Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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September 22, 2014

Do you have special words in your family that aren’t found in the dictionary, words only those who share DNA with you can understand? A few weeks ago our son CJ was visiting. Mrs. C. fried up some chicken. After eating his fill, our son pushed away his plate and announced he’d had enough. I wasn’t finished eating and without thinking exclaimed, “Moosh-vega!”


“Are you having a stroke, Dad?” CJ asked. “What was that you said—moosh-vega?”


“It’s a Portuguese word your grandmother taught me as a child. Your grandmother’s family spoke it at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other holiday celebrated with food. It was spoken all the time in our house when I was growing up, and it was spoken often when you were growing up, too. Have you forgotten?”


“He rubbed his chin. “I guess so. Wait a minute; I do remember. But I forgot what it means.”


“It means, “Glad you don’t want anymore because that leaves more for me.” I took another piece of chicken from the platter on the table.


“All that crammed into moosh-vega? Sounds farfetched,” he said.


“It’s really a useful word,” I countered.


He smiled. “Yeah, if you’re a glutton.”


Since this exchange, I’ve tried to dig up information on the word that figured so prominently in my childhood—moosh-vega. I haven’t been successful. Aside from family members, none of the Portuguese people I know have heard of it. I’ve Googled it but I’m not familiar with the proper spelling and what I’ve written is a phonetic spelling. Making it even more complicated, Portuguese is spoken differently in Portugal, Brazil, and the Azores where our family came from. And a hundred years in America has probably twisted the language beyond recognition. In short, no one outside my extended family is aware of this word.


I’m curious: do you have special words you use to call your children to the dinner table? Do you have a special code decipherable only to family members? I’m willing to bet you have certain words or expressions not understood by the general public.


Language is a feast for the ears, and I’m willing to share my special word with you—moosh-vega. It’s a fine word, but it might be too rich for the vocal palates of many of you. Fine! Restrict yourself to familiar words, words banal enough to show up in the dictionary. I’m a glutton for words real and imaginary. I gobble them up like a whale sucking in krill. What's that you say? You don't like krill?





