by Leigh Crews
Even if you never saw an episode of Happy Days, chances are you know what “Jumped the Shark” means, because it’s an idiom that went viral. It started as word picture that radio host Jon Hein used on his web site to stick a pin in the moment any popular show hits the skids. He offered as the classic example a scene in Happy Days when Fonzie actually did water ski jump over a shark. Idioms are universal. Keep an eye on it, hit the books, even stick a pin in it and hit the skids all have a figurative meaning. Some are impossible to decipher if you don’t understand the figurative meaning.
Just as every language has its idioms, I’ll wager every FAMILY has its own collection of these codes, created in the family micro-culture and passed down from generation to generation. These expressions confuse everyone else but the meaning is plain in family conversations. Idioms create unity, connection and inclusion. For your reading pleasure, I present some Crews family idioms. Laugh, cry or shake your head, it’s all in fun. Post a comment and share (and explain) some idioms of your own!
- Gnaw the Fence—Wolf, a beautiful blue heeler who adopted us, was a bit, um, high strung. He lived in our fenced back yard, happily herding our other dogs or sleeping on top of the dog house, Snoopy style. Wolf had a thing for the UPS truck. He knew when UPS was in the neighborhood long before the truck hit our street. Wolf would “go postal” (another idiom!), whining and whirling and whipping himself into a frenzy, kicking up dirt and grass until he finally would gnaw the fence in his attempt to confront the truck. Extreme aggravation that threatens to break the shackles of self control is politely referred to as “gnawing the fence”.
- Pulling a Gag—When my niece, the first grandchild, was learning to talk, she couldn’t pronounce “grandmom”, so she began calling my mother “Gaggy”, later shortened to “Gag”. The OTHER grandmother was never a Gag, which should be instructive. I don’t remember all the details but the essential point is that the name was so egregious, yet aligned to my mom’s choleric personality that it stuck. My mother was not docile and her tantrums are family legend. When someone melts down in a spectacular way they are Pulling a Gag.
- Fuzzy Butt Salute—Another family pet, our prissy gray kitty Church, was your stereotypical diva cat: aloof, emotionally detached and entitled. By day, she napped on top of the armoire or in our closet. By night, she got friendlier and would grant us the privilege of rubbing her head or scratching her chin. When she was through with you and your privileges were revoked, she would turn away and flick her fluffy tail in your face as she sashayed away. Dismissing someone with the flick of a hand (the human equivalent) is known in the Crews household as the Fuzzy Butt Salute.
- Sharing the Brain—There is no doubt that Jeff is our children’s father, not only because of physical resemblances, but also in the way they all think. It’s as if there is one brain for the four of them. It is very common for two or more of the male members of the family to say the exact same thing at the exact same time or at different times when responding to the same bit of news. Proximity is not required. I have been on the phone with one when another is in the room. I will say something and it will spark a common remark that I will hear in each ear in two voices. It can make your head spin. When two people think alike they are “sharing the brain”.
- Black Eyed—I think that our cat, Church, was a supermodel in a former life. She was always posed for a photo op. She couldn’t drink out of plastic—it gave her acne. Her food preference was fish and cantaloupe. She held her weight at a petite 6 lbs for 17 years, even if it meant the occasional purge. Like some troubled supermodels, she had her addictions. Catnip, nerf balls and laser pointers were major turn-ons. If Jeff so much as touched the laser pointer, Church’s eyes would go completely black, fully dilated and she would coo excitedly in anticipation as she crouched and wiggled her butt, preparing to spring. An extreme state of positive anticipation is referred to as being “black eyed”.
- Ren Face—My children are a product of the nineties. The decade of bag phones, dial up internet, and Ren & Stimpy. If you were fortunate enough to miss it, Ren & Stimpy was a cartoon on Nickelodeon whose main characters were Ren, a hot-tempered, intellectual poser Chihuahua, and Stimpy, and dim-witted but good-natured fat cat. When Stimpy would say something completely out-in-space, Ren would get a look of total blankness on his face. “Deer in the headlights” without the fear. My kids were able to focus on a video game to the exclusion of any other stimulus: my voice, the phone, natural disasters, sirens, etc. If you are focusing that hard on your game, you have nothing left for facial expression. “Ren faced”, then, is how you may look right now, as you read this.