The language used within families is often rich and idiosyncratic, and mine no exception. I’m just going to give a snapshot here of the mixture of cockney slang, Yiddish words, and invention on one side of the family.
Schmendrick was my Dad’s favourite Yiddish word. When my brother or I complained the reply was often “Don’t be a schmendrick.”
He would call us, with affection and humour, Schmendrick One and Schmendrick Two. He invented the adjective “Schmendracious” and the noun “Schmendracity”. Girls were “Schmeryls”. When I brought his granddaughter round, a toddler, she was “Schmendrelina”.
The time a friend and I were watching the John Lennon documentary Imagine, my Dad and Mum came in and stood watching a little of it. Dad referred to the pre-bag period as “before he went schmendrick.”
Everything was kettles and plates and Saint Louis Blues and the “lovely currant”. They enjoyed language, playing with it, the sounds… They swam and splashed in it, drank it in and spat it out. They were greatly amused by my Grandad’s accidental American state, OH-HEE-HO. Dad turned “skewiff” into the more expansive “skaywohwf”.
Dad would generally only use long words in speech if he thought the sound was expressive. The only one I remember him using repeatedly was for two singers he didn’t like, “lugubrious”. I can understand why he didn’t like my wayward croons.
My Dad and my Grandad used relatively, and I emphasize relatively, more “O” sounds than “AAAAAAHH”s and the harsh back of the throat sounds. My uncle uses more dissonance. His favourite swear word is “bleatin’ “, d transformed to t. His voice is more like me Nan’s, although hers was generally quieter.
Regional lexicons and accents, with the exception of those more closely associated with the monarchy, are still regarded as somehow “lesser” albeit they make up most of our speech. Standardisation has its place but too often it has been used to curb working class and outsider modes of expression and to reinforce discrimination. A child is a linguistic genius in comparison to us idiot learner adults. There ain’t good reason to discourage any poor soul from idiomatic expression in the appropriate contexts, especially creative writing. Dodgy policing of this kind is something I’m going to try to be more savvy about, learn better when to keep schtum. Be less schmendrick.