    2. I had no idea how uncommon being left-handed is until I moved away from home, and signed up for a volunteer position in my junior year of college where I ended up having to ask a lot of my fellow students to sign paperwork. My dad, my mother, and I – all left-handed. My sister is ambidextrous, though largely right-handed.

    3. We had a male dog and a female cat. So I thought that dogs and cats were of the same species, not that I had that word for it, but I definitely had this concept in my head that there was a single household-pet species and the dogs were the males and the cats were the females!

  63. On the sad side–my adolescence was one long fight about how often I should get to take a shower, and I was genuinely surprised to discover that most parents didn’t become enraged when their adolescent children wanted to bathe daily, and access to the only shower in the house was not a thing that had to be carefully negotiated lest one’s parents lose their shit and everything be all bad until they magically forgot it had happened.

    I also grew up in a climate such that having a snack when one got home was considered “stealing food”. I was also genuinely surprised to discover that most of the people I met as an adult had no conception of “food stealing” as a thing that could occur in your own home.

    I share this in case anyone else has a lot of shame about basic requirements of living and thinks their family was singular in its weirdness. YOU ARE ALL MY PEOPLE.

  64. I still call out things like “hot behind!” if I’m passing behind someone with a plate/container of hot food or drink, which is something I picked up over years of food service. It makes family reunions entertaining.

  65. When I was young, my mom would refer to the female genital area as the tt. I knew that that wasn’t the actual word, but I still managed to make the mistake of saying it in public once.

  66. Are there bonus points when your ignorance collides with somebody else’s ignorance?

    (Part I)

    10-year-old me: “Mommy, what does ‘common name’ mean?”

    Mom: “It’s a last name that a lot of people have, like Smith or Jones.”

    10-year-old me: “Those are common names? I’d think like Kaplan or Shapiro.”

    I grew up in a suburb where half the population was Jewish, you see. My mom had to explain that this wasn’t the case in most places. By the time I was ready to graduate from high school, I knew intellectually that Jewish people made up less than 1 percent of the world population, but I couldn’t quite believe it.

    (Part II)

    It’s the beginning of my freshman year at Indiana University. Two friends and I are hanging out in a dorm room and telling jokes.

    Friend #1: (tells joke about how a Catholic schoolteacher asks her first graders what they want to be when they grow up, and she’s scandalized when little Mary says she wants to be a prostitute, and she makes Mary repeat herself, then goes, “Oh, thank God, I thought you said you wanted to be a Protestant.”)

    Friend #1: “Hope I didn’t offend anybody.”

    Me: “I don’t care. I’m Jewish.”

    Friend #1 and Friend #2, simultaneously and with zero irony: “You don’t LOOK Jewish!!!”

    Me, also with zero irony: “What does a Jew look like?”

    I mean, I didn’t grow up under a rock. I knew that Jewish stereotypes existed on TV. But really, this was a thing for REAL? And my friends hadn’t questioned it because they’d apparently never met a Jewish person before me? For the first time I truly began to grasp how outnumbered we were.

    1. Like a lot of Ashkenazim, I think of red hair as being more common among Jews, though the last set of stats I read said that red hair is equally common among non-Jewish Europeans and Ashkenazi Jews. Imagine my shock when a redheaded friend told me that non-Jews will not believe she’s Jewish because of her hair. Seriously, why would anyone think that we all look the same?

    2. When I was a kid I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of Jewish families. After I grew up and moved away I was taken aback to hear of Jews living in houses that weren’t made of brick, or of Jews who were poor, because all the Jewish people I had known as a kid lived in brick houses and were middle class.

      Historical note: The neighborhood had been governed by restrictive covenants in the deeds that prohibited selling houses to Jews or non-whites (until that was ruled unenforceable by the US Supreme Court) and therefore all the older clapboard houses had Christians in them and the newer brick houses had Jews.

      So my neighborhood was weird but it was the only one I knew so I thought it was standard.

    3. I had the exact opposite experience: I grew up in a small town in New England where people were quite uptight and didn’t discuss their religion outside of worship, and where there were only a small handful of Jewish families. So I had almost no idea that a few of my friends were Jewish, because no one ever talked about it. I also somehow seem to have completely missed out on encountering any Jewish stereotypes during my entire childhood. At the Methodist church I was forced to attend, we read all sorts of passages from the Bible and sang all sorts of hymns where Jews and Christians were more or less equated — Jesus was referred to as “King of the Jews,” we were always learning about old-testament folks who were referred to as Jews and Hebrews (but were obviously considered part of our religious faith), we called God “Jehovah” sometimes, etc. Add to this that several of my grammar school teachers integrated Hanukkah traditions into the general midwinter holiday festivities thing, without necessarily explaining what culture each ritual belonged to. So by the time I was about twelve, I had gathered that I was a Jew, because I was a Christian and all Christians were Jews; that Menorahs at Christmas were totally a thing lots of people did; that most people observed both Christmas and Hannukah; and that Jewish people were distinguishable from Christians only by the fact that they went to that Church up the hill instead of the downtown one I went to.

      Around the time I turned twelve, someone invited me to an event at “the Church up the hill,” aka the Synagogue. It was some kind of nighttime service followed by a social. There was a deadly boring sermon, during which I read silently to myself from the hymnals and prayer books in the pew, just like I always did during the service at the Methodist Church. Then we sang some songs and afterward there was a pot luck. Everything was the same as at the Methodist Church except that the service seemed slightly shorter and was at night, and the food at the pot luck was infinitely better than anything I’d ever eaten at the Methodist Church. As soon as I got home I asked my mother if we could start going to the Synagogue instead. I was absolutely blown away to be told that no, we couldn’t, not without converting to a whole other religion. (When I asked how Judaism difffered from Christianity, she clearly had no idea.)

      At some point around then someone explained to me that Jewishness was a quasi-ethnic thing, and somehow I picked up the idea that Jews were from northern France. That was a fun one to be disabused of later.

      I’m still pretty lost when anyone points out a Jewish stereotype, and for this reason I often don’t catch it when people are being anti-Semitic. And any time anyone suggests that it’s possible to “look Jewish” I kind of squint for three seconds and then give up.

      1. Heheh. It’s funny how assumptions like that blossom unchecked.

        My grandparents on my dad’s side were completely irreligious. They celebrated a secular version of Christmas, thinking of it as an American holiday. Every year my extended family would meet at my grandparents’ house for Christmas. We decorated the “tree” (fashioned out of a sort-of-Christmas-tree-shaped wine rack), hung stockings, and exchanged gifts. Fun was had by all.

