You might not have heard the word “familect” before, but chances are you’re already fluent in it. Does your family have an unusual word for the remote control that outsiders wouldn’t recognize? Do you have a nickname that everyone at the office calls you? Does your friendship group have a catchphrase that’s followed you through the years? Familect—the idiosyncratic use of language that is particular to a distinct social group, not necessarily a family—is a common linguistic phenomenon. When individuals spend a lot of time together, the language they use changes: Words born from a particular joke or incident slip into common parlance; the rules of grammar and pronunciation are bent and broken; we speak, effectively, in a kind of code. Years ago, an Italian friend and I stayed in a Milan apartment which was advertised This story is from Kinfolk Issue Forty-Two Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Fashion Issue 47 A Picture of Health Xiaopeng Yuan photographs the world’s weirdest wellness cures. Arts & Culture Issue 47 The Friendship Paradox On the probability of popularity. Arts & Culture Issue 45 Words Unheard On the pitfalls of pronunciation. Arts & Culture Issue 39 Half a Notion A reassessment of ambivalence. Arts & Culture Issue 34 How to Rekindle a Friendship On inching closer when you’ve grown apart. Arts & Culture Issue 24 Word: Desenrascanço Forget hygge: Uncertain times call for problem-solving the Portuguese way.