Do You Know Your "Marriage Language"? Chances Are You Speak One.
Those silly words and quirky shorthand phrases that are specific only to you and your partner? They say a lot about your relationship — and how we all connect.
Over the last month, TikTok has been full of couples coming clean about the quirky nicknames, silly words, and specific catchphrases they use only with each other. Hashtagged #MarriageLanguage, the trend has reached full meme status with over 25 million views on the platform and lays bare a truth: When you’re in a loving relationship long enough, you begin to develop a specific vernacular that, out in the open, is both cringey and charming. But there’s something valuable in that created language.
In the marriage language videos, couples enter frame and quiz one another about the specific terms they use. In one, @leigh.the.lovely mentions how she and her partner of 23 years say things like “scremote” instead of remote and call their thermometer “Chillbo Baggins.” User @tylermilstead and his wife know that a Starbucks run is on the horizon when one of them mentions “Star Breezy.” In @badlyssener’s home, everyone understands that “brunkley” is broccoli and crispy cooked broccoli is “curnkly brunkly.” Watch enough videos and you’ll hear more admissions. Seltzer is “spicy water”. “Patpat” is backpack. Watermelon is “woooo melon.”
When you’re in a relationship long enough, you begin to develop a specific vernacular that, out in the open, is both cringey and charming. But there’s something valuable in that created language.
The trend is yet another time-passer on TikTok that allows random strangers to connect over something seemingly silly and random. Many of the words that comprise a couple’s marriage language are introduced with a slip of the tongue or due to family shorthand. And it’s not surprising that many of the adopted words are influenced by young children’s mispronunciations. If a toddler calls napkins “cappins” it can easily become part of the family fabric.
While the marriage language trend may be newly branded, Sex and Couples Therapist Katie Schubert, Ph.D., notes that its common for couples and entire family units to develop this type of insider language.
“Insider languages come naturally from people we are around the most,” she says. “It's an easier way to communicate, and it solidifies bonds with parents and kids by reminding us of our shared history and experiences.”
In addition to the social aspect of marriage language, there’s also a neurological component to why especially silly words and turns of phrase embed themselves in relationships.
“Playfulness releases all sorts of happy hormones in people's brains,” Schubert says. “And when people experience those happy hormones, they remind them that they are attached to the person that they're with. The more those happy hormones are released, the stronger you’ll associate time spent with that person with happiness.”
Now, yes, some of the shared words are cringey or irritating because, hey, welcome to social media. Do people really talk like this? Eyeroll. This trend is especially annoying for some because the terms that comprise marriage language pop up in private moments and are best deployed only in the presence of people who can decipher the silliness. For those who haven’t experienced or enjoyed the practice, it’s understandably grating. Like when your buddy dated that girl in college and they used all sorts of ridiculous pet names for one another.
“As social creatures, we like to be connected to small units of people, which is what marriage language accomplishes.”
The fact that marriage language is something that many couples engage in but typically attempt to suppress in public and social settings made it a prime candidate for virality once people realized that the private bond they have with their partner is also a widely shared experience.
“As social creatures, we like to be connected to small units of people, which is what marriage language accomplishes,” Schubert says. ”But we feel intrinsically uncomfortable when we feel like we are different or strange or do things that nobody else does. So the momentum behind marriage language is a result of people being reminded of their intimate connections while at the same time feeling connected to broader society.”
On its face, marriage language seems like an odd vehicle for closeness and intimacy. But life is hectic and demanding and the act of parenting drains a lot of emotional energy, the silliness and spontaneity of marriage language can be a life-saver. You’ve got to find those moments of intimacy and connection.
And some of the power behind the trend lies at that intersection of silliness and spontaneity. Marriage language can’t be taught in a seminar, conjured, forced, or intentionally introduced. It springs up out of nowhere during life's most mundane moments.
Now, if marriage language is not for you, that’s fine. But, at the very least, the marriage language trend serves as a reminder that love is weird and lots of other couples have that weirdness to their love as well. It’s easy to overlook and forget this when life is chaotic. And if saying “spicy water” helps keep you and your partner feeling connected and amused, then drink up.