Moosh- vega- that is fun to say. We have one that I suspect is a take off from something originally in Spanish, but no one knows exactly the origins anymore. If something is particularly good, it's (spelled phonetically) sah-kah-teh.
By: Shelly on September 22, 2014
yeah, there are words that my Dad's family used when speaking Spanish that really are not really, we explain them as being Spanglish and what they say is really regional to northern New Mexico. I've had friends from Cali and other places not be able to understand what is meant by these phrases but then they too have their own Spanglish. Words are wonderful.
By: omalinda on September 22, 2014
too bad you couldn't track it down in the real (internet) world. :)
By: TexWisGirl on September 22, 2014
English is all about the creation of works where none exist. Take "Spanx" and "Gif." Moosh-Vega sounds made up, but it deserves to be a word just like anything else does.
By: Michael Offutt on September 22, 2014
moosh-vega! HIlarious sounding phrase.....maybe someone who speaks Portugese could help? As for our family having silly phrases....I cannot remember any...but Russell's family of nine kids had ridiculous nicknames for everyone.
By: Kathe W. on September 22, 2014
My 84-year-old mother (and no one else on the planet) has always referred to poo as "bob-baw". Thus, when we were young kids she would ask, "Have you had a bob-baw today?" And this strange term endures; when I returned today after taking my parents' dog for a walk, my mother greeted me with the question, "Has he had a bob-baw?"
By: Bryan Jones on September 22, 2014
Once, trying to impress fellow six -year- olds, I asked my grandma to say something in German to me. She was hanging sheets on the clothesline and she muttered, clothes pin removed from her mouth, "Hice Hoyt. She didn't spell it, but from then on very warm days I'd say "Hice Hoyt," ("Hot today," she told me) to anyone near me, including my sons, who come out with those words, too, as they wipe their foreheads on their t-shirts. Jo
By: Jo Barney on September 22, 2014
When I was between the ages of 13 and 20, our next door neighbours were Portuguese, from Lisbon. Two of their three daughters were my best friends and so I ate at their place a lot. They were fabulous cooks and always encouraged us to eat more and enjoy. I became familiar with the rapid, "shhh" sounds of the language and even learned a few words and phrases. Could your "moosh vega" be an evolved version of "mais veja".. eat more? If I recall correctly "mais" would have a "sh" sounds at the end of it.
By: Hilary on September 22, 2014
Hmmm.. Closest thing is when feeling almost sick, but not sick enough to be bed ridden or stay home rfom work or school, you were feeling "Ooky."
By: Cranky on September 22, 2014
Our family word for ice cream is "ging-ging". What, you don't want any ging-ging? Moosh-vega! Or, perhaps if Hilary is right, mais veja.
By: messymimi on September 22, 2014
My Dad often ended a meal with the saying "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
By: Akansas Patti on September 22, 2014
We use "garget", pronounced gar-get, for gadget, after my tech-loving 11-year-old son tried to persuade me to buy him a so-described iPhone on eBay from a Chinese seller.
By: Val on September 22, 2014
Our eldest coined the term "play tend" a variation of pretending to be something; i.e. a pirate, a princess, etc. We also heard and continue to use the word humongus, as in very large. Another of the kid's words, though I've heard others use it as well.
By: Tom Cochrun on September 22, 2014
We had schnibbles. They are the little pieces left on the platter after carving the meat. "You want seconds?" "Nah, I'll just have a few of those schnibbles."
By: tomsightings on September 22, 2014
We made up so many words and had lots of little sayings. I don't remember why, but when it was time to come to the table for supper, I would call out, "Sup sup ding dong." I know: makes no sense. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 22, 2014
"Madam, buddy , maqqoq! I know where this comes from and the proper situation to use it in but to say what it means? I don't really know.
By: red on September 22, 2014
One of the more embarrassing moments from my past is of going around to people when I made it up to Montreal on the truck and asking them what, "Cha-ching," meant. I had been hearing it quite a bit on a New Orleans radio station and I thought that it might be a Cajun word. So, with there being plenty of French-Canadians around Montreal, I figured someone up there might know what it meant. Well, no one up there did, and years later, it was pointed out to me that cha-ching is the sound that an old cash register makes. Sigh.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 23, 2014
I identify myself as being French-Canadian with Irish roots. Pretty common blood line(s) for Canada's early settlers. When I worked as a editor for one of Canada's largest financial institutions we had call centres spread across times zones. One of the foremost conventions was to take under consideration localization of phrases and terms. Food for thought... eh.
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 23, 2014
Language is fascinating especially the roots of some words and phrases.
By: John on September 23, 2014
Moosh-vega! Sad to say, my family didn't have its own private language. Jerry, however, does.
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 23, 2014
Moosh-vega sounds like a useful term to me. I'm going to remember it and use it appropriately. :) Also, I love fried chicken.
By: Kerry on September 23, 2014
We always say "what a pavlova" instead of "what a palaver". He made a right "Pigs ear out of that". Stupid stuff. :D
By: LL Cool Joe on September 23, 2014
What fun! You'd think I grew up in a family of English teachers. No shortcuts or nicknames around.
By: Carol Kilgore on September 23, 2014
I have my own special language, a mix of Yiddish and Russian and Robyn. I used to call my husband "babushka". He'd snap back "I'm not a Russian grandmother!" My version of "oy vey" is "Oy veyesmerelda." I'm not sure why. It's just rolls off my tongue. I like Moosh-vega and may borrow it before an Oy Veyesmerelda on occasion.
By: Robyn Engel on September 23, 2014
This brought back memories of an Italian girl from my childhood who had a cool family. But many times, they'd talk in Italian (very fast like a machine gun) when they didn't want me to know what they were saying! I'd try to impersonate them to my parents to no avail! :)
By: Michael Manning on September 23, 2014
At dinner one evening my hubby said "Want a little more of this?" Our daughter heard "Nortle remortis?" So now that's what we say.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on September 25, 2014

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