My Personal Lexicon

I wouldn’t be who I am without Dr. Seuss.

When I was a little girl, I would walk into the hushed temple of my small town Carnegie Library and make a beeline straight to the Dr. Seuss shelf. I lived in hope that there would be a new Dr. Seuss book every single time I went to the library. There weren’t enough of them to satisfy my craving for the absurd, playful, language-loving stuff he made.

One of the many things I gleaned from his writing was the malleable nature of language. Words were toys. Words could be invented. Words could tickle the mind until the belly giggled.

Thanks to Theodor Geisel I’ve been inventing my own lexicon for much of my life. Here are a few of my favorites.

I call weak coffee “weasel pee.” This phrase came about during the Women’s Leadership Revival Tour I co-led with Margaret Wheatley. One of us spoke these words at the first taste of dreadful hotel coffee one morning. I can’t recall which of us said it, but the peals of laughter that followed its utterance echo in my memory.

A “mess o’ breakfast” is a concoction of lots of veggies with a small amount of egg and cheese. It’s a kind of reverse omelet. My favorite “mess’o’s” include chicken sausage, zucchini, kale, corn, mushrooms, potatoes, and onions.

I call my former spouse, John, my “wasband.” I didn’t coin this word myself. I originally heard it from my friend Teresa and I don’t know where she found it. It’s the perfect name for this now-friend whom I love to pieces. We are still searching for a parallel title for me. Before our divorce was finalized, he enjoyed calling me his “future former wife.” Nothing has emerged to replace that one.

John is responsible for another of my favorite words – “frimpy.” It’s used to describe a dress or skirt that is playful and short. Perhaps it is a kind of conjunction of the words “frilly” and “skimpy.”

I enjoy calling early morning “the butt-crack of dawn,” although I don’t recall where I first heard it.

My dear ones are often called “Yummyhead” (thanks, Catherine Wilson). Women friends are likely to be called “Girlie” as well. That one came from Grandma Mead, a family friend from my childhood. I always loved when she called me that with a twinkle in her brown eyes.

Beloved friend, Maren Showkeir, started our enduring friendship with these words, “I have the biggest nonsexual crush on you!” She recently told me that she didn’t make it up and can’t remember who did. Whatever its source, it’s become a favorite go-to phrase when I meet new people I adore.

I’m delighted that the next generation is making its presence known in my personal lexicon. My great-niece, Amaris, called one of her favorite foods “mushies” when she was small. Now and forever, I call mushrooms by that name. Her little brother, Lyric, named sparkling water “spicy water.” That’s just too perfect not to use.

Tell me, what words inhabit your personal lexicon?

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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9 Responses to My Personal Lexicon

  1. Quanita says:

    Nervacited = nervous + excited
    My two kids came up with that one.

  2. Marjorie Huebner says:

    It’s not ideal, but I like it, because it is already a word. I call a short nap a “snap.” And now I can’t recall where I read an article about a man who was creating new words! Mostly ones to describe emotions that we don’t have words for…..I’ll try to locate it.

  3. Romig, Craig says:


    I am still using my voice! I have taught four half day CPR and AED classes for our sister coop’s and I think using my voice differently, humorously and seriously, has been helpful. As far as words go….ABCD goldfish? LMNO goldfish, oh MR sunfish!? Those and many more silly little things were passed onto me from my mother. She was a Librarian for over 40 years!

    There are many many more but I will not bother you with them! Thanks and have a great day!

    “Enthusiasm is contagious, and so is not having enthusiasm”!

    Craig A. Romig
    Safety Technician
    620-339-4974 Office
    620-338-2005 Cell
    620-339-4975 Fax

  4. Patricia Wilms says:

    Greeting Barbara, Thinking about wifebeen for the counterpart to was band. Thoughts? Imagining you Healthy, happy and actualizing your desires! Tricia

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. What a fun post, Barbara. I was delighted this past spring when our choral director had us warm up to a tune she had created for “Oscar’s only ostrich oiled an orange owl today”, from Dr. Suess’ ABC.

    I have heard the word Erstwife as the female counterpart to Wasband…

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