Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sibling secret languages...

I've always been fascinated by the secret language of twins (and siblings born close together). My mother had her daughters in pairs. My older sisters are 8 and 10 years older than I am and there's a two year age difference between me and my younger sister Katie.

Katie and I had what I think could be considered a secret language, or at least a language that meant something to us but that other people couldn't understand. We still use it from time to time. Katie used to sing a song whenever she had to use the restroom (because my mother thought it was crass to say "I have to pee"...or worse), so Katie sang "skidamarinkadinkadoodle" (I have no idea how one would spell that - it started when she was 3 or 4). It came from a song my grandmother used to sing to us. Later, we shortened it to just "doodle."

We used to make up meanings for words we heard and liked but didn't know what the definition was. At around 3 and 5 years old, we still took baths together and made shampoo horns from our hair and called each other "three-horned butler" and giggled hysterically. "Butler" was a funny word. Probably because it has the word "but" (or "butt") in it. I remember a moving day when we left Guam and we were playing between the boxes in the driveway. One was marked "sewing" (my mother sewed back then) and my sister spelled it out loud and asked me what it meant. I told her it was our "sea wings" - the rafts we used to use in the ocean water pool in our neighborhood. I just made it up, because even at 5 years old, I didn't like to admit I didn't know something. I could spell "together" when I was 5, but apparently not "sewing." Others: "Button jam" was a signal to flee. I can't explain that if I tried. "Peapie" meant "cute," later shortened to "peep."

My older sister Kristin and I still call each other "seester" instead of "sister." I don't know where that came from. She must have started that one. She also calls Katie "hoop" because her middle name is "hope." I can't think of any good examples of Kristin and Karen languages because the only thing I really remember about them is a lot of knock-down, drag out fights before Karen went to live with my grandmother when I was 6 or 7.

I love my sisters and that we're all still so close as adults. Unlike some of my friends, I actually look forward to holidays and family gatherings and the time we can spend together. They make me laugh like no-one else can. They were there for the whole show of our childhood and an outsider will never be able to understand us like we understand each other. They're the part of my "weird little world" that I didn't get to choose, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

And today is my nephew's third birthday (my sister Katie's son and the only boy in our family). He's our peep. And if Katie doesn't get his first haircut soon, he will also be our three-horned butler.


  1. My sister and I call each other "WSS" for Wicked StepSister. And call ice cream "feef" because I called it fee-feem when I was too little to say it. We have lots of little things like that, which just makes us closer since no one else experienced our shared childhood so exactly and never will. It must really suck to be an only child.

  2. yes! my younger sister and i had all kinds of inside jokes and noises. I'm currently reading Caucasia by Danzy Senna and the two sisters speak Elemeno, a nonsensical language named after their favorite letters. Adorable!


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