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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vocabulary Lesson #1: Cats

In our family, we have an unusual vocabulary. We make up our own words. And after awhile we forget that other people don’t use those words, because they so specifically describe and define our own little world. For example, we have a word for the ucky end part of a banana (the cokey part) or a family member’s extra happy expression (rice pudding face). It would come as no surprise, then, that our pets inspire us to ever-increasing heights of creativity, as there truly are no known words or phrases that quite capture the special attributes of our menagerie. At least, we think so.

Today I present some of our terminology--specifically the words that are cat inspired. From time to time, I will offer more, eventually building an absolutely useless (but totally unique) family pet dictionary.

bakery (bay / ker / ee) noun
The place where Athena makes muffins (see making muffins entry). A dog bed placed conveniently in front of a heating vent, which is so soft that a cat has to knead it.
Usage: Where’s Athena? Oh, she’s sleeping in the bakery.

capt (kapt) noun
Cat. But cuter. And more apt to get in trouble. Thus, capt.
Usage: The capts just knocked the plant off the table.
Dawn, a "capt."

hidey face (hie / dee / fays) noun
The particular expression Dawn gets when she believes she is well hidden.
Usage: Though the back half of her body, including her twitching tail, is sticking out from under the pillow, Dawn has hidey face because nobody can see her.
Dawn demonstrates "hidey face."

feedy face (fee / dee / fays) noun
The specific look a cat gets when she is really, really hungry and hasn’t had a meal in days, maybe weeks, and needs to be fed, now, before she wastes away to nothing.
Usage: Though she doesn’t wear a watch, Athena will usually put on a feedy face about 5:30 in the evening because it is half past cat dinner time.
Two "feedy faces."

kitteh (kit’ / uh) noun
Another word for kitten or cat.
Usage: Used mostly when announcing dinner time, as in, “Kitteh noms!” Results in kitteh stampede followed by performance art featuring Dawn. (See Feeding Time at the Zoo.)
Etymology: See icanhascheezburger for original usage. 
Athena, "kitteh."

kippum (kip’ / um) noun
Another word for kitten or cat. There are many. Derived from “kitten.” Somehow cuter.
Usage: Awww, a sleepy kippum.
Sleepy "kippum."

kittum (kit’ / um) noun
Yet another word for kitten or cat. Derived from “kitten.”
Usage: The kittum is hungry. Actually the kittum is always hungry. Don’t believe anyone who says the kittums have already been fed.
Hungry "kittums."

make muffins (mayk/ muf / inz) verb
Kneading. When a cat puts on a beatific expression and kneads her paws into something--or someone--soft and likable.
Usage: It’s okay when Athena makes muffins in the bakery or in the dog bed; my only objection is when she tries to do it on my arm.

meatloaf (meet / lohf) noun or verb
A position a cat sometimes takes where all paws are tucked underneath the body, and the tail is curled tightly as well.
Etymology: Based on the famous B. Kliban cartoon “How to tell a cat from a meatloaf.” For more of Kliban’s work, see his website,
Usage: There’s a meatloaf on the chair. And it’s purring.
The act of hanging out in the meatloaf position.
Usage: Dawn is meatloafing on the couch. Tucker, leave her alone.
Athena "meatloafing."

mep (mehp) noun or verb
Onomatopoeia. The sound a cat--Dawn in particular-- makes to emphasize a point or to accent a change in location. Often used in a derogatory fashion.
Usage: Banished to the basement, Dawn let out a series of meps coinciding with each step down the stairs.
The act of making a mep sound.
Usage: Dawn mepped her way up to the highest point in the cat tree and sat down in a huff.
"If you move me, I will have something to say about it: Mep!"

merp (murp) noun or verb
Onomatopoeia. The sound a cat makes when disturbed or interrupted.
Usage: Half asleep in her special spot on the back of the couch, Athena let out a “merp!” when I sat down and disturbed her slumber.
The act of disturbing a cat inadvertently or on purpose in order to produce a merp.
Lilah, about to "merp" Athena.

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