Family-isms and ” Flag Dinners” 

In my ‘Tween book, Bumbling Bea, I wanted to explore “family-isms”. Beatrice’s younger and only brother loves to name family dinners after flags.  No joke!  Edmund LOVES flags.  I didn’t even know there were people who studied flags.  I mean they are pretty cool and all that, but study flags for a living?

Boy, was I wrong! People who study the history, symbols and uses for flags are called vexiollogists. (I know, I had never heard of that, either). And…people who love flags just for the sheer fun of it are vexillophiles. (How do you pronounce that? Is the “x” silent or something?) That would be Edmund. Although Edmund is a fictional character, I bet he would own several tee shirts with flags printed on them.

 Knowing Edmund’s fervor for flags and that he is a ten year old boy (ten year old boys don’t care too much about how many times in a row they wear their favorites shirt), the shirts would be thread bare, frayed on the sleeves and really faded.  That is a boy’s dream.

But back to flag dinners.  Edmund names family dinners after flags because he thinks it’s funny and it sort of distracts him and Beatrice from whatever food their mother prepares.  Beatrice’s mom is a great lady, but not much of a cook.  On top of that, she is a vegan which the kids haven’t fully accepted.  Beatrice and Edmund are subjected to strange meals all the time.

My mom used to make strange meals, too.  I remember my mother feeding us black eye peas (yuck), brussel sprouts–the frozen kind (double yuck) , baked fish, beets and corn. In Edmund’s world, that’s a black/white/red /yellow/green flag or the flag of Zimbabwe.  Now isn’t saying, “It’s a Zimbabwe dinner” more fun than listing the food?  I think so, too.

The phrase “flag dinner” is what I call a “family-ism”.  You know, those are phrase or words your family uses for things.  For instance, some families have their own word for the paper covered wire ties that come with black garbage bags. You use them to tie up the bag?  We call them “twistie ties”.  What do you call yours?

There are lots of them. My family calls a poor theatrical production a “knee squeezer”. A  knee squeezer is a performance of a musical or play that isn’t very good.  We coined the phrase many years ago when my daughter and I were attending a play that was really weak.  It was a small theater and many people sitting around us knew us well.  We knew we couldn’t leave in the middle of the performance because everyone would see us cut out early, so we began squeezing each other’s knees when the play was dragging or someone would overact.  You get the idea.  So, now whenever we see a movie, play or musical that we don’t care for, we just say, “Boy, what a knee squeezer” and everyone understands.

How about you?  Here are some other family-isms.  Let’s see if you can figure out what they mean:

  • Eraser noogies
  • It’s soaking
  • Farewell party
  • No smokin’ on the tram
  • Don’t come back here

Let’s talk about Shakespeare next time.  He’s Michiko’s favorite playwright.

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