#197: Whack-a-Wiki!

197.1  Hold onto your hat…I’m going to say something nice about Wikipedia! Well, it will start out that way, probably won’t end that way…what can you do?

197.2  But I believe in giving credit where credit’s due. Ground zero for kinship confusion is the term “cousin”…and Uncle Wiki’s cousin page is much improved from the mess it was several years ago. Key improvements include very clear family tree diagrams illustrating the different types of cousins….and more recently, they removed from the “alternate definitions” section that dopey mistake that makes your uncle also your first cousin once removed. To wit, taking for example a 2nd cousin, they had said moving up and down a generation would make your 2nd cousin’s son your 2nd cousin once removed (correct) and your 2nd cousin’s father also your 2nd cousin once removed (incorrect…the father your 1st cousin once removed.)

197.3   It sort of makes sense, until you apply it to 1st cousins, then it doesn’t. Elevating this mistake to a full-blown alternate system was crazy…I complained about it on the “Talk” page and whether that helped or not I don’t know…but for now, it’s gone. Actually, I would like to see some discussion of this mistake and why it’s wrong…as well as the far more common mistake of calling your 1st cousin’s child your 2nd cousin. Apparently there was such a “2nd cousin mistake” entry at one time, but it was removed…both mistakes are common enough that they deserve to be addressed, but current Wiki-thinking says no.

197.4  But I still bristle when I read their opening definition, which is extremely misleading…A cousin is a relative with whom a person shares one or more common ancestors. In the general sense, cousins are two or more generations away from any common ancestor, thus distinguishing a cousin from an ancestor, descendant, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.  You know you’re on the wrong track when you make a statement and immediately have to take it back! Better would be the simple: Cousins are the descendants of siblings, by the same number of generations. 

chart 706 AB

197.5  And up until my recent series of blogs on step-relations, I hadn’t noticed the problem with their treatment of “step-cousins”…Chart 706A. Saying that Joe is your step-cousin doesn’t provide much information, since Joe can be any one of 3 different things, as I have indicated in Chart 706B. And they missed type 1, which I have diagrammed using their style.

inset 0

197.6  I pointed this out on the “Talk” page, with no response as of yet…and also addressed the wider issue of whether extending step-relatives beyond the nuclear family of parents/children/siblings makes sense at all. The key problem in my mind is how you can have step-somethings without being in a step-family relationship…that is, without having a step-parent or a step-child.

197.7  My current thinking is that if you must have step-cousins, they ought to be the result of a step-relationship that involves either you or one of your direct ancestors…that is, parents, grandparents, etc…and not the result of a step-relationship that involves one of your collateral relatives. And this requirement would apply to both step-cousins. Thus, in their diagram (Chart 706A), the criterion applies to Mary but not to David…so they are not step-cousins. In my diagram (Chart 706B) it does apply to both so they are step-cousins…this means type 1 is…types 2 and 3 are not. A compromise of sorts, but it seems to me a reasonable one…if you must have step-cousins!  But in truth, it doesn’t matter that much…precision with blood relatives is what’s at the heart of our system of kinship terminology…relatives thru marriage are fuzzier, because we do get the language we want, nez pah?

inset 1

 197.8  Now it is interesting that moving beyond Uncle Wiki’s cousin page, they say nothing about step-collaterals on their step-family page…limiting it to the nuclear family, which again I think is sensible. It does crop up on the “Talk” page…and the “expert” blithely remarks that it’s all good, which I would dispute. Altho I must say that on the main page they do get the distinction between step-siblings and half-siblings correct, which is eminently laudable.

197.9  And if you’re in the mood for a chuckle, check out this crazy mixed-up comment…talk about giving curiosity a bad name…

inset 2


197.10  So I thought I’d check out some of Uncle Wiki’s other kinship term pages, and as you’d expect they are pretty solid…it’s cousins beyond 1st cousins that throw people.

inset 3

197.11  On the sibling page they do get into 3/4 siblings, which is kind of advanced kinship-wise…and I wish they’d explained why they’re called that. You might be tempted to think the degree of relationship between 2 such individuals would be 3/4, but it’s not…it’s 3/8. The phrase “3/4 siblings” results from this relationship being half-way between full and half-siblings, since 3/8 is half-way between ½ and 1/4.

chart 707

197.12  As you can see on Chart 707, 3/4 siblings are half-siblings on one side and 1st cousins (horizontal) or half-uncle/half-nephew (vertical) on the other…in both cases 1/4 + 1/8 = 3/8. In other words, they are half-siblings…but with something extra, owing to the unshared parents being related. That’s why the generalized term is Enhanced Half-Siblings…and those related parents can be related in countless ways, not just siblings or parent/child.

inset 4

197.13  Uncle Wiki tries to generalize the concept with “sibling cousins.” A clumsy term, first because “half-