The day we adopted a new word into our family

The best words in life, no matter in what language, are the family words.

Words that families came up with and are only used within that family, maybe even going a few generations back.

I grew up in a loving family where sometimes we were out of food. Not that we had to go to a food pantry, but it wasn’t just shopping day yet and the fridge became empty.

Bread, eggs and vegetables were always present, so those nights we had ‘liflaf’ sandwiches: slices of bread with a fried egg and decorated with whatever was available: lettuce, tomato, bell peppers, cucumbers or pickles, you name it.

I honestly always thought that it was a real word, but upon Googling in (in multiple languages!) it turns out that sometimes the word is being described as a not so great tasting piece of food that could use some salt, and sometimes more lovingly as a small bite to eat and even in relation to compliments and ‘loving your life’. Interesting!

breakfast-1140880_1920Well, some things you just take over from your parents and although I barely ever have an empty refrigerator, we all love the sandwiches with eggs and all fixings. When the kids were little, I sometimes would make an open face sandwich with eggs, decorated as the wings of a butterfly, with a cucumber body and bell-pepper antennas. I am also known for making school bus sandwiches, airplane, heart and flower sandwiches.

Whatever the shape (nowadays I just slap a fried egg on a slice of bread, with a leave of lettuce underneath it and a dot of ketchup on top), we still call it ‘liflaf’ sandwiches.

Another family word is ‘Dutch-lish’. This is a relatively new word and means exactly what you think: words that are compiled partly in Dutch and partly in English, or adding a Dutch word in an otherwise English sentence. I am most prone to use Dutch-lish, although whoever is calling their siblings or father for ‘having coffee’ in the morning, is using Dutch-lish by calling loudly: “Guys, koffie drinken!!”


That’s right, we have breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also ‘koffie drinken’. Around 10:30 am in the weekends and vacations, we gather around our central dining table and have ‘koffie drinken’. The kids will drink juice, milk or lemonade and we, the parents, will drink coffee. We will have a small special treat with it: a few cookies, a ‘speculaasje’ (Dutch windmill cookie) or a slice of ‘ontbijtkoek’ (a sort of honey cake that I recently found at my favorite store Rooster Brothers in Ellsworth).

As we haven’t found a good word for ‘koffie drinken’ we just kept it at that. We all know what it means and if the kids have friends over, they will join us and like this Dutch custom.

Recently I have added a new word to the family dictionary: mama-nade.

It happened when the kids were asking if they should have milk after dinner when we were watching a movie or if they could have lemonade. My husband was in a good mood and told them they could have lemonade. He asked if I wanted some lemonade. Without thinking I answered:

“I’d prefer some Mama-nade, please!”

Even although we had never used this word before, without asking my husband knew exactly what this was and poured me a glass of Malbec.

Now every time I have a glass of wine, the kids will ask me if I like my ‘mama-nade’. (And yes, I usually do!)A_glass_of_red_wine

Do you have special family words? Comment below if you like to share.

And feel free to pour yourself a glass of mama-nade!

Edith Schriever

About Edith Schriever

I am a Maine-igrant from the Netherlands. While my scientist husband fell in love with the beautiful research institute here, I fell in love with Mount Desert Island. Mountains, ocean, wild life, peace and quiet! A culture change? Yes, a bit. Americans are not at all like the Jerry Springer audience I saw on TV when living in the Netherlands, well, at least not everyone. Portions are big and toilets small and low; I have learned to embrace the cultural differences.