        When I was ten, my grandparents decided it was too hard to host us all for both Christmas and our annual summer-vacation gathering, so they dropped the former. I assumed we’d be doing something for Christmas at home. That’s when I discovered Christmas was a Christian holiday. I couldn’t believe it at first. What did any of our celebrations have to do with God, much less a son of God we didn’t believe in? What did all those TV specials have to do with Jesus? (Except, in retrospect, Linus’s “JeethChristourlord” line, which isn’t comprehensible to anyone not familiar with the context.) Then I realized that the word Christ was in Christmas, so it must be true …

      2. This is a really amazing story to me.

        Around a third of my mother’s side of the family is Jewish, and the other week this came up in a discussion between me and a friend, who a) kept insisting NOBODY in her family was Jewish (???? apparently nobody in her family is of color, either) and b) kept insisting nobody needed to be taught about things like ‘what is Jewish’ until they were like 8, which baffles me because…how do you not know that Jewish people exist.

        1. Oh God, *tell* me about it. I’m always amazed by how far beyond what’s remotely plausible people will go in order to deny an ethnicity they don’t like and don’t want to be. My mother’s relatives all get sooooo uncomfortable when people suggest that we might have some French-Canadian or Abnaki blood (we have both).

          Your friend’s insistence that kids don’t need to know about this stuff is so strange. Kids are going to absorb messages about this stuff all over the place, no matter what you do; to me it seems like a smart idea to provide them with as much contextual info early on as possible, so they hopefully won’t absorb something hurtful later on and end up internalizing it because they don’t have any other perspectives to compare it with.

  67. In my family it was considered polite to fart as loudly as possible and then immediately blame it on whatever pets were in the room. If there were no pets my dad (the most prodigious farter in our house) would blame it on ‘barking spiders’. I knew that it was him farting but I think I was a teenager before I figured out that barking spiders are not a real thing.

    My partner was 28 when we started dating and really early on totally confused me by excusing himself, looking out the window and sneezing. He seemed totally baffled by my confusion and wanted to know what I did when I had to sneeze? It turns out that he had never realised that sneezing in response to bright light is not a typical thing since it’s something his dad and sister both do.

    1. My husband was totally baffled by my looking at a bright light to sneeze. If I get one of those almost-sneezes, it’s the only way!

      1. it’s genetically linked and doesn’t happen to everyone. It’s possible you’re blonde, as it’s much more common in blondes. (see: photic sneeze reflex (also known as photoptarmosis, colloquially known as “sun sneezing)) I think it’s a totally cool phenomena that I have, and describe it by saying “got some Vitamin D up my nose”.

        1. That’s fascinating! My husband does this (I do not) but alas, he breaks that pattern in that he has jet-black hair.

          (Really, really beautiful hair of which I am sickeningly jealous and if we ever have children I hope they inherit his fine tresses.) πŸ™‚

        2. I do the sun sneezing thing, and my parents do not, so I presume it’s recessive or otherwise complicated. When I was a teenager I used to half-seriously try to use this to convince her that, see, you shouldn’t try to get me to wake up earlier or go to bed earlier, OBVIOUSLY I’M ALLERGIC TO SUNLIGHT. IT MAKES ME SNEEZE AND EVERYTHING, MOM. (Strangely, she never bought it.)

    2. Barking spiders! Maw, you just reminded me of an old, long out of touch friend. Thanks for that.

    3. Yes! Barking spiders were always around if my dad couldn’t find any of the family pets to blame it on. He would also commit fully to the fiction of the barking spider by searching the ground for it and stomping on it.

      To this day, I’ll still stomp on my partner’s farts and say, “Got it!” Luckily he finds this an endearing way to dispel the awkwardness.

    4. I…oh! I sneeze in response to bright light, but it has never occurred to me to use this fact to help along a shy sneeze. My life is altered. πŸ™‚

      1. Oh, it’s awesome. In a dark-ish room, even my cellphone is enough to trigger it. (…it’s a lame superpower, but it’s MY superpower damnit.)

  68. As the result of having many, many books in the house and three older siblings, I ended up knowing an unusual amount about the human body and how it worked and why for a wee ‘un. Or so it was thought by people outside the home, anyway. Anything I couldn’t get from The Clan of the Cave Bear/The Joy of Sex/Have You Started Yet? my sibs were happy to explain.
    When the time came for our primary school sex ed classes (Basically: PUBERTY IS COMING FOR YOU. YOU CANNOT RUN, plus “What is the bad touch, how/who do I tell?” with a side helping of “And here’s how babies are made. But not any time soon, right?) all the parents had to give consent that we (presumably innocent) youngsters learn about these things.


    All the *other* parents were asked for their permission. *My* parents were asked to tell me not to ask any questions or expand upon my classmates’ new knowledge further during or after these sessions. I was 8 years old. At the time I think teachers weren’t legally allowed to teach about LGBT things (Thanks, Margaret Thatcher!) so they were likely worried I would lead them onto these or similar complex areas. πŸ™‚

    My parents were pleased that my precocious savvy and their liberal child-raising had been recognised, if not for the consequences. (Tell a child not to ask questions??? They Did Not Approve.) I shrugged and carried on as before.

  69. I can’t remember any from my own childhood, but I’m sure there are many. I tried to be careful about my own kids (no cute names for body parts, no on-purpose mispronunciations and so forth) and I was all ready to give myself a gold parenting star when my eldest son came home from his first day of Kindergarten absolutely livid.

    “But MOM! They made me throw my food away! They wouldn’t let me bring it home!”

    So, I may have a thing about food waste. Being raised by grandparents who were born at the tail-end of the Depression can do that. But I didn’t warn him that he would have to throw away anything that he didn’t eat.

    I did smile over the thought of him giving the poor lunch lady an earful about wastefulness, though.

    We were sure to warn his little brother.

    1. That sounds ghastly that the school would throw away food you sent with him. What if the kid needs a snack in the afternoon? What if you can’t afford to lose food like that? I remember bringing home my brown bag leftovers.

      …..rereads. You didn’t say anything about it being the food sent from home; I just assumed. It’s just like when I was a teen and found out that some people had hot lunch every day in elementary school which blew me away. Another example for the thread. Heh.

  70. My familj had a very old toaster when my siblings and I were younger. It only had one heating element in the middle, so you had to manually flip the toast when one side looked enough toasted. Imagine our amazement when we visit a friend with a normal toaster and we all, at the same time, say: “But how do you flip the toast?” Our friend thought we were even wierder than usual after that.

