Friday Wisdom – Rabbit Stories

Every family develops some language and phrases that can best be described as “code words.” These code words are shorthand phrases based on shared experiences. Sometimes they are just inside jokes that only family members understand.

My father and I had a few of these. Lately I’ve been remembering, “rabbit stories.” This was a common thing we said to each other. For example, I went on a job interview once where I knew the hiring manager was just lying to get me to take the job. After the interview I knew that half the things the manager promised wouldn’t ever happen. When Father asked how the interview went, I replied, “Oh just rabbit stories. I turned it down.”

Those two words, “rabbit stories,” communicated volumes between us, but few others would get the meaning.

The concept comes from one of Father’s favorite stories, “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck. We had both read the story and discussed it at length – many times. This gave us a shared experience that we could draw on. The story’s main characters are George and Lennie. George, the smart one, entertains mentally slow Lennie with stories of the farm they are going to buy and all the animals they’ll have. Lennie likes soft furry animals like rabbits and will often ask George to, “Tell me about the rabbits.”

The two characters are drifters and the story of the farm and rabbits is a bit of dramatic irony – the reader knows that there will never be a rabbit farm and the stories are just George and Lennie’s shared dream. One might argue that George knows it’s a dream and just uses the story to entertain Lennie.

Between father and I the story and the phrase, “rabbit story,” took on a meaning of being told a story that we knew would never come true. Most often I used the phrase to describe broken promises on the job and Father often used the phrase when discussing the speeches of politicians.

So listen to those around you and see if you can find the “rabbit stories.”


About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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22 Responses to Friday Wisdom – Rabbit Stories

  1. I hear “Rabbit Stories” every time I read the so called “news”! We use the phase “Cinderella Story” (from Caddyshack) whenever we talk about something amazingly good happening. “Bark like a dog” is a favorite too but that would be TMI…


  2. Debra says:

    We have some family inside phrases, too, and they serve as a nice shorthand. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that I probably say them outside of family and in the company of others who have no idea what I’m talking about.


  3. What a lovely story! Thank you for my new favorite phrase!


  4. Dave Foyle says:

    Thank you for your post, Andrew….there are a lot of levels of wisdom here re: dealing with BS, shared dreams, code words, communication, family relationships, and even labor management-relations (okay, that last one was a stretch!). Seriously, though, this is multi-layered! Thank you.


  5. inesephoto says:

    Oh I know what you are talking about 🙂 My daughter and I have this special language, jokes and phrases, some of them picked up from my mother’s vocabulary 🙂 Is’t it a wonderful heritage 🙂


  6. PiedType says:

    “Rabbit stories.” Heard a lot of those in national political news this year …


  7. I may have to adopt that. We do similar phrases in our family. It’s fun and a quick way to communicate slyly.


  8. Rabbit stories – I’ll have to remember that one.


  9. jennypellett says:

    Excellent! We have loads of family code words and even looks. My sister and I can just look at each other, raise an eyebrow or something and we know we’re on the same page.
    Mice and Men – one of the best novels ever.


  10. How delightful: reference to jokes with a phrase. We have one for the same situation: “Who’s in the box?” That recalls the joke of a funeral, where the pastor is extolling the virtues of the deceased, who was a dishonest, lying person. After a few minutes of hearing his made up virtues, one man turns to another and says, “Who’s in the box?”


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