I’m sure every family has a set of words that only they understand which leaves outsiders perplexed as to their meaning and origin. In my family for instance, Ch-kers, were matches, Boog-it was sugar and Butter-stumps were chubby fingers, the latter evolving into Chip-shovels as we got older.
Kitchens also have their own words or lingo that differs from environment to environment. I have carried this patois home and on occasion I will firmly say ‘Behind’ as I slalom my way through family members in the confines of our kitchen. I have been known to say it at the Bank, the market and at my children’s school, much to their embarrassment.
It reminds me how on particular word evolved years ago in a busy and cramped galley kitchen where eight chefs and three kitchen-hands toiled per shift, the air was regularly filled with shouts of ‘Behind You!’ as people jostled amongst hot pans, steam and fire. There was this great kitchen hand called George, a Chinese bloke with very little English who would imitate us in with a cheeky grin.
‘Be-Hine-Choo’ he would say weaving his way through the galley. Over time he shortened it to ‘Hine-Choo’ which we all adopted as the use of economical language in service is always preferred. I don’t quite know when it happened but it then morphed into ‘Hi-nch’. I knew it had been adopted by everyone when the boss popped into the kitchen and said ‘Hi-nch’ when he passed through the pot-wash, it was a proud moment for George and he relished it.
Curiously, when someone was in a rush or carrying something extremely hot and dangerous, the word was then shouted at the top of ones lungs as in: ‘Hi-nch! Hi-nch! Hi-nch! This thrice repeated call then became the cry of the kitchen, new staff learned to add to their tool-kit and I still use it to this day.
Post Scriptum. Sadly, a couple of years after I moved on, I learned of the death of George at the railway crossing in Bell St. Northcote on his way to work. His word though, lives on.