    We also didn’t have a VCR, which everyone else had, and our tape recorders could only rewind, so fast forward was done by the help of a pencil. The same friend got confused when we asked what kind of pencil was needed for VCR tapes.

    This was late 80’s, early 90’s. We had very odd kind of hippie parents, which also might explain why we all know a lot of edible plants and leeves that we snack on while having a walk in the woods.

    1. Oh, I love those toasters! We never had one growing up, but if they’re in good condition they can sell well on ebay. My parents are junkers/antiquers and my dad was on a fancy old toaster kick for awhile. πŸ˜€

  71. I watched the movie Bambi a lot as a little kid. In college, I was having a typical dorm conversation about how, for kids’ movies, Disney handles some pretty rough topics. One guy brought up Bambi, and I was totally confused. He clarified, (SPOILER ALERT) “You know, when his mom dies in the end.”

    I had NO IDEA that that’s how Bambi ends. Turns out, my mom always stopped the tape before that scene. Everyone had a good laugh at my expense, and my sense of reality was totally shaken. Apparently I had the most sheltered childhood ever.

    1. She dies about a third (MAYBE a half?) of the way through, actually! Now I’m curious about what wizardry your mom was performing to keep you from seeing her death scene– did you only watch the segment where he’s an adult, or was it just a very very short movie about a cute baby deer for you?

      1. I think it was just a very short movie about a cute baby deer. I don’t think she would have been able to pull off a fast-forward without me noticing. I remember her fast-forwarding through the stampede scene of The Lion King, but I knew the scene, so she must have let me watch it sometimes. But maybe I was just more perceptive when I was older. I’ll have to ask her.

        I now feel the need to watch Bambi. Maybe it’ll all come back to me. Or maybe I’ve really only ever seen half of that movie.

    2. When I got home from summer camp one year, and asked my mom where the dog was, she told me she had given her to a friend with a chicken ranch. I had trained my dog not to attack our ducks, so this made sense to me. And I thought she was happy living on a farm and chasing rabbits and loving the chickens. This lasted about 25 years until it came up in an episode of “Friends.”

      I was also heartbroken to find out that our ice cream man was a drug dealer. To children!

  72. When I was 10 I had overheard someone say “schmuck” as if it were “big deal”. “Big schmuck” was my favorite phrase until my parents explained that my usage was idiosyncratic, and that the word didn’t mean “deal”

  73. As with many commenters already, my family-of-origin has a whole load of “teaching” that didn’t pan out in the real world, or even, sometimes, from day to day within our own household.

    One of the cutest was from my grandmother, when she was living with us for a time during my pre-teen years. (Make this roughly mid-70’s.) A registered nurse, she had some cool-looking items like her old nurse’s cape, that she would NEVER talk about. I’d found professional society pins, a nurse’s watch, other stuff, and she’d never tell me stories about those times.

    I still don’t know what the problem was. But I have to wonder, when she came up with doozies like trying to make wine – with no yeast and keeping it in the fridge? I’m afraid to go looking on the internet, now, but I remembered this quirk of hers when, well into my thirties, I’d gotten involved with a bunch of amateur wine-brewers. Unlike my grandmother, they *did* know what they were doing, and they were generous with their knowledge, so I finally made my own wines, for a time. (No way I could share, though: she passed away in the late 1990’s.)

    Having learned what I did about issues like yeast sorts, sterilization, filtering, etc. etc., I go back to this memory of her sipping from a container of… something… with a smile like she had to show us it was enjoyable, but not quite finding it to her standard. What *was* going on?

    Given other issues in the family dynamics department, our grandmother found another family member in another state to live with, after a few months in our house. Among other gems were things like her telling our mother *in front of us kids* that she was being a bad parent; or blowing up at us when we gave her an honest answer to the question, “How do you like my eggplant parmigiana?” Which caused my mother to step up with uncharacteristic speed and object: after all, she said to her own mother, “how can I expect my kids to tell the truth if you react like that?” We got called rude, ungrateful and a few more things, but my mother’s foot was coming down hard by that point: “If you don’t want the real answer, don’t ask the question. I’m not going to have you teach my kids to lie to spare your feelings.”

  74. I, too, was of the sheltered variety as a kid. “Fart” and “butt” were not said in my house. We used the word “stinker” as a noun/verb when someone passed gas. I think for butt we said “rear” or “bottom”.

    A few years ago, my coworkers laughed hysterically when I used the phrase “full as a tick”. I guess that was not something everyone used! I grew up in the country so we were all very familiar with dog ticks and whatnot. I still say it, but people think it’s hilarious.

  75. Shoes!

    It was drilled into me, as an Alaskan kid, that polite people take their shoes off right inside the door. Then I went to visit my Brooklyn and Manhattan relatives and got the weirdest looks.

    1. If there’s *anywhere* you should take your shoes off right inside the door, it’s Manhattan. I lived on the Lower East Side for a few years while dating a guy from a country where taking your shoes off in the apartment is standard. He got me to change my ways by saying, “Think about the sidewalk outside your building. Do you still want your shoes touching your bedroom floor? That you later walk on with socks? That you later wear in bed?”

      1. Yeah, we live in a big city and we take our shoes off at the door too, for similar reasons. (Plus it’s nice to slip into comfy slippers in winter, or pad around barefoot in summer.)

        1. Yeah, that threw me too. I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I’ve deliberately worn socks to bed, and all of them have been because it was a freezing cold day in a drafty room.

          1. Exactly! If it’s super freezing cold, I’ll consider it, but it’s generally better to just pile on blankets. I almost always regret wearing socks to bed.

    2. Where I live, you always take off your shoes, too (with maybe exceptions for parties sometimes). I always thought it was just a thing that happened on TV, because of story convenience – boring to watch people take off or put on shoes, need the ability to storm out without stopping to put on shoes, etc. I know now that people really do wear shoes indoors, but I can’t even fathom how that works practically. Do they have neither weather, nor dirt, nor litterers, nor people who fail to pick up after their pets? I really want to know!

      1. They have a doormat. Or at least we did – now that I have my own place I’m a shoe-taker-offer, but my parents wear shoes in the house a lot (foot support, warmth, etc) and they have a solid plastic honeycomb mat outside the door, a bristly mat in the porch, and a carpet type mat inside the door. Especially muddy shoes are taken off in the porch, but otherwise it’s stampy-wipey time. It’s surprising how habitual even wiping one’s feet three times on the way into the house can become.

      2. Doormats, and lots of vacuuming and sweeping. It sort of builds on itself, too – if you know that the floor is going to be gritty/dusty/hairy, you’re less likely to want to be barefoot or in socks.

