In one of my favourite Star Trek: Next Generation episodes, Captain Jean Luc Picard finds himself on a planet with the captain of a Tamarian ship. The other captain's language seems to be gibberish but, as time goes by, Picard realizes that the Tamarian race use metaphor as a way to communicate. It is a great concept, if not overly practical.
A simple matter of asking someone to pass the salt would end up like, "Darmak at El-Adrell when the food was bland." If the other person had a poor grasp of history you could end up with pepper!
That having been said, I have noticed that families, to a lesser extent, tend to develop their own metaphorical language based on shared experiences. This becomes a shorthand to express ideas across without having to go into great detail It's also a great way to communicate without letting eavesdroppers know what you're talking about!
For example, if my brother were to say, "I just got a Wayne Hargrave," I'd know exactly what he meant even if no one else did. Back in the day, on the mean streets of Scarberia, we had a childhood friend whose parents used to give him a wicked buzz-cut. This was when long hair and mullets were all the rage. Poor Wayne's scalp revealing coif stood out and became synonymous with bad hair cuts. Today, if I told people I'd just had a Wayne Hargrave, they'd think I was speaking about some new cocktail. Comprehension depends on context.
With Lydia, Mitchell and Sylvia, there is a completely different set of metaphors, as well as cryptic acronyms, which create our own family-speak. A recent example is ‘Aflac.' This is our way saying that a joke or comment may be lacking in political correctness or is too soon to a terrible event. The origin is from Gilbert Gottfried's tweets made shortly after the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami. Those comments, which he intended to be funny, got him fired as the voice of the Aflac duck. Now, whenever one of us says something of questionable taste we can count on the others to call out, "Aflac!"
Having a secret language does come in handy. While shopping we can critique the items on sale without offending anyone. This is especially useful whenever we go to one of Lydia's favourite furniture stores. Her quest for an object to place in the alcove over the hall closet is never-ending. We've looked at hundreds of items which are either too big, too small, or too expensive. So far we haven't found anything that's just right. For some reason my suggestion of a large model of two tie-fighters flying through the Death Star's trench continues to be ignored!
When Lydia holds up yet another mass-produced work of art and asks, "What do you think about this?"
I'll answer, "OPC." I don't need to whisper because no one else has a clue what this means. "It's all OPC in here," I'll add. If said with a smile the staff assume I'm being complimentary. And who knows? They may be right, but I'm not telling. That's our secret. See? We can still keep some secrets in Halifax.
Kevin Toal is a freelance writer who hopes he didn't just commit an Aflac.