Personal Expressions and Private Jokes From Childhood

Last night my son was covering his young sister’s books for her. Unfortunately, I noticed one of the covers was put on upside down. I told him he was “such a Jimbo!” His name is not Jimbo, James or Jim but that is an expressions my group of friends used as teens. One of our gang was named Jimmy and he was a constant goof off. We got in the habit of calling every boneheaded thing any of us did a “Jimbo Move” or called the person simply “a Jimbo”. My parents, siblings and kids also picked up this expression and so have their SO. Obviously if I slip and use that joke outside the family, no one would understand it.

We also have a funny poker move. When someone has a good hand or wants to bluff, they will allow their hand to hover over their chips as soon as they look at their cards. This was something an old friend did that has developed into a standing joke.

The last thing I can think of is when family visits family and we ring the doorbell, we push it in and hold it until it is answered. In other words…ding…waiting…dong. Between the ding and the dong, the response is always “Come in Dougy!” This was also a friend who used to do this. A friend none of us has seen in over twenty years.

Does anyone else have any of these personal jokes or expressions that are private and would make no sense to people outside of their circle?

When I was younger a friend bought a new camera. All of a sudden he thought he was Richard Avedon. We drove to White Rock Lake to break his camera in where he started taking “wildlife” pictures. Ducks swimming, ducks walking, ducks eating bread.
When he anxiously opened the envelope of developed photos he was disappointed to find uninteresting candid shots of ducks. I laughed my ass off.

Now any bad or ‘shouldn’t have wasted the film’ shot is called a ‘duck’ picture, regardless of who I’m talking to.

Montana: The Pointless State

We were coming up with a list of state mottoes, and for some reason no one could find Montana’s. Further discussion revealed that none of us had ever been to Montana or known anyone from Montana, and that it probably didn’t exist really. So we named it The Pointless State and resolved to move there when we grew up and run a cooperative cattle ranch. 'Cause that’s what you’d do in The Pointless State, I guess.

Hey, we were like 8 at the time. And for years afterward we could make one another giggle by putting on our best Beef Council Announcer voice (“Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner”) and saying, “Montana: The Pointless State.”

Oh, smooth move, ExLax. Lighten up on your son. Cool your jets.


When I was a kid, we had a blue velveteen chair in the family room. Someone in our family wrote “user friendly” on the seat. Who actually did it has been a controversy in our family for years; no one will admit to writing it. I personally think it was my Dad. He thinks I did it - although at that age, would I really use that term? The writing was in red pen, which my sister admits to doing - but she swears that it was written by someone else in pencil before she traced it. It’s a family mystery, never to be solved.

As my dad says, though - “It definitely was a user friendly chair”.


I use Fuckin’ Egg. When my brother was in the hospital 20 years ago, massively drugged up after he rolled his Willys, we were all like, “Fuckin’ A, man! That must have been some accident!” And that’s when he told us that when he was little he always thought it was fuckin’ egg and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be fucking an egg. Now I always say Fuckin’ Egg!

When I was in high school I decided I preferred ''pig in my imagination" to “figment of my imagination” and I still use it today.

Beans in my sock.

I was about 3, (yes this is one of my earlier memories) I think, and had one of those “Baby Beans” dolls that had the little plastic granules for stuffing. We were visiting my grandmother and I kept taking my right sock off my foot, turning it inside out, shaking it, putting the sock back on. My mother and everyone wondered what on earth I was doing. I kept telling my mom I had beans in my sock. No one understood.

It was a few years later before I could adequtely explain the “my foot’s asleep” sensation struck me as similar to the prickly feeling inside my beanbag doll. Just last week my mom got up off the couch and winced. “Beans in my sock” she said, and hopped around on one foot until the numbness and tingling had gone away.

Whenever we see someone get thumped on TV we say “Gosh Bill, what a punch” from an old Enid Blyton cassette we listened to on long car journeys.

“Beans in my sock” That’s great!

In my family, we have “Leaving the chicken out” to mean that someone messed up telling a joke. It started when my mom told a joke about a farmer taking a chicken into a movie theater (punchline: This one’s eating my popcorn!). But my mom told it without mentioning the chicken even once. So if you screw up the joke, we tell you, “You left the chicken out.”

My sister and I have since spread the expression to Ithaca College and UNC-Greensboro, respectively.

Just Grandma. Yep, that was her name.

I thought we called her that because she lived alone. Who lives in that house? Just Grandma.