      3. I thought that, too! And, I mean, we do have a doormat (or two, actually) but especially if it rains or snows that excess water isn’t going to be just gone. I’m actually shuddering imagining walking around everywhere with my street shoes on, the dirt omg. But we also have house shoes? Slippers? That you change into from your regular shoes when you come inside? Is that… not a thing somewhere else? (Not everyone wears house shoes [my sister doesn’t, I seriously don’t get how she doesn’t have cold feet all the time] but I’d definitely say that most do. I had no idea it wasn’t like that everywhere!)

        1. One of my current housemates has house shoes/slippers and also slippers solely for her bedroom. I do not ever wear shoes inside, and for most of the year, not socks, either. I just go barefoot. Granted, I also go barefoot outside…in classrooms…sometimes to places that don’t care….because my feet are tough and I really don’t like most socks or shoes.

          As a kid, I always got taught to come in, wipe off your feet on the mat, and take off your shoes. I remember being at a relative’s house who kept their shoes on and lecturing some great-aunt on manners, which she thankfully found hilarious…

        2. I live in the PNW and on a day like today, it doesn’t matter how long I wipe my feet on the mat outside my door: they’re not going to be dry when I come in. Shoes come off, go on a metal rack over a drip tray, and I put on house shoes (quilted Smartwool boots I found on the clearance rack at the sporting goods store); the Brom and the Acorn trundle around in their socks.

          (More than half the residents of my neighborhood are East or Southeast Asian; no one blinks at the “Leave your worries (and shoes) at the door” sign my sister-in-law gave me, but obviously Your Neighborhood May Vary. Sister-in-law is Japanese; her “You have to tell people to take their shoes off?” was said with so much dismay, I felt horrible.)

    3. Oh, another one: If there’s a broom just inside the front door, it’s for cleaning clods of snow from your boots and only for that.


      (Hey, do any other folks from snow country do the Alaskan Snow Boogie when walking into a building where there is no broom waiting by the door? Slap the side of one boot against the side of the other, change feet and do it again, then do a quick stomp-shuffle ONE TWO THREE before you reach the end of the mat. Most of the snow should be off your boots and on the mat.)

  76. Finally thought of one. My 5 year old niece likes to look at fishing catalogs on the toilet, so if we are at a family gathering and she announces she has to go to the bathroom (as kids do), whatever adult is nearby will ask if she needs a fishing catalog.

    Once I was playing with her and my nephew, and was trying to politely excuse myself to go to the bathroom. “I’ll be right back.” “Where are you going?” they ask. “I’ll be right back.” I repeat. They won’t stop asking. Following me. Finally from around the corner, I yell “I HAVE TO PEE” really loudly and they go “Oh, ok.” and go back to playing. I was wondering why my brother kept announcing his bodily functions, but now with the kids, I get it.

  77. My aunt was a stickler for farting in the washroom- whereas my parents were the type the loudly fart then cackle maniacally (mostly my mother). There were a number of things I realized once I moved out weren’t the norm:

    Making completely random and LOUD noises just for fun. I picked it up from my dad, and I’m pretty sure now it has rubbed off on my poor husband. In particular I’ve been known to meow loudly too, just for kicks. Random yelling of lines from Monty Python is very common. General acceptance of potty mouth is also practiced, with ironic “Meraydia! Stop f*cking swearing so f*cking much!” issued at random. I feel so guilty when I swear in front of people who don’t swear much, its so integrated into my vocab that I forget that it may upset someone 😦

    On the milder side – I got the strangest look from my husband the day I asked him to pass me the guenille… Turns out in my parents house, everyone, including my completely anglophone, father had taken up calling dish rags and towelettes guenilles.

  78. Oh lord, I was reading this and my sister came home and shouted ‘Hello’ as a general greeting to whoever is in, which I don’t think is an our family specific thing at all, but I’m pretty sure you’re not meant to respond with a loud MEEOW! We got a cat a few years ago and we started talking to the cat in baby-talk and making cat noises at her, and it has escalated A LOT. We can actually kind of understand each other’s cat noises which is even weirder.

    1. You would fit right into our household. A neighbor’s cat, who has adopted me and my husband, is very expressive with his meows. You can tell if he wants food, wants in the house, is happy, wants to be put to bed, is pissed off, has just been picked up, or wants us to go out “hunting” with him at dusk. We’ve started using the same kinds of meows to communicate, and we must seem totally off our rockers.

      1. We have two cats and both of them have specific (and individual) meows for specific occasions. One of them also makes a “Mrrrr?” noise if you ask him a question or he’s startled awake. And we do meow at them all the time, too!

          1. Our cat makes the cutest noises when he’s sleeping. He makes little kitty-snores, and semi-muffled meows when he’s dreaming. I never liked cats, but those noises (along with his “mrrrr?”), his sociability, and very affectionate nature have totally won me over. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a beautiful Bengal with silvery-shot fur and leopard spots. He’s like a baby snow leopard; he’s about 20 pounds of lean muscle. I am such a sucker…

  79. Ooh, ooh!

    As godmother and honorary aunt it has always been my duty to bring god kids and honorary (and real!) nieces and nephews Presents Parents Hate.

    You know, Flubber, whoopie cushions, the Disguster (

    My oldest friend said to me, after several such appalling gifts:
    “When growing up, I always thought the difference between our families was that YOUR family thinks farts are funny.”

    1. My childless godparents have always considered it their solemn duty to buy my brother and I presents which make annoying noises. I think their best effort was a fridge magnet with an attached clip to allow to attach notes and things to the fridge. When you pressed down on the clip to open it a loud frog ribbit is emitted. It is successful because a clip that attaches to the fridge is very useful and so we use it to attach a small note pad to the fridge where things we need like milk or fruit juice can be jotted down and when the page gets filled up you take the pad out of the clip to rip the old page off. This means there is a loud recording of a frog played on a frequent basis. Birthday cards which played tune when you opened them are another speciality.

  80. In my house farting audibly around others is totally fine, commenting on it is UNACCEPTABLE. Even the person doing it shouldn’t acknowledge it by saying ‘excuse me’ or anything. It is so bizarre to me that some people joke about farts in their families. I find it so embarrassing.

    Also, that just reminded me, my mum hated the term ‘pardon?’ to mean ‘I didn’t hear you’ (or, indeed, ‘pardon me! when you’ve farted or burped) which is a common enough thing where I’m from, we were banned from saying it as kids. I used to think she considered it mildly blasphemous, we are a Christian household and I thought maybe she associated it with being pardoned from sin or something. Now I suspect she just considered it a bit common but wouldn’t reveal her classism by saying so.

