If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a weird little voice or a mix of random words or sayings that you only use around your family, friends or partner.
If you’ve ever been embarrassed about that, then don’t worry — you’re not alone in it. Apparently, there’s a whole term for it — ‘familect’. A 2022 YouGov study shows that 39% of us use our own secret vocabulary with our friends and family.
Why does it happen? According to a piece in The Atlantic, invented words, pet names, in-jokes, and personal memes “swirl and emerge from the mess of lives spent in close quarters.”
So, it’s a natural part of living together and bonding as a family. Cute!
Cynthia Gordon, an associate linguistics professor at Georgetown University and the author of Making Meanings, Creating Family, told the Atlantic: “Any group of people that has extended contact over time and sees itself as distinctive is going to have some specialised uses of language.”
Sometimes, though, when your family or partner suddenly stops using your ‘familect’, it can be a shock to the system.
One TikTok creator shared about her experience with ‘familect’ in a video, where she said: “Sometimes I’m with my partner or close friends and I’ll all of a sudden be like, ‘Wait, are you mad at me?’.
“And they’re like, ‘No, what are you talking about?’ I’m not mad at you’. I’ll realise that the reason I thought they were mad is that they’ve suddenly dropped our little dialect that we use together and they’re speaking to me normally and that makes me assume there’s a problem.”
The concept obviously resonated with people in the comments section, as they chimed in with comments like: “I think this is one of the hardest parts of my breakup. Losing the ‘dialect’ we had. I never speak that way anymore.”
Another person added, “My husband and I have so many made-up words that we use. Our poor daughter is going to grow up thinking they are normal words.”
Familect can be a beautiful thing, representing your closeness and love for each other in a way that others might not be able to comprehend — literally.