My brother gave me the skinny on it once, though. He asked her “What should we call you? Grandma? Great grandma? Grandma Sundblom?” The answer was “Oh, just grandma.”

27 years after her death, we still call her that.

In my family the expression, “Three days,” was used as the stock answer for any question asking for the length of time something was going to take.

This stems from when my brother and I were kids and my parents drove us from Kalamazoo, MI to Orlando FL to Disney World. My parents figured the drive with rest stops, and finding camping spots every night, would take 3 days to get there and 3 days to get back. So every time we asked them how long would it take to get there, the answer was always, “Three days.”

This stock answer stayed with the family through many other trips.
Me: Dad, how long is the flight to Denver?
Dad: Three days.

Brother: Mom, how long will we be at the grocery store?
Mom: Three days.

Me: Mom, how long until dinner?
Mom: Three days.

Anything that’s superlative in my family is commented on by saying “That’s a beautiful dedachazzle Uncle Bill!”

It stems from watching bull fights on TV when I was young (yes, they showed bull fights on TV). The move when the bull charges the matador and goes through the cape has a technical name that always sounded like “dedachazzled” to me. Uncle Bill was what we called my grandmother’s third husband, and he’s who we always watched bull fighting with.

We also say “See you on the stagecoach, see you on the wagon train” when going to bed.

“Do X or I’ll rip your arm off and beat you over the head with the bloody end of it!”

–My dad, minister.

“Tell Gomer I said hey.”
It’s shorthand for telling any of the family on either side of the conversation that the person you are talking to said hello. It’s from Andy Griffith. Someone is going to end up with it on his/her gravestone.

“Park it Ruby”
It’s from some friend of my mom and dad’s, maybe even from my grandparents’ time, where the husband said to his wife “Park it Ruby!” after a particularly bad parking job. “Park it Ruby!” is usually said with the same tone of voice as “way to go dumbass.”

“Park it Ruby” reminds me of another:

My grandmother’s name was Ruby, and when she would get on Uncle Bill’s case (see above) he’d say “Ruby, your curlers are too tight.” So now, when someone’s getting a little agitated and needs to calm down we tell them “Your curlers are too tight.”

I love that!

I may have to steal that one. :wink:

A 2-part setup required for this one:

  1. As in many good midwestern families, whenever we had spaghetti for dinner, the green can of Kraft “Grated Parmesan Cheese” was always on the table.

  2. When my youngest sister was 6, her first-grade class went on a field trip somewhere, and this was her introduction to the “permission slip,” which my parents signed to grant their permission for her to go on the trip.

So…One night at dinner, Littlest Sister spent a few extra seconds staring at the can of parmesan at the table, then looked up quizzically and asked “What’s Granted Permission Cheese?”

Of course, it’s been “Granted Permission Cheese” ever since.

I’ve posted this before, so apologies if you’ve read it already!

In my family, if you are given a wrapped gift, the contents of which is immediately apparent, despite the wrapping (books and CDs are good examples of this), the recipient of the gift asks, “I wonder what it I-I-I-I-IS?” with the word “is” sounding like a horse whinny.

The origin is one Christmas when my mom found for my horse-collecting sister a really cool old toy horse on wheels. It was too awkward to wrap, so mom just draped a sheet over it, disguising its shape not at all. One of my other sister’s friends saw it and asked, “I wonder what it I-I-I-I-IS?”

What cracks me up is to hear my son doing this! He, of course, has no idea of the origin. It’s just a silly thing that his mom and aunts do.

One that my mother insists she’ll send to Reader’s Digest, someday:

Back when I was a young’un, we were heading off on vacation to somewhere – I don’t remember where, and it’s not important anyway. What matters is the area we were traveling through.

Farm country.

So there we are, zooming along on the rural highway, and the pervasive stench of fertilizer streams into the car. Now, I’d recently learned that manure is the appropriate name for horse and cattle shit, and got you in less trouble than calling it what it quite obviously was.

I wrinkle up my nose, wave my hands in front of my face, and in a loud voice announce, “Wow, it sure smells like horse remover out here!”

Mom damn near drove off the road laughing.

To this day, if anyone in my family smells manure, and I’m anywhere nearby (or, in one case, reachable by cell phone!), it’s invariably mentioned that the horse remover sure is strong today.

It’s contagious, too. My son got a whiff once, and wrinkled up his face. I asked him what he was making a face at. “Horse remover, daddy!” He was about four.

I blame his grandmother.