  81. My family, as mentioned about is Extremely Swedish and my grandmothers & some of their siblings are not fully fluent in English. However, my one Great-Aunt was very proud of her impeccable English skills and so we have a lot of strange words and puns so as not to embarrass her – and I guess in her memory now.

    -A colander is a “macaroni-stop” or a “macaroni-stop-water-go-ahead” if you’re feeling verbose

    -Instead of “Right on” we say “Right arm!” (and sometimes “Left leg!” in response). You must also raise your right arm when you say it.
    I think this is because she immigrated during the Civil Rights movement and conflated “Right on, brother!” with the Black Power fist, and thought the men on TV were saying “Right arm, brother!” and raising their fists in response? And Right arm and right on sound really similar in a Swedish accent.

    -If you ask for Thousand Island dressing, you must follow it up with “towsands and towsands a’ dem!”

    -The expression “Ouchiwawa!” is actually “Ay, chihuahua!” and must be followed with “Small mexican dog!”

    1. In a related note, my mom’s family came from Germany and spoke mostly Low German, but most of the words we spoke were English growing up, with three exceptions:

      -when speaking to cats/dogs that are where they are not supposed to be, one says RAUSE! not GET OUT! this does not apply to humans.
      -when sneezing, say gesundheit
      -when thanking, say ‘danke’ and reply with ‘bitte’

  82. Fart stories always kind of confuse and fascinate me, because I didn’t develop the ability to even know I was about to fart, let alone even limited ability to hold it in, until I was an adult. And it never even occured to me until sometime in my teens that this wasn’t a simple universal fact of human biology, and that it could be physically possible to not only predict, but control farts. (My family etiquette was everyone pretends it didn’t happen and doesn’t draw attention to it, so the discussion never came up).

    So the first time I heard such a discussion about the etiquette of farting (I was maybe 16?), it just totally perplexed me. Like ‘There are human beings who can _control farts_??? Enough of them that they actually assume it’s normal to be able to do so?”. It was like someone saying ‘ask for permission and go to the washroom if you’re going to hiccup’ (or is someone now going to tell me that’s controllable too??).

    And then it kind of stressed me out! Like my body might accidentally do this thing that people would find rude and think I had done deliberately.

    1. I used to be able to control mine somewhat or at least make them silent most of the time (I really don’t know how I did this but I suspect a lot of women do it because Women Don’t Have Bodily Functions in polite society), but then I got IBS, and now… I can’t. I’m still trying to work out how to deal with this. Do I say “excuse me,” risking that the other person might not have heard me and then I would have to explain WHY I said “excuse me”? Do I say nothing and pretend it didn’t happen? Do I laugh at myself? I try to get to the bathroom as soon as I can, but that works only so well when you have an extremely unpredictable digestive system.

      Like I feel like “bless you” or “gesundheit” are pretty much universal (in that you say SOMETHING, whatever your regional thing is) when someone sneezes, but there’s not a universal response to farts and my family always just pretended they didn’t happen (and my dad was the only one who would audibly fart, see above, re: women don’t have bodily functions), so I have no idea how to deal.

      1. One ex was absolutely aghast the first time I accidentally let slip an SBD. He looked at me incredulously and asked “Did you just… fart??”

        “Um, yes, sorry about that.” *blushes*

        “But… but… girls don’t fart!”

        It turns out both his mother and sister had long ago mastered the art of always passing gas silently and his mother had told him only boys fart. He actually believed it.

    2. My family was somewhere in the middle about farts in that we would do them audibly or not, and usually not comment on it, but if there was a really bad smell the sufferers would choke and complain and fan the air. It wasn’t funny or shameful. But in public, I don’t remember when I learned to keep them silent/in until I can escape other people’s presence, but that’s what was Done. I remember the thrilling discovery that thong underwear helped in those efforts, when I was about 13. I also learned really young to always minimise my burps into tiny, genteel “‘rps” and then at some point in my teens I started letting them out properly again while with friends and family, and magically found the frequency of heartburn and indigestion decreased. One time when I was about 16, I was with my mum at a do in a church hall, and my brain processed “with family” before it processed “in a very echoey hall full of strangers.” BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARPPPPPP. I acted like nothing had happened.

    3. Me too! I first encountered that attitude on a backpacking trip, when one of the people in my tent group tried to insist that we be polite by walking away from the group if we had to fart. Immediately the group divided into those who thought this was perfectly reasonable, and me and one other woman who found the whole thing hilariously ridiculous – partly because being that delicate about farts on a trip when we were also “frosting rocks” with our poop as a part of Leave No Trace struck us as silly, but mostly because neither of us had ever heard of being able to control or predict when you might fart.

    4. In my family it Didn’t Exist, but in the way where when you reached the age of reason as a child and farted, my mother would say “Don’t do that!” but that was the extent of it. After a while of “Don’t do that!” you stop doing that because it’s the only option presented. If it had been “go elsewhere and do that!” probably we’d have a farting-in-the-washroom custom, but instead it was “Don’t do that!” so we have a “hold it in” custom.

  83. Hee! This story is entirely adorable.

    In my family we were never supposed to “take the Lord’s name in vain.” No lie, I was not allowed to say “Oh my God.” And if someone on television said “Oh my God” or “Jesus Christ” my mother would turn it off and rant for ten minutes about how despicable that was, about how it was bad enough to say it at all but people who are on television should be more responsible about the influence they have over what people think is acceptable behaviour, et cetera, et cetera. I was also told that swearing in general was for People of Low Class (hilarious to me now because if anyone was low-class, it was us).

    Women should never wear more than two pieces of jewelry. Earrings count individually. Three or more items makes you “tacky.” High heels (above maybe a half inch or so) also make you tacky…or possibly a slut, not that that word was ever used.

    You shouldn’t sleep with your bedroom door closed. No matter how light a sleeper you are, how cold the draft is, how much the hallway light wakes you up — you just shouldn’t. Closing your door is not an option.

    Hair should be washed only once a week — more often is a waste of water. And no more than a dime-sized blob of shampoo should be used, because shampoo costs money. (My mother’s hair was cropped short. Mine was down to my butt for most of my childhood.)

    1. I grew up in a cult, so no taking of the lord’s name, but also we couldn’t say “Oh, man” or “oh, boy” because they were standins for God and Jesus respectively, according to my mum. I also was not allowed to say “drat” after my mother looked it up and found that it was a contraction of “God rot”. Likewise I was forbidden to say “rats!” because she once heard someone also use “mice!” as an expletive and concluded that “rats” meant God and “mice” meant Jesus.

