#74: …down the Mail Chute…

Dear Stolf: I heard that Sun Yat-Sen and Chiang-Kai-Shek were brothers-in-law…truth or crap? …from Art Fern, Jr. in East Slauson Cutoff

74.1  Dear Art: Hoo boy! History says they were…I would tend to say they weren’t. Let me start by saying this…

74.2  In olden times, when someone from Family A married someone from Family B, there was a sense in which these 2 families were, if not united, at least connected…or affiliated, hence the technical term for in-laws, “affines.” Depending on the time and place, this could have been a very big deal…indeed, marriages brokered between royal houses could unite entire nations. We don’t look at it that way any more…but for practical purposes, we will probably interact a good deal with the blood relatives of our spouse…ditto the spouses of our blood relatives…so we have a connection with them and give them a name…”in-laws.” But this seldom extends very far beyond parents, siblings, maybe 1st cousins…and while your wife’s mother is your “mother-in-law,” I doubt few people, if any, would view the mother of their 1st cousin’s wife (i.e. cousin-in-law) as their, what?…aunt-in-law?…mother-in-law-by-marriage?

74.3  Now traditionally, in European or “Western” society, the rule of thumb has been: “Affines of affines aren’t affines.” This means that if Family A and Family B were linked by a marriage…and so were Family B and Family C…you couldn’t then say that Family A and Family C were linked…jeepers, in that case, virtually everybody would be linked to everybody else, and what fun would that be? 😉 😉 But at the same time, again as a practical matter, if 2 sisters from Family A each married respectively a man from Family B and Family C, and especially if those sisters were close, there would be an undeniable relationship between those 2 husbands…and what else would you call them but brothers-in-law? Technically, mind you, as the affines of affines, the husbands would be “nothing” to each other…Mr. B is not the husband of Mr. C’s sister…nor is Mr. B the brother of Mr. C’s wife.

74.4   And here’s a real-life application of this idea…an excerpt from the rules and regs for employees of the Milwaukee School District. As I have underlined in red, the case of Mr. B and Mr. C, each married to an A sister, is meant to be covered by “immediate family”…and lest some people might not consider the husbands of sisters to be “brothers-in-law,” this is explicitly spelled out so there can be no doubt. Thus, if they lived  in Milwaukee, Mr. B is married to A1…her sister A2 is Mr B’s sister-in-law…and A2’s husband, Mr. C, is the husband of of Mr. B’s sister-in-law…hence immediate family.

74.5  But this brings us to the 3 Soong Sisters, who along with their husbands, are among the most important political and social figures in the history of modern China. Their father was a successful businessman and Christian missionary, known to all as Charlie Soong…the trio, and they had 3 brothers as well, were educated at Wesleyan college in Macon, Georgia. The oldest Ai-Ling served as secretary to Nationalist leader Sun Yat-Sen, close friend of her father. When she married banker Kung, the wealthiest man in China, her next younger sister Ching-Ling took her place. A romance developed between Ching-Ling and the then-married Sun (remember, last names come first), who was just 3 years younger than her father. Now he naturally assumed he could follow the Chinese custom of plural marriages…one primary wife, plus several other “concubines”…altho all were full-fledged marriages, and each could be dissolved only by a formal divorce. But the Soongs were Christians, so Lu Muzhen, Sun’s village sweetie and better half for 30 years, was o-u-t-OUT…never mind he had another wife, Kaoru Otsuki, left over from a sojourn in Japan.

 74.6  And in fact, Sun was persuaded to divorce his first wife before marrying Ching-Ling by his longtime lover and perhaps only true soulmate, Chen Cui-Fen…whether she is counted as a wife…common-law or otherwise…or a mistress is a matter of debate…it appears she was never an “official” concubine. Obviously, the Western and Eastern customs in these matters are at odds. But suffice to say, based on Chart 258, Sun and his protege Chiang Kai-Shek, not to mention Kung Hsiang-Hsi, westernized as H. H. Kung, were brothers-in-law in that expanded sense we were talking about. What the chart doesn’t tell you is that Chiang Kai-Shek married the youngest of the Soong sisters, May-Ling, 2½ years after Sun Yat-Sen’s death…and amidst a power struggle for control of the country. Hey, folks, guess what?…I’m now the brother-in-law of the late Father of Our Country…that sort of thing. But despite it all, we know how it eventually played out…the Communists won a civil war, ousting Chiang and the Nationalists to the island of Formosa, with Sun’s widow, having by this time prudently sided with the Communists, serving as the Vice Chairwoman of the People’s Republic until her death in 1981.

74.7  So you tell me, were they brothers-in-law or not? To one school of thought, the connection is already tenuous, and the fact that they were not married to sisters while both were alive further stretches the point. One “impediment” I suppose I could live with, but given both…being affines of affines and not being married contemporaneously…gee, I’d say non-brothers-in-law…but feel perfectly free to disagree…certainly the history books do.

