þriðjudagur, apríl 25, 2006

relative confusion

The Icelandic language has only one word to embody what is in English two and a half wholly different relationships: uncle, nephew, and cousin (male). That word is "frændi". (The "æ" sound is pronounced like the word "eye" in English.) Similarly, for aunts, nieces, and female cousins Icelandic uses just "frænka". And Icelanders tend to put of all their aunts and nieces, female cousins, and other assorted female relatives in the same "frænka" basket. There doesn't seem to be the same notion of "give a kiss to your auntie", with the sometimes dreadful obligation that implies, here. In the Icelandic spirit of human equality, even spanning vastly different ages, aunts and nieces seem to be on the same level playing field: they're all just "frænka" to each other, with a concomitant reduction in obligatory kisses.

This view on the family can make it quite funny when Icelanders describe their relatives in English, because they're never quite clear on which English word is the right one to differentiate the various branches of a family tree. You often get something like, "When my little uncle was born last month, he had the cutest chubby cheeks."


Blogger Erik said...

When I was in Iceland a month ago that confused me... especially since all of my relatives living there are 1st/2nd cousins.

Blogger Northern musings said...

Or it might actually have been a little uncle - my eldest brother is 6 years older than my youngest uncle...


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