      My mother also had an obsessive fear of the word “damp” because as a child she once gestured to her mother’s hair and asked “damp?” and her mother thought she’d sworn and hit her.

    2. Did your mom ever sit with the remote in her hand and try to “catch” the bad words with the mute button? My dad did (even when my friends were over). I don’t know how he ever watches any TV.

      1. Remote controls were for lazy people.

        *hands up* Look, I don’t understand it either, it’s just what she said. In reality I suspect she was simply afraid of something that seemed so technical and futuristic. (So many buttons! What if it breaks?)

  84. My ex had a son who was about 5 when we got together. Ex made some *interesting* choices in what movies he allowed his son to watch at different ages, this resulted in a few situations that caused consternation among the other adults in my stepson’s life.

    1) Stepson was allowed to watch Spaceballs when he was about 4 1/2. The next day, he walked into his daycare and announced, “I knew it. I’m surrounded by assholes!” Ex learned that when your four year old cusses at school, YOU go to the office.

    2) At 5 1/2, stepson was allowed to watch the 2nd Austin Powers movie. This was also right around the time that we got him the cat he had been begging for. The confluence of these events resulted in a kid who would explain to anyone who would listen that “We do not nibble on our kitty.” Several friends of ours responded with, “Um, ok.” and then looked at ex helplessly.

    3) Ex was in construction and used an old Igloo Playmate cooler (the kind with the handle on top) as his lunch box. When stepson was 7, Ex put a bumper sticker on it that read, “And this one time, at band camp…” Stepson was NOT allowed to see American Pie, but at that point, he could read, and thought the phrase on his dad’s lunch box was funny. He quickly learned that adults would burst out with nervous laughter when he repeated “And this one time, at band camp…” in front of them, so he started doing it ALL THE TIME. And adults would laugh, and then give us the “You let your KID watch THAT movie!?!?!?!!?” look. We especially got the look from friends who knew enough about Ex’s choices in movie permission to really believe that he had done so.

    The awesome part about #3 is that when stepson got to be about 8 or so, he figured out that there was something going over his head about the band camp joke. At that point, whenever we said something that was going way over his head, he would cock his head to the side and, dripping with sarcasm, say, “And this one time, at band camp…” and then give us a pointed look.

    1. Haha, my baby sibling watched Buffy: The Vampire Slayer as a baby and plays ‘Vampires and Slayers’ instead of cops and robbers and whatnot. Vampires try to bite you on the neck, slayers try to poke you in the heart or slash across your whole neck, and the first one to do it successfully wins. This caused some kindergarten teachers a lot of headaches…

      1. When I was in high school in the late 80s, I babysat for a 4 year old boy who loved to play “Ghostbusters.” The game was basically him running around the house with me chasing him, pretending to be a ghost. If I caught him, he would declare, “I’ve been slimed.” It was…hilarious and exhausting at the same time. (But after a few rounds, he was completely pooped for the evening and fell asleep about a half hour before his bedtime.)

  85. I mainly found my family so strange that I never assumed anything that was normal in our house was outside-world-normal. I suppose that of itself is unusual though, and now anytime I meet someone who has some of the same background or quirks as me I’m delighted. Of course childhood experience has taught me that people are unpredictable and not to be trusted and can explode at any moment for any reason, which can make it strange interacting with normals… But when I meet someone a little like me we usually bond a bit about not finding total psychopaths strange πŸ˜›

  86. The number of words that I was taught were swear words worthy of mouth-soap washing is frankly astonishing, and I didn’t even realize just how many there were until I started prepping my boyfriend to meet my family.
    Also, I was taught at home that if someone swore they are a horrible terrible stupid who you should either train not to swear around you or you should never speak to again. Imagine teen!Ranger trying to make friends in her first year of engineering. The Profs swear! The TAs swear! The Dean swears! And I had to very quickly learn that maybe swearing isn’t actually only for dumb people. I can’t be grateful enough for kind friends who toned down swearing and then slowly relaxed back to their normal selves over the course of the year to ease me in gently to this new culture.

  87. On the thread of ‘stuff you/your family does that nobody else seems to’, I wash my hair every single night, and twice a day if I go to the gym in the morning. Reactions to this have ranged from horror to lectures about ~natural oils~ (my scalp *had* more than enough natural oils!)

    I also swore pretty young, because my mother swears profusely whenever she drives. She’ll do it in the middle of a conversation, too, like:
    “So what do you think, should I get a lemon squeezer?”
    “Well, considering the price–FUCK YOU, YOU PIECE OF SHIT, GO BACK TO SCHOOL–I think that maybe–ASSHOLE! LEARN TO MERGE!–not for the moment. FUCK OFF.”

    And of course everyone’s random verbal stims, songs stuck in our heads, and completely random narration of our lives and actions. Right now, me and my sister will crack up at the words ‘Baghdad’, ‘marshmellow’, ‘mocha coca’, and ‘Papa Momo’.

    My little brother is also doing this in the sense that he’s learning how to complain in the EXACT same way my mother does. “WHY do I have to do my chores? Can’t I have a perfect Saturday FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE???” in the exact tone. It’s amazing.

    I also remember being a kid and using the word ‘lesbian’ to mean ‘Girl Scout Leader’ because someone told me a bunch of GS leaders were lesbians. THAT was fun to learn about…

    I don’t think I had any euphemisms for genitals as a kid (my parents believed in sex ed, unlike my actual sex ed teacher, who told us that the clitoris doesn’t exist), except once we moved to Britain I figured that ‘cunt’ was the harmless slang term until I used it in front of my (very proper WASPy) mother.

    I also thought as a kid everyone’s mom had a chainsaw/butcher knife and checked the oven, stove, locks and on everyone sleeping before they went to bed. It upsets me that not everyone I know locks their doors at all times now.

    And as kids, there was this problem between me and my sister–my mom’s parents let them fight as siblings, but not laugh at each other. My dad’s parents let them laugh at each other, but not fight. Me and my sister fought AND laughed at each other, which made both parents alternatively uncomfortable.

    My dad’s side also has such a body sense of humor (putting horse shit in each other’s shoes, stories about beds so dirty cat poop fossilized in them, the person with the nastiest farts wins the contest, etc). My mom’s side of the family has a very deadpan trolling sense of humor (seriously, I thought jellyfish were trees until I was like 14).

