Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
For Your Journal: Writing Prompt


Do you keep a journal - or wish you could get one started? Literary Mama wants to help.

Three times a month, I'll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook and write for 10 minutes. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation - just write. Then let the writing simmer and your mind wander for awhile.

And who knows? Maybe you'll discover a character for your next short story or a theme for a narrative essay. Or maybe you'll use the idea to create a special holiday card or photo album for someone in your family. However you decide to use your journal entry, I know you'll enjoy re-reading it months--and years--down the road.

Also: Every three months, I'll accept submissions and choose a few pieces to post for LM readers to enjoy.

Last January, "trend" (verb, to exhibit a burst of online buzz) was voted Most Likely to Succeed by the American Dialect Society. Previous winners--which sounded odd five and 10 years ago and are now part of our everyday lexicon---include: "notebook PC" (1990), "rollerblade" (1991), "snail mail" (1992), "like" with a form of the verb be to indicate speech or though (1993), "World Wide Web," "WWW," ´"the Web" (1995), "drive-by" (1996), "DVD" (1997), "e-" (1998), "dot-com" (1999).

This list got me thinking about the weird words that float around my home. We call them "Converse-isms." We use these made-up words nearly every day, but they make no sense when used in conversations outside the family. All three of our kids had several enlightening conversations with friends and teachers before they fully understood when, and with whom, these words could be used.

Take, for example, the phrase, "turning on the oven." Nothing special, right? But when my mom announces this detail while preparing a meal--and the three or four meals that follow during a weekend visit--it doesn't take long for the phrase to morph into "setting the table," "turning on the TV," and "washing dishes" for the rest us.

The laughter these words and phrases have generated has played an important role in strengthening our family and so, for that reason alone, I'll continue to note our weird words and phrases.

And who knows? I see Merriam-Webster has an Open Dictionary with several lists of user-submitted words. Maybe, some day, one of our Converse-isms will end up there. I just hope they never make the list of words that should be banished, which was also released last January. "Viral" and "epic" top that list of nominations from the general public.

Here are some of our Converse-isms and their definitions:

  • Crasnitch: noun, a substitute for the word "thing"
  • Denny : noun, the piece of dessert in the center of the pan; the prized piece
  • Grunk: noun, one who eats like a barbarian
  • Varjack: noun, a substitute for the word "thing;" also refers to one who goofs around, a screwball, as in "Don't be a varjack."
  • Goomba: noun, same as above
  • Zoober: noun, a tickling sensation created by placing one's lips on another's stomach and blowing; boys may also describe this as a mouth fart (sudden expulsion of air through closed lips, written as "Pfbtpfbtpfbt" or "Brrrrr")
  • Journal Entry: What made-up words dominate your family conversations? Write a dictionary definition for each one. Then, re-create a scene and conversation in which it was used.

    Karna Converse is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She and her husband are parents to three young adults. Karna is a former blog editor, senior editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Literary Mama.

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    Karna, This journaling prompt had me smiling, since I'm sure every family has their own "converse-isms". They would make for a humorous if not insightful journal entry, perhaps revealing the intimacy and closeness we can have in our families in contrast to our public conversation. I have chosen your post: For Your Journal: Using "Converse-isms", as the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 6/22/11 for all things journaling on Twitter. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my blog, Refresh with Dawn Herring. It will also be linked in Refresh Journal, my email newsletter. You're welcome to join us for #JournalChat Live on Thursdays at 4 p.m. CST (2 PST) for all things journaling. My @JournalChat account on Twitter is for all things journaling. Thanks again for giving us a peek into your families "Converse-isms" and encouraging us to focus on our own. Be refreshed, Dawn Herring
    Karma, I just realized the term you used, "Converse-isms" is in connection with your last name. So I won't use that term in the title. I'll use "Family-isms" instead in the title instead. Be refreshed, Dawn Herring
    This piece of info is very useful for me, thank you!
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