74.8  P.S. The other thing to consider of course is how they in China at the time saw the relationship, as opposed to how we see it here, today. So to be fair, I suppose the ultimate answer would take the form of: They saw it as X, we would call it Y…something along those lines. [Ok, I was going to be lazy and not look this up, but it didn’t work…in Chinese, there are different words for sister’s husband, wife’s brother, and wife’s sister’s husband…all of which we would lump together loosely as “brother-in-law”…thus no exact translation is possible. And in fact, there are further terms based on how the people involved compare to each other age-wise, making it even more complicated…traditionally, Chinese children would drill what different relatives were called, the same way we’d drill our multiplication tables!]

Dear Stolf: I recently read over #13: Who’s Zoomin’ Who?…and it sure looks to me like you made a little boo-boo in 13.3…no?   from Gregor Samsa, Cockroach City

74.9  Dear Gregor: Yes!…and what a doozie, cripes. Folks, don’t bother to go look, I’ve already fixed it. And you know, try as I might, I can’t seem to reconstruct what I was trying to say…but whatever it was, I did say it wrong, and it’s been corrected. But let’s revisit the “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” game…this is where you take 2 of your relatives, and figure out how they are related to each other. I suggested that you do this in your head, as a mental exercise, and that certainly contributed to the blunder. Had I drawn it out as a diagram, it seems unlikely I could have been so careless…

74.10  …with the example I had posed, which was: how is your 1st cousin once removed descending related to your 1st cousin once removed ascending…in other words, how is your 1st cousin’s son related to your father’s 1st cousin. I did this 2 different ways, and thankfully got the same correct answer both times: 1st cousin twice removed. But in the process, I did say that Zeke, as in Chart 259, being your 1C1R, was your father’s 1C2R…ouch! I should have said grand nephew…what was I thinking?

74.11  Point is, I’d like to redeem myself and take you thru a couple more rounds of the game, sort of a mix and match affair…we must determine the relationship (A) between your 1C2R and your 2C1R (that’s “mixed”…12 and 21)…and (B) between your 1C1R and your 2C2R (“matched”…11 and 22.) First in our heads, then check it “on paper.”

74.12  (A)…There are certainly other approaches, but I start by re-stating the relationships as: your grandfather’s 1st cousin (1C2R) and your father’s 2nd cousin (2C1R). Now think. How quickly did it come to you? What’s a 2nd cousin? The son of your father’s 1st cousin…and your grandfather is your father’s father…so the answer is, they are father and son. 

74.13   And as we can verify with Chart 260, this is nothing more than the “Cousin Line” for your 3rd Cousin, who would be the son of your father’s 2nd cousin, your 2C1R…and the grandson of your grandfather’s 1st cousin, your 1C2R.

74.14  (B)…Translated: what is the relationship between your father’s 1st cousin (1C1R) and your grandfather’s 2nd cousin (2C2R)? The key here is the father of your father’s 1st cousin is your father’s uncle, which is to say, your father’s father’s brother…or your grandfather’s brother. And your grandfather has the same 2nd cousins as your grandfather’s brother does…thus your 1C1R’s father is also 2nd cousin to your grandfather’s 2nd cousin…and the 2nd cousin of your 1C1R’s father is your 1C1R’s 2nd cousin once removed…bingo.

74.14  That jibes with Chart 261. Like I said, the foolproof way to figure these relationships is to diagram them out…I simply suggest doing it in your head as a way to give the old gray cells a work-out, with an eye towards hopefully staving off feeblemindedness, nez pah? Next week, “back to school” with Odds and Evens…see yez…

Wicked Ballsy

Last week, in touching on kinship in the Disenyverse, I mentioned Maisie, a niece of Mickey’s from a 1934 cartoon. It’s called Gulliver Mickey, and I actually watched it…above left, we see 7 nephews-or-nieces sailing along…after “Uncle Mickey” upsets their pretend boat, he entertains them by recounting the story of how he once had his own “Gulliver” adventure…and as you can see in the bottom screen capture, there are now 12 young’uns…my, how those mice do propagate! Trouble is, none of these mouselettes are given names in the short…internet research reveals that the name Maisie is “listed” in a book called Mickey Mouse: His Life and Times, written by Richard Hollis and Brian Sibley, published in 1986 by Harper & Row.

I will reserve judgement until I actually see this book, but it’s starting to look like this Maisie business is a case of the Fan Logic Game run amuck…indeed, one website, written in French, appears to say that the name Maisie was taken from that of Richard Hollis’ niece! But perhaps the impetus for this fantasy naming comes from another mini-me mouseling that pops up from time to time…above right, a play-card from Holland…with Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow (here called Aunt Arabella), and the unnamed tot. Could it be that the hat is the only connection to the ringleader of the Gulliver mob? That’s pretty thin, but the Fan Logic Game can go that way sometimes. BTW, at left are 2 more of Minnie’s nieces, and decidedly more modern-looking…it appears like they’re Tiny and Lily…did they mean Tilly and Lily? This is from another French site, an 18-year old who’s hooked on classic Disney characters…and good for him, sez me…when I was that age, I liked “old” things too!

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Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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