    1. I also have parents that are of different races, and that definitely formed my view of what was weird and what was not:

      -I *still* think people who are white and have the same hair color aren’t ever dating–seriously, this happens with relatives, friends, and everyone else. if you’re both blonde, brunette, or redhead, I automatically classify the relationship as ‘friend’ or ‘sibling’ or ‘cousin’, because on some level I still think couples have different hair colors.
      -I thought, when I was very little, that EVERYONE’s parents looked very different from one another and that you were supposed to date/marry someone who looked nothing like you. You were supposed to look similar to your relatives, not your spouse! Fast forward to being introduced to my mom’s side of the family, who are all very white and very homogenous, and insisting that nobody could possibly be married, they had to just be cousins of some sort.
      -As a kid, I also went to an elementary school where most people were some variety of of-color-mixed-race. I knew people who were of basically all possibly racial combinations–kids who were quarter-Ethiopian, half-Hmong and quarter-native-Brazilian, for example. Other kids who were mestiza looked different than and also similar to me. I didn’t think anything of me having my mom’s pale skin and brown hair and light eyes, because I knew I was mestiza, or something like it. Go to Britain in a very white town, nobody *believed me* when I said I wasn’t white, “because you don’t look like [racial slur]!” They also had no idea what Latin@s were. It was the biggest culture shock I’d ever felt.
      -As a kid, I also had an autistic parent and am autistic (even still). Being autistic, my parents were always very explicit about what some social constructs were because they knew I just plain would not pick up on cues or hints. So they explained what ‘race’ was and how it was specifically constructed to let white people claim inherent superiority over everyone else for no other reason than that they were white. Fast forward to college and high school, where most of the white people there thought that white/black/Asian etc was just the most normal and sensible way of classifying race. Uh…..
      -I also never picked up on the ‘it’s rude for other people to talk in a language you can’t understand in the same room as you’ thing, which is apparently a cultural norm in some places. If people aren’t talking to me anyway, what difference does it make? It still baffles me when people get upset by this.

      My parents were also extremely loosey-goosey liberal Quakers who believed in having as few rules/as little authority as possible, and also had extremely self-determining children, so seeing the sheer plethora of other people’s rules and parental restrictions still weirds me out. Like, your parents wouldn’t let you say ‘oh god’? Your parents had a curfew for you? You weren’t allowed to drink in their house? You had to dress to their specifications (which weren’t weather safety)? They forbid you from certain haircuts and colors and tattoos and piercings? It still strikes me as just unnecessary.

        1. I know right? Like people would always ask my parents why all their kids still talk to them about everything and are close, and it’s because they won’t freak out or try to control us, so of course we can tell them stuff. I mean, I collaborate with my mom on my tattoos and what they should be, and my parents help us take our grandparents’ liquor back with us from visits. (They cannot drink any alcohol any more, but when they could they were, uh, big consumers, and have really fancy-but-inexpensive alcohol in large quantities still).

          Granted, some kids apparently would have preferred more structure, but, honestly, my siblings and I were the type of kids where if you wanted us to do something, there had to be a logical, strong enough reason for us to do it. “Because I say so” is not a reason we ever accepted, so even if our parents wanted to be ~authoritative~ they wouldn’t have gotten very far. (True story: I fought with my mother for 16 years straight re: wearing socks at all. Seriously. I did not back down *once*.)

          1. I have a friend who both she and her brother, as adults, moved back in with their mum once their dad left her. They felt she was too old to be living by herself in a big house that needs frequent repairs, and 100% of all their family strife had been caused by their dad, who is an asshole. The three of them lived together in perfectly amicable, if very Greek, harmony until later developments (marriages mostly) caused it to make more sense for them to live separately.

            I have virtually no relationship with my parents because I learned early on that their rules and advice were self-centred and not constructive to the circumstances of my life, *and not intended to be*. Everything was about making life easier for them, and après les, le déluge.

          2. My own mother was very strict about what we were and were not allowed to do (I was considered rebellious because she had forbidden me from getting my ears pierced until I was 18 – but went and got them done by myself when I was 17! And paid for my 15-year-old sister to have hers done too!), as was the stepmother of my eldest two. After their dad died and they came to live with me, they found I was far more relaxed. Their stepmother had told them they weren’t allowed to dye their hair – within a week of arriving, I’d helped the eldest to dye her hair black, and the younger girl to bleach hers and dye it pink. (It took 4 months for the local education authority to find a school place for her, so I saw no harm in letting her have pink hair on the understanding that she’d probably have to dye it a more “natural” shade when she started school.) When the younger girl decided on a whim to pierce her own lip at age 15 (because she couldn’t sleep and got bored), I shrugged, laughed, and pointed out that if she’d actually *asked* me then I’d have taken her to get them done properly and paid for it. I’ve always taken the view that rules should have reasons. Brightly-coloured hair and piercings hurt no-one, so why should I say no? Particularly as I have piercings myself and my hair was various shades of purple at the time.

            I have a pretty good relationship with my daughters and they tell me pretty much everything. I haven’t spoken to my own mother in over two years.

      1. It is true that people in the UK don’t tend to know about Latin@s, unless they happen to read a lot about the Americas. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

        1. While I appreciate your sympathy, please don’t apologize to me for things that you did not personally do to me, and please don’t apologize to me using the phrase ‘had to go through that’. I didn’t have to go through that. It wasn’t necessary. It was just cruel and awful.

  88. I have carers now because I’ve become too physically disabled to wash myself. THEY HAD TO TEACH ME – THEN AGED 24 – HOW TO USE SOAP / SHOWER GEL. Like, I was brought up in a household where showers and baths were *very* infrequent (like, monthly or even less often) and everything but hair was assumed to just get clean by being in water or under a shower. I’d started vaguely trying to use shower gel before I got carers when I lived with my girlfriend. It wasn’t until I had carers that I found out that washing feet was something you were supposed to do.
    I also had to be taught as an adult how to use towels (we had towelling robe things and just wore them for an hour or so after bathing/showering).

    We also didn’t wear day-time clothes unless we had to leave the house so would wear our “jimjams” (pyjamas) for whole weeks on end during school holidays (we were allowed to play outside without getting dressed too). Or run around the house completely naked until we were about six *even when there was company, from our sibs’ friends to the JWs to visiting nurses we’d never met before…

    And when we *did* wear clothes, we wore the same clothes over and over until (and often past) the point where they were visibly dirty. To, uh, save on water and electricity? My parents think I’m weird and almost *disrespectful* because I wear different clothes each day now instead of wearing the same clothes all week.

