#120: Uncle Wiki, Twice Removed

120.1  A bit harsh last week…in my critique of the latest iteration of the “cousin” page at Uncle Wiki? You think? I don’t. That page is a mess and I stated my reasons for thinking so. Why cut these wiki-cultists any slack? An “encyclopedia” whose basic underpinnings are completely anti-intellectual? I don ‘t think so…I mean, democracy is fine, but we don’t get to vote on facts…we can have our opinions as to what the facts are, but opinions are either right or wrong…granted that ours are always right… 😉 😉

ex 1120.2  But one way I could have been more helpful last week was to have done what I said they should have done…that is, provide charts so you can appreciate more clearly that statement on the left. What with so much else going on, I didn’t want to “get involved,” but what the heck? As Chart 426  shows, there are actually 3 types of double 2nd cousins…well, 4 if you count 1st cousins marrying each other…but I don’t count that, since those offspring are more that just double 2nd cousins, they’re also siblings…a different and much closer relationship.

chart 426

120.3  Now when they say “one double 1st cousin relationship among their parents” that’s unilineal. “Two [single] 1st cousin relationships” covers both bilineal and sesquilineal…so technically they’re right, but it isn’t the whole story…and when you move to double 3rd, double 4th, double 5th cousins, the types really start to balloon. So there’s that.

120.4  Thing is tho, you don’t get the full wiki-treatment unless you click the “Talk” tab, at the top of the main Article page, to the left. On the cousins Talk page, I noticed some of my old stuff is still there…back when I thought to worthwhile to hash these things out “in person”…silly me. But as much as I believe in not giving credit where credit is not due…I also give it where it is due…and to their credit, they don’t bring up the common mistake of calling your father’s 1st cousin…or your 1st cousin’s son…your 2nd cousin…not a peep. Well, OK, that’s actually both good and bad.

120.5  Good…in the sense that you’re not putting ideas in people’s heads…that’s the reason radio stations on snow-days only  tell you what schools are closed…and not also which are open…because trust me, I’m in that business, and just saying the name of a school on a snow-day means they’re closed…but we said OPEN!  Doesn’t matter…that’s not what they hear. So completely ignoring the issue is one option, certainly.

120.6   Bad…because only stating what’s correct will elicit responses like: well, that’s not the way I’ve always done it…or…wait, what about thus-and-so? And not addressing those responses is anti-intellectual…the idea that if I didn’t say it, it’s not true…just doesn’t occur to people. It’s not how they think. So I am torn…bottom line, I’d probably address the error…altho as I mention in my comments there, there are many other mistakes you could also explain and set right…like a 2nd cousin once removed being the same as a 3rd cousin…as they say, the difference between wisdom and ignorance is that wisdom has its limits. And bear in mind, with Uncle Wiki it’s all subject to change anyway…

120.7  But I did see a couple of points on the Talk page worth commenting on…like this exchange between “a ghost” and a cultist named Too Old.

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120.8  I should mention for the uninitiated that a “ghost” is someone who hasn’t yet figured out the accepted way to wiki-sign one’s name to a comment…Too Old is later on taken to task for being “unwelcoming” to an obvious newbie who meant no harm. But the part I’ve underlined in red goes to the heart of why so many people refuse to even try to understand the English language kinship system…it doesn’t seem to make sense, to wit: the cousin of my grandfather should be a type of grand uncle to me, not a type of cousin.

chart 427

120.9  Chart 427  above illustrates the way it should be “logically”…Chart 428  below, the way it actually is…and I also like Ghost’s comment underlined in purple. It’s all well and good to dismiss everything by saying that language is illogical, live with it. But the truth is, in many cases there is an underlying logic…like when you say “happy as a clam.” Makes no sense until you add the second part: “…at high tide”…i.e., you can’t dig for it. Or why “knife” is spelled with a K, but not pronounced with a K…because, big surprise, at one time is was pronounced kuh-nife


120.10   On the other hand, that part underlined in blue…Ghost clearly doesn’t grasp what “removed” is all about…that is, referring to relatives in generations other than your own…”once removed” is your father’s generation, not your grandfather’s…and we don’t remove uncles at any event, much as we’d like to  sometimes. Yes, your grandfather’s cousin is sort of an uncle to your father…but he is not of your farther’s generation, hence “once removed” is incorrect…it should be something “twice remomved.”   BTW…that word he uses “semiology”…half-knowledge?  No, it’s another way of saying “semiotics,” which is the study of signs, symbols, and symbolism. And true, “TOTALLY WRONG” is a bold assessment…but why not be bold…worst you can do is be wrong, right?

