Quoof and other family nonsense
Tess Wheeler

My dad made up words all the time that became part of our family vocabulary. When he suddenly died, when I was not quite seventeen, I wrote them all down. My oldest brother loves to tell the story of being around 10 or 11 and eating at a friend’s house. He asked the friend’s father to pass the parmezoni cheezi, which is what we called it at home, thanks to my father. My brother came home demanding to know why he didn’t know it was called parmesan cheese. We still sometimes refer to a dime as a dimky, a nickel as a kneegle with the k pronounced, a knife as a knifke (once again, pronouncing the k both times), a spoon as a schpoondele, his socks were stockinkeles, and he would take a shovravitch instead of a shower. Some of his words were clearly influenced by Yiddish and German (German was his native language, but he immigrated here as a kid and was fluent in English with no discernible accent). He would ask us if we wanted a glazele zeltzy (or a glass of seltzer). He also loved to give us eetzy creetzy for dessert (ice cream). After my brother’s incident with the parmezoni cheezi, we all ended up knowing the correct way to say these words when not in our family!