#129: Lovely Linda

129.1  Dear Stolf: Found another example of Great Uncle versus Grand Nephew…this is from our pal Uncle Wiki. …from Calamity Clare, Wolftown, NY


129.2   Dear CC: Yeah…see, when you use 2 different systems for the same thing, you run the risk of mixing and un-matching…as in that old routine: There are 3 points to consider: (A)…(B)…and (3)… Murphy’s Law and all that. I prefer Grand Uncle and Grand Nephew…others like Great Uncle and Great Nephew. It’s beginning to look like this might be an American versus British thing…I keep seeing Brits stating unequivocally that they’ve never heard this Grand usage, only the Great. But as you rightly demonstrate, some like to have it both ways. And not that I can recall it ever happening, but you could conceivably have a Great Great Great Uncle followed by a Great Grand Uncle in the next generation…from 3 Greats to 1 Great going down a single step…nice trick.

129.3  Further…while I don’t honestly know what sort of conclusions can realistically be drawn from Google word frequencies, I do know that the one I did this time is consistent with the ones I’ve done in the past…Chart 448. . First of all, G-something uncles and aunts are much more often mentioned than nephews and nieces…probably because it’s the former that will die and leave you a stack of cash. But 90% for Great uncle/aunt and just 10% for Grand is pretty definitive…there’s your world-wide web consensus. Still, while people are 9 times more likely to say Great than Grand for uncles/aunts, they’re only about twice as likely to say Great for nephews and nieces.

chart 448

129.4   Now is it possible, given these frequencies, that everybody still goes one way or the other consistently…that nobody mixes and matches? Mathematically, it would simply mean that between the 2 camps the frequency of referring to the older generation versus the younger is vastly different. But I think the more likely answer is the simplest: for whatever reason, people aren’t as sure which to say when it comes to nephews and nieces…meaning there must be a lot of people who mix and match…when they do anything at all. What I mean is, consider that total hits for G-something uncles/aunts as you can see is about 8 million… whereas total hits for “plain” uncles/aunts is 300 million…so it’s possible a lot of people leave off greats and grands entirely.

129.5  Funny thing is…only recently, and for the first time ever, did I find someone willing to actually defend Great over Grand. First they argued: “If my grandfather is my father’s father, then my grand-uncle should be my uncle’s father. But that [my uncle’s father] is my grandfather. So grand-uncle is confusing.” The part I underlined shows where they made their mistake: “grand” in this context means “your father’s,” not “your uncle’s”…so grand-uncle is your father’s uncle, not your uncle’s father.

129.6  The second argument draws upon…ahem…feelings: “Grand- is reserved for the direct line of descent, so it feels wrong to used it for people who are off to the side.”  OK, well, the part about “is reserved for” is begging the question, so this proves nothing…you can’t use what you’re trying to prove as part of the argument to prove it.  Well, duh…but it is done, often more subtly than here, which is why there’s a name for it: “begging the question.” But beyond that, doesn’t it also “feel wrong” when one relative, your great great grandfather, has fewer greats than his brother, your great great great uncle? Or to put it another way, your great great grandfather’s brother and father both have one more great or G than he does…his father has 3 G’s…his brother has 3 G’s…he only has 2 G’s. That sure feels wrong to me, boy…I can really feel it…

129.7  Dear Stolf: On an oldies station I listen to, a DJ said Jimmy Webb wrote “MacArthur Park” about his girlfriend, Linda Ronstadt’s cousin. Is this true?  …Wichita Linebacker, Topanga Canyon

129.8  Dear WL: In a word, no…with an explanation. Mind you, once I give you the explanation, the answer is still no, but at least you’ll know why you sometimes hear what you heard. Jimmy Webb was born and raised in Oklahoma…his family moved to the Los Angeles area when he was a teenager. He graduated from Colton, CA High School class of 1965…oddly enough, one year after Jim Messina. But while still in high school, he met and fell head over heels for an aspiring singer, a classmate named Suzy Horton.

suzy H

129.9  That summer, he helped her and three friends form a singing group called the Contessas. They recorded an album on Motown, with songs written by you-know-who, and appeared on several TV shows, including Shivaree (see it here.)  Suzy’s day job was with an insurance agency, and she would meet Jimmy for lunch in MacArthur Park in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. She also inspired “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Where’s the Playground Suzie,” and probably others. But the group’s career fizzled, as did the budding romance…and the Contessas soon went their separate ways. Suzy Horton continued working as a singer and dancer, and is still active in the music business today.

129.10  In the early 1990s she met and married Bobby Ronstadt, Linda’s 1st cousin, son of Linda’s father Gilbert’s younger brother Edward. Today she is indeed known as Suzy Ronstadt, but her relation to Linda is cousin-in-law at best, and at any rate, she was decades away from being a Ronstadt when she knew Jimmy. Informally, your cousin’s wife can be your cousin…just as your father’s uncle can be your uncle, as we saw last week with Anna Boiardi…but not really…sorry.

chart 449

129.11  Now in Chart 449, I’ve included far more Ronstadt relatives than are relevant to the case at hand, but once you get going, its kind of hard to stop, you know?  And as long as your tree is intelligible, feel free  try different things, as I have here. I generally color males blue and females red, but here I have grouped siblings together as gray. Also, with Gilbert’s uncles and aunts, I positioned their spouses and their children horizontally rather than vertically, as space required…I did want to include that Grampa Frederick and his brother Pepe married sisters.

suzy R

129.12   But be aware: Linda herself has an older sister, Gretchen, who is also known as Suzy. Not only that, Jimmy Webb’s sister Susan Webb sang background on some of his records, along with Suzy Horton…so it’s hardly surprising that confusion reigns…well, not any more, nez pah?