120.11  The thing that really piqued my curiosity was how they’re talking about in Russian a cousin is called a “secondary brother/sister.” I often wonder why I can’t seem to find simple kinship diagrams that name all the relatives in a particular language. Maybe you need to resort to dead-tree media for that? Lists of equivalent English and Russian words tend not to be very complete…and, sadly, sometimes sort of mixed up. Case in point was the most comprehensive listing I found, here.

120.12  Sure enough, a male 1st cousin was a dvoyurodnii brat (brother) and a female, a dvoyurodnaya sestra (sister)…and your parent’s 1st cousin was a dvoyurodnii dyadya (uncle) or dvoyurodnaya tetka (aunt). Plus your grandfather’s brother was your dvoyurodnii ded (grandfather)…so this “dvoyurodnii/naya” obviously has the sense of “secondary” or even “second”…2nd brother, 2nd uncle, 2nd grandfather…cool. And your 2nd cousin was a troyurodnii brat…so maybe this is some kind of “third.” To confirm this, I googled troyurodnii and dvoyurodnii  together…not linked together in quotes, just the 2 words…and got 3 hits. THREE!!!! 2 of them were this same site I was looking at, and the third was in Russian.

120.13  When you expect 3 million hits and get 3 hits, that’s usually a spelling problem…likely here the author of this list had a way of converting the letters of the Russian alphabet into transliterated “English” words that was uniquely his own. Sure enough, turns out dvojurodny and dvojurodnaya were more common, but only barely…77 hits…and definitions ranged from “of the second generation” to “once removed.”  It’s not feeling like such firm footing any more. But struggling on, if grand uncle is dvojurodny ded  or “secondary grandfather”…then trojurodny ded would be great grand uncle or “third grandfather,” right?…nope…its 1st cousin 3 times removed…that is, great grandfather’s 1st cousin, not his brother…wha–? In fact, this list defined 1st cousin once removed…and 3 times removed…but NOT twice removed.


120.14  Further was the word vnuchatnii/vnachatnaya…obviously from grandson/granddaughter or vnuk/vunchka.  Nephew was plemyannik and grand nephew vnuchatnii plemyannik…yet also listed were what were called “archaic” forms… vnuchatnii brat for 2nd cousin…”grand brother” or “grandson brother”?…and vnuchatnii ded for 1st cousin 3 times removed or great grandfather’s cousin…”grandson grandfather”? Yup…I know when it’s time to get out of Dodge…but I’m sure I’ll attack this again…after a long rest and some professional counseling…

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120.15  Moving on…they say there are no stupid questions…this one comes close, boy…talk about missing the entire picture. A calm and dutiful answer was provided, but geez…

120.16   Finally, as I mentioned, there were some old posts from yours truly…at the time I didn’t feel there was any point to responding further…but this whole issue of “symmetry” is interesting. You’ll recall, Uncle Wiki’s basic cousin article considers it “symmetric” to call your father’s 1st cousin your 1C 1R…and your 1st cousin’s son also your 1C 1R…whereas it’s “asymmetric” to add on “ascending” and “descending.” In fact, they go so far as to call the “asymmetric” way an “alternate system.” Well, as I explained last week, these are both the same system, one a simplified form of the other, that’s all.

120.17  But the point is, there’s symmetry…and then there’s symmetry. Just as Ghost said above about what’s logical and what isn’t, asymmetry on the surface may belie a deeper underlying symmetry.


120.18  So I put it to you…which is right? Above in the red box is a typical symmetrical kinship relationship…you are my cousin, so I am your cousin too…same with sibling, same with spouse, friend, countryman.  And below that, what 1st cousin once removed would look like if it were a symmetrical relationship. In the green box is a typical asymmetrical kinship relationship…I am your uncle, but you are not my uncle, you are  my nephew…and I’m not your nephew…same with mother/daughter, husband/wife, brother/sister, boss/underling. And below that, what 1st cousin once removed would be if it were  asymmetrical.  Obviously, the green box…asymmetrical… is correct for 1C 1R…

120.19  …meaning that while the phrase “1st cousin once removed” sounds symmetrical, it’s actually trying to describe an asymmetrical kinship relationship, and adding the ascending/descending…cumbersome as it may be for some…proves this out. And I’m done with Uncle Wiki for now…bliss out, dear friends…

wicked ballsy

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No doubt about it…people in general are getting stupider…by  the minute, it seems. I saw this item in the paper…now the word “generation” can have several meanings. In the sense of “it was a different time, a different generation” that would fit what he’s trying to say. But to say that time was “a full generation before…” doesn’t wash. OK, maybe 12 years is for humans a biological generation, procreation-wise…but that’s not what he means here.

Here generation means, the adults of today were kids yesterday…today’s generation of parents were children, and today’s grandparents were still only parents. And that’s not 12 years…after all, in a sense every high school or college graduating class is a “generation” of its own…but “a full generation”? That’s 20-25 years, maybe more…sorry…editor must have been asleep.



Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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