#80: …deep in the Mail Silo…

Dear Stolf:  I was googling “grand cousins” when I came across this on the Yahoo! Answers  site…LOL! … from Ginger in Bakersfield

80.1  No kidding. Hilarious. See, when you don’t know something, you can flail about, pretending you do, like a twit. And flail this poor soul does, first suggesting something that doesn’t exist in English…then wondering whether “step-” can extend beyond the relatives of a parent’s new spouse to one’s own blood relatives.

80.2  Or you can ask and find out…only don’t try asking Yahoo! Answers. For the life of me, I can’t understand how they can set up a system where a question is asked…then the asker, who by definition doesn’t know the answer…gets to choose which of the answers that are posted is the best…or presumably “right”!  It’s nuts, and there’s no better example of the dumbed-down, numbed-down state of the public’s intellectual mentality than this useless, narcissistic website.

80.3  Here, the “best answer” is of course dead wrong…altho well on its way towards describing that bizarre Even/Odd system of reckoning collaterals…see G4BB 75: Odds and Evens.  6 other answers came in, 5 of them correct…that is, 2nd cousins as shown in Chart 278and one other that is sooooo wrong, it may give you a chuckle…it did me.

80.4  The eternal difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits…there are a 100 wrong answers and only one right one. Honestly, it had never occurred to me that someone could think “2nd cousin” means the same thing as “cousin twice removed.”  It’s so kooky, you might almost think someone’s deliberating spreading disinformation…but to what end? Who would benefit? Well, somebody with a website like G4BB I suppose…but gosh, remember what I said about genius, stupidity, and limits… 😉 😉  That obligatory “Hope this helps” is what makes me suspicious…it’s just a tad too ironic, nez pah? But as they say, the wise man learns from the mistakes of others, the fool not even from his own.

Dear Stolf:  I noticed you answered another question at that wiseGeek cousin site…just wondering, do they ever thank you?  from Nathan in Hotdogburg

80.5  Well, the latest poster 62 did thank someone in advance…so I guess that would be me. Ideally, some of these guys will put 2 and 2 together…google “stolf” and “genealogy”…and find their way here for the real deal. But otherwise…no, it’s a thankless job. Still, it’s a hobby, so what can you do? This latest one isn’t a mere question of clarifying correct usage…this person seriously doesn’t want to “marry their family” as they put it.  They’ve been spooked by years of pseudo-scientific propaganda about the dangers of interbreeding.  Closer than 1st cousins is not good…but 1st cousins and beyond adds negligible genetic risk…look it up if you don’t believe me. So here’s more or less how I answered it…

80.6  Let’s call the son of your aunt and your boyfriend’s cousin “Zack.” As you correctly surmise, Zack is your 1st cousin…and also the son of your BF’s 1st cousin, making him your BF’s 1st cousin once removed. You are a blood relative to Zack only on his mother’s side, thru your aunt. Your BF is a blood relative of Zack only thru Zack’s father, your BF’s cousin. Unless and until we hear otherwise, we’ll assume that these 2 sides of Zack’s family are not related by blood to each other…which means you are NOT a blood relative of your BF.

80.7   State laws don’t prohibit the marriage of non-blood relatives, with the occasional exception of adopted relatives, which doesn’t apply here. It then boils down to precisely what YOU consider “family.” If anyone from family A marries anyone from family B, does that make A and B one big unified family? That’s your call…but since you and your BF are not blood relatives, the law is on your side at least.

Dear Stolf:  It’s interesting that the “Doonesbury” comic strip was correct in calling Jeff the “half-uncle” of Alex, since Alex’ mother J.J. and Jeff are half-siblings thru Joanie Caucus. But at their recent wedding, I didn’t get the reference to Black Sabbath on the far right. Any idea?  from  Alice in Cooperville

80.8  Every idea…and it has to do with family trees or lack thereof. One of the running story lines is the fact that Alex’ new husband Leo “Toggle” DeLuca doesn’t know who his father is. His mother was a rock and roll groupie back in the day, and her best guess has always been it was someone from Mötley Crüe.

But in advance of the wedding, she tried to nail it down, struck out, and reluctantly went on to Black Sab. Hence, Toggle’s putative pop may or may not have shown up, get it? And who better to recognize him than Zeke…a.k.a. Uncle Stupidhead… J.J.’s scuzzy boyfriend, neither of whom were invited to the wedding, but who crashed it anyway as bartenders.

Dear Stolf: Have you ever heard of “bonus families”? As in bonus mom, bonus son, bonus siblings, etc. Is it the new terminology for “steps”?  from Barbie in Midgefield

80.9  It’s a term made up by a pop psychologist named Jann Blackstone-Ford…and with a moniker like that, would you be surprised to learn that she likes to coin a phrase? Ex-Etiquette, counterpartners, the tried and true co-parenting, and of course a whole stable of bonusrelatives.

80.10  Let’s back up a bit…a copyright assures you the legal ownership of works you create…books, articles, music, movies, whatever. A trademark is a word, phrase, or symbol that uniquely identifies your product or service. Bonus Families® is the name of an organization…non-profit no less…dedicated to promoting kinder, gentler step-families. It’s also, by extension, a website. Ex-Etiquette® is the name of a newspaper column she writes about how to deal with people you don’t like, but once did, and now still have to for the sake of the kids…roughly. These are trademarks of an organization, a website, and a newspaper column. The contents of the site and column are copyrighted…all this is as it should be since it’s all her intellectual property.

80.11  On the other hand, the word bonusfamily…her spelling, alloneword…is meant to signify an idea, and ideas as such are neither copyrightable nor trademarkable. She expressed this idea in a recent column….

80.12  Yes, I make up terms all the time for things I’m not aware are called anything else, like Parent Tree, cousin line, numbered cousins, etc. Anyone can use these terms…they are simply shorthand for ideas, and nobody can own an idea. Could you write a book about bonusfamilies? Could you use that word in the title? I’m not sure…I do know that you can’t trademark words for kinship relationships, again since they’re ideas. But if you get the feeling I think this whole bonusbusiness is a bit silly, well, you’re right. There’s nothing wrong with calling step-families “steps”…in fact, another phalanx of self-help gurus has come up with the neologism “step-wives.” If you need a more modern term, surely “blended families” is familiar to most people.

80.13  To me, the interesting twist is that this whole enterprise was jointly founded by Jann Blackstone-Ford and another lady named Sharyl Jupe. They are intermeshed-for-life via their current/former husbands or something. Until early this year, the Ex-Etiquette column was written by both of them…now it’s under  just JBF’s by-line…altho both host the website…was there a bonusdivorce after the holidays?

80.14  OK, it isn’t that interesting a twist, but at least one of them is gainfully employed putting this stuff out, and something she says could inadvertently be helpful, since so few people these days can figure things out for themselves…so in this economy, more power to her, and God bless. But then whatever happened to metrosexuals, bromance, and here’s an oldie but goodie, herstory. C U in VII…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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