129.13  Dear Stolf: Evaluate please. …from Fruma Sarah, Fiddlersburg, TN

3:4 or what

129.14  Dear FS, a blessing on your head: A person who is related to someone in more than one way very likely knows it and understands it. On the other hand, there are some people who deny such a thing is possible…or if it is possible, you are still only really related in one way, the closest way being the obvious choice. But these people are wrong…genetic inheritance follows its own inexorable path, and it isn’t effected by any other additional lines of descent…all count equally toward the total degree of relationship between 2 people.

129.15  One of the most common of these is “double cousins”…when siblings from one family marry siblings from another…I see it most often as 2 sisters and 2 brothers, but it can be a mixed pair as well. The resulting offspring are cousins on both sides of the family…and their Coefficient of Relationship is double that of normal or “single” 1st cousins… 1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4. They are the equivalent of half-siblings, altho of course they are still only 1st cousins…but 1st cousins 2 ways. 

chart 450

129.16  In this case, “Death to Frying Things” (love it!) describes how his great grandfather and his great grandfather’s brother each had offspring with the same woman. These sons, which on Chart 450  I have labeled “gramps” and “3/4 bro” are an example of what’s called Enhanced Half-Siblings. Half-siblings share only one parent…in this case they have the same mother and different fathers. Typically, those 2 fathers wouldn’t be related to each other, but here they are…they are brothers. Thus their sons are related 2 ways: half-brothers thru their mother, and 1st cousins thru their fathers. Total CR is 1/4 + 1/8 = 3/8.

129.17  The CR for full siblings is ½ or 4/8…for half-siblings it’s 1/4 or 2/8…3/8 is half-way between 4/8 and 2/8, so these sons are called “3/4 siblings”…3/4 is half-way between full and half. This correspondent was guessing at the name…but an astute guess and a correct one. But don’t be misled into thinking they are 3/4 related…they aren’t, since 3/4 isn’t half-way between ½ and 1/4, at least not when I went to school….what’s half-way between 1/2 and 1/4 is 3/8. Another way you can get 3/8…and I have a friend for whom this is exactly what happened…is when brothers marry identical twin sisters. Identical twins are considered genetically the same person…so it is as if the same woman had a child with each of 2 brothers…the offspring are genetically 3/4 brothers, but genealogically only double 1st cousins.

129.18  But here’s the capper to the story of Chart 450: Then they married sisters”…which is why I’ve taken that next step and added Zeke. How is Zeke related to DTFT’s dad? They’re not Enhanced Half-Siblings, since there are 4 different parents involved…but the parents are related, father-to-father and mother-to-mother, so this is still a case of “on both sides.” Dad and Zeke are 1st cousins…1/8…thru their mothers, that’s the easy one.

129.19  As for the fathers, the rule to remember is the “Half and Quarter Rule.” You are related to your parent’s relatives by half of what your parent is*…for example, your father is ½ to his brother, so you are half of that or 1/4 to your father’s brother, your uncle. That’s the “Half” part of the rule…the “Quarter” part is this: 2 people are related to each other by one quarter of the way their parents are related to each other…again, your father and uncle are ½…you are your father’s son, your 1st cousin is your uncle’s son, so you and your cousin are related by one quarter of ½…or 1/8.

129.20  Not for nothing, but you can use the “Half” rule instead of the “Quarter” rule and you should get the same result. Your father is related by his nephew by 1/4…half of that it 1/8 for you and the nephew, your 1st cousin.

129.21  Now we already know that Dad’s father and Zeke’s father are related by 3/8…so thru their fathers, Dad and Zeke are related by one quarter of that, or 3/32…added to the 1/8 or 4/32 they get for being cousins thru their mothers, total CR = 7/32…or a little less than half-siblings, 8/32 or 1/4. Done and done…till next week of course…

* It might seem like this rule doesn’t hold for your brother…he’s related to your father by ½, so to you, half of that is 1/4. But this is correct. Thru your father you are related to your brother by 1/4. Thru your mother  you are related to your brother by another 1/4…which is why the total CR between you and your brother is ½. Full siblings are “double half-siblings,” strange as that sounds. If your mother and your brother’s mother were not the same person, you’d have nothing more than the 1/4 from your shared father…and you’d be only half-siblings after all, capeesh?

wicked ballsy

wicked ballsy

Didn’t Buffalo Bob once ask Howdy Doody: “Who was that lady I saw you with last night?” and Howdy replied: “That was no lady, that was a 2-by-4.” Nawww, I probably just imagined it…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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