    And I sort-of vaguely knew that How We Did Things wasn’t “normal” but… I am a grown man and I learned all my basic How To Hygiene stuff from friends and the internet.

    I have also only just started wearing shoes/socks/slippers of any kind indoors. And only because my doctor says I have to so my feet are protected when I fall.

    1. A kind of horrible, sad corollary to your story: my daughter stayed with a friend for a week when very young. Gossip came back to me that “she didn’t even know how to wipe herself properly!” I’d taught her everything *I* knew about wiping— front to back, whether you think you need it or not, and was your hands through the alphabet song afterwards, and I was afraid to ask and still afraid to search the Internet to find out.

      I kind of think, from a post by the Bloggess of all people, that maybe “proper” wiping involves a visual inspection of the paper afterwards and repeat until it comes away “clean,” but I’ve really no idea at all beyond that. Still.

      1. My assumption is that wiping involves a visual inspection and repetition until clean. However, my assumption was also always that wiping was something that happened while still seated, and I found out to my great surprise a few years ago that there’s an entire subset of people who stand up to wipe. I still don’t know why; it seems very inconvenient as a practice. However, as with many things, it’s all in how you’re raised. πŸ™‚

  89. Hoo, boy. When I was 10, my mother took me and my sister for a tour through Europe. We eschewed the guided tours provided with the package, and walked around a lot on our own, discovering London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris. Great experience. Except I had never seen a bidet before, much less heard of one. When I asked, my mother told me it was a foot jacuzzi for massaging our sore feet. It was always located next to or across from the toilet, so it made sense if you put the toilet seat down that you could sit upon it and put your feet in the foot jacuzzi. I have pictures of myself as a child with my feet in bidets in four European countries

    Imagine my shame in high school when my best friend and I were talking on the bus ride to school, and I found out that they were really “cookie cleaners.” She laughed so hard she fell off her seat. I had shown my photo album to countless people, praising the European foot jacuzzis for sore-footed tourists, and no one said a word.

  90. As a kid I was an involuntary member of the Clean Plate Club, which is one of several reasons why I am now fat.

    I tell my kids to eat when they’re hungry, not eat when they’re not hungry, and if they are hungry, chew and swallow their bites one at a time and only until they are no longer hungry. I enrolled all of my children in the Division of Responsibility Club, whereby they are not rude about what I serve and they are free not to eat it if they are feeling picky or just not hungry; skimping a meal here and there won’t kill them; another meal is coming in a few hours, and there are apples in the fridge.

    I still remember the sensation of having to drink down that huge glass of milk because I was handed a huge glass and told to fill it up. None of that in my house!

    1. Aw, man. That sucks.

      One of the good things about my house that I didn’t realize was NOT TO BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED was that my parents were super relaxed about my picky eating. I can remember about five times when they made me try a new food (one bite!) but basically as soon as they trusted me not to set myself on fire* (about age eight-nine), my mom stocked the shelves with potatoes (microwave baked potatoes), Campbell’s soup, bread for toast/sandwiches, corn flakes, oatmeal, crackers, and cheese sticks, and my dad bought boxes of a couple freezer foods I liked, and I was allowed to make 90% of my meals for myself. Less effort for my mom, and less upsetting for me (I didn’t start eating most kinds of vegetables until late high school/college.)

      That flexibility, combined with the fact that in high school I started to pick up my grandmothers’ particular culture of food preparation, actually served me very well in the transition to college. There were still a lot of tasks I wasn’t used to doing for myself (vacuuming, oh god), but I felt pretty confident about most things kitchen-related.

      Though, I never did learn to eat my food slowly. >_<

      * I did have a brief flirtation with cooking bacon for myself at age four, which is when I learned that metal play dishes DO NOT GO IN THE MICROWAVE.

  91. I’m late to the party, but this is an awesome thread.

    Re: bodily functions: I am 30 years old and I’ve never heard my mother fart. I don’t know how she does it.

    I grew up with liberal hippy parents in a southern conservative town, so there were quite a few eye opening moments as I grew up wherein I learned what was done in my home wasn’t done everywhere. The most embarrassing for my parents was in second grade when we had our first visit from the D.A.R.E. officer who gently explained that people who drink ANY AMOUNT of alcohol are alcoholics. I started to cry because my parents had wine every day, so they must be horrible alcoholics and they were going to die. The school called my parents, the guidance counselor was concerned, etc. This was the early 90s so all those “a glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away” studies hadn’t happened yet.

    In terms of class, my mother had a lot of rules for “what was done.” When I went north to a liberal arts college I discovered that a lot more people there had the same rules my mother did and I became complacent, thinking her way was “normal” there. Then in a course on classism we were going around the room talking about the secret and not-so-secret ways we categorize people. Most of them were obvious: brand name clothes, size and location of house, the way they talk, but later when I was in my prof’s office hours I mentioned what I thought was another one: “Like how dressing girls under 12 in two piece bathing suits is tacky blah, blah, blah.” My poor prof, who was the mother of two small girls, blushed so red. “What? But they are so much easier to get on and off!” It was a great learning moment given the topic, but I am still embarrassed when I think about it and the way I just assumed my mother’s definition of tacky (which was code for white trash) was universal even while saying it was classist.

  92. We all had a lot of allergies, so even as an adult I’m mildly surprised when a home only has one Kleenex box. We had one in every room. Also at some point I discovered that some people think you need to excuse yourself to another room to blow your nose. If I’d done that as a kid, I’d have missed 40% of my school hours!

    1. This. I’m an adult and if I left the room every time I had to blow my nose I’d miss basically EVERYTHING. It’s not delicate and I try leave the room for company, but at least on the whole my constant interruptions are minimized. My studio apartment has 3 tissue boxes out, and 5 more in the cupboard.

  93. Waaaay late and not family-related, but I felt horrible one time in law school when a friend said he’d screwed up an interview by mispronouncing the name of a law firm, Dechert, as Day-share because he thought it was French. My stepfather worked there for 20 years and I’d pronounced it correctly (Deckert) my whole life, but I hadn’t known my friend was interviewing there. And although he researched it, he hadn’t heard it spoken. Of course I had a guilt attack that I should somehow have known he was interviewing there and didn’t know how to say it, although our on-campus interview schedules were so convoluted I had no clue who was going where.

    A funny family one: all of my family’s pets have real names but are also called “Boo,” and multiple pets in the same household are collectively referred to as “the boos.” So when “boo” started meaning “significant other” people were very confused when I said “well, my big boo did this, and my little boo did that.” Like, how many do you have?! Also, my family says “cack!” if they find something funny, like an old-school version of LOL.

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