The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Piggies & puddies

One of the things I've always loved about the English language is its flexibility; its capacity to be moulded and adapted by the people who use it. Of course, it's used in an infinite variety of ways across the globe, but also at a more personal level, everyone has their own idiolect; their own unique range of vocabulary and style of speaking.

Last weekend, we spent a few days away with my parents and in the car on the way back, my boyfriend was commenting on the language we use together as a family; our familiolect, if you like. Every family has their own collection of in-jokes and phrases, picked up over the years. Some come from identifiable sources - my family grew up with Monty Python and various words and phrases (any reference to varieties of cheese or dead parrots, for example) trigger automatic responses. Others have become lost in the mists of time.

We also have our own vocabulary. Within my family, when we're together, we refer to feet as "pigs" or "piggies". It's a usage I'm sure is familiar to many people from the children's rhyme -"This little piggy went to market"- played, of course, using a child's toes and so, by extension, used to mean toes or feet. But we've also always referred to hands as "puds" or "puddies" (to rhyme with 'buddy') going back through my grandmother. For years, I'd presumed it was made up, until I finally came across it in the Oxford English Dictionary:

pud (noun)
a child's word for: the hand or the forefoot of an animal; a little hand or paw. Now

One thing's for sure though - I know exactly where my inability to speak without using my puddies comes from - like mother, like daughter ...

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