#72: Stepping Out

72.1  Back in G4BB 65  I critiqued (eviscerated?) Wikipedia’s article on “Cousins.” You might wonder, any response? Not from them…Wikipedians are in a world of their own, and don’t much care what anyone else thinks…like I said, it resembles a cult. And after all, the basic concept of an encyclopedia that anyone can change or edit is ludicrous…you make a change, the original author changes it back, you re-change it, he re-un-changes it, etc.

72.2  But I happened to stumble across the above definition (in red) on their “Siblings” page, and the comment (in green) on the corresponding “talk” page. I have outlined the described relationships in Chart 249.  Alex says he’s never encountered the term “cross siblings” before…and for good reason, since based on this definition it doesn’t exist…it is pure fantasy, in the best (?) of Wikipedian hyper-completist tradition. In English there is no term for the mother of the half-sibling(s) with whom you share the same father, nor by extension for the other children of that woman, the ones she had with men other than your father. The term “cross sibling” does exist in anthropology, and thus could filter down into general kinship usage, as is discussed in 72.9-10.

72.3  As to step-relations, let’s get back to the old-timey basics. In the normal (look out!…the other “n-word”!) course of events, a man and a woman would get married, live together, and have children…what we in the atomic age have dubbed the “nuclear family.” He worked to earn a living, she tended the home and children, of which there could have been many….double digits, even. If one parent died, the remaining parent could not assume both roles, and a re-marriage occurred. If either of these re-married adults had children from a previous marriage, the “new” parent was to these children a step-parent, and if both had children, these would be step-siblings to each other.

72.4   And of course if this new couple then had a child of their own, this child would be a half-sibling to all the others…one might technically say step-sibling as well, but I think it’s fair to say that in this case, blood relation trumps step-relation, and it would be incorrect to say the new child were both half- and step-. It’s true that, for example, if cousins marry each other, their children are both siblings and cousins, but that’s because blood doesn’t trump blood. Feel free to disagree…and be wrong…if you care to.

72.5  Interestingly enough, the term step- applies literally to the circumstances of someone dying…it is derived from the Old English prefix steop- or stiep- , which in turn comes from astieped, which means “bereaved.” And indeed the words stepchild and stepbairn (baby) were sometimes synonymous with “orphan.”

72.6  But notice something…in Alex’ comment, in the second paragraph, he takes the spurious definition of “cross siblings” and applies it to a real-life situation…the difference being, the real-life individuals are all married! And that’s the key…the concept of step-relations is these days becoming blurred…from who marries who…to who’s living with who…to who has a child with who.

72.7  Now in practice, if your father divorced your mother, she left, and his new girlfriend moved in with you, but they didn’t get married, you could I suppose call her your step-mother. If you’re still a child and she is in fact raising you, she is certainly functioning as a step-mother, which is to say, functioning as a mother. But now you have both a mother and a step-mother…in the original sense, this wasn’t possible…your mother would have been dead. Further, if you and your biological parents are living together as a family unit, and Pop has a child with someone else…what was sometimes called an “outside child”…it’s quite a stretch to say the mother of your new half-sibling is your step-mother, isn’t it?

72.8  So what I’m saying is this: in Chart 249, Eden and Michael are half-siblings…Kevin and Michael are half-siblings…there is no term for what Eden and Kevin might be to each other, short of the description “sharing a half-sibling,” in the same way a cousin is “shared” by his cousins on the 2 sides of his family…without those cousins having any relationship to each other. Eden and Kevin are not, in the accepted sense of the word, step-siblings…and they are definitely not cross-siblings, as I will explain…

72.9  Anthropologists use the term “cross siblings” to mean what we would call “opposite-sex siblings”…likewise, “parallel siblings” would be “same-sex siblings.” Why not use the more common “opposite/same” terms? Turns out in this case, it isn’t just the egghead propensity for inventing jargon…there is a legitimate rationale. In some cultures, the children of your parents’ cross siblings…that is, your father’s sisters and your mother’s brothers…are your “cross cousins.” Also, the children of your parents’ parallel siblings…your father’s brothers and your mother’s sisters…are your “parallel cousins.” This distinction is made because of marriage restrictions…you can marry your cross cousins but not your parallel cousins…this is explained in detail in #48: Crossing the Parallel  if you’re interested.

72.10  But the point is, you can’t call cross cousins “opposite-sex cousins,” or parallel cousins “same-sex cousins” simply because both types can be either the same or the opposite sex as you…it’s their parent’s sex as compared to your parent’s sex that’s at issue. But cross siblings in the academic sense are simply opposite-sex siblings in the everyday sense…or maybe you’d call them “mismatched”…and that’s that…Sic Semper Wikipedius.

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Got some new wiseGeek questions to answer, so let’s get to it.

72.11  Chart 250 illustrates what I was talking about with cousins on the 2 sides of one’s family…here, the individual labeled “?” has a cousin on his mother’s side…”you”…and a cousin on his father’s side…”guy.” You and guy are not related in any way…you call his father “uncle” because he’s married to your aunt…vice versa for him, but that’s as far as it goes. The question is often asked, if my aunt divorces her husband, is he still my uncle? Well, technically he never was your uncle…if you are particularly close to him, you can certainly still call him your uncle…and the way I look at that is, divorced or not, he is still your cousin’s father, right?

72.12  Next…well, the wiseGeek article on “levels of cousins”…and tell the truth, are all your cousins really on the level?…has its considerable shortcomings, as I outlined in G4BB 66. But I hardly think it’s fair to blame it for Post 52…this person just doesn’t frickin’ get it! In Chart 251, does it look like I’m shouting? Yeah…I guess I am…sorry ’bout that…

72.13  Time again for “Conan relatives”…from the movie Conan the Destroyer, where Malek refers to his “brother’s sister’s cousin.” What do we make of “my aunt’s 2nd cousin”? Is this not also your mother’s 2nd cousin? Perhaps if you mom is dead, or “out of the picture” in some other way, then that’s not how you think of it, and fair enough. On the other hand, when it comes to Conan relatives, it occurs to me that we might take what’s being said quite literally…this is your aunt’s 2nd cousin, and not your mother’s 2nd cousin, which would mean your mother and aunt are half-siblings…and you’re talking about your half-aunt.

72.14   Thus on the left side of Chart 252, if your mother and aunt were full siblings, your aunt’s (and mother’s) 2nd cousin would be your 2nd cousin once removed. But on the right side, if your mother and aunt are half-siblings, then the aunt’s 2nd cousin is no relation to you, nor indeed to your mother, being on your aunt’s father’s side. Altho, even as half-siblings, your mother and aunt could share a 2nd cousin on their shared mothers’ side…and again, you would be that person’s 2nd cousin once removed.

72.15  OK, I wasn’t gonna do a separate chart, but then again, I’m no shirker…no fence-sitter…whatever the %@#$ I gotta do, I’m gonna do, no? And what’s important to understand here is that on the right side of Chart 253, it’s still your 2nd cousin once removed…full and not half-…because it’s your mother’s and aunt’s full 2nd cousin. Even tho they are half-siblings, their grandparents A and B are full siblings, and their parents X and Y are full 1st cousins, and that’s what counts. Is any of this starting to make sense? Just curious…

72.16   Finally, I’ve saved this one for last…because owing to the urgency of the query, I went to the trouble of posting a response…wherein I gently guessed at the cause for said urgency, and if so, God bless.

72.17  As you can see in Chart 254, you are half-1st cousins…compare the W formation at the top to the X you would have for full 1st cousins, on the left.

72.18  But here’s the trouble: I subsequently checked the specific wording of the statutes in several (but by no means all) of the states that forbid 1st cousin marriages…and as I feared, I kept finding the legalese phrase of whole or half blood”…or words to that effect. These would then appear to allow 2nd cousin marriages, but nothing closer, which would exclude half-1st cousins…not to mention double half-1st cousins, who are as closely related as full 1st cousins. Still, if they don’t literally say 2nd cousins…it’s an interesting question where that would leave those folks between half-1st and second cousins…say with a CR of 3/64. Is there a lawyer in the house? Chow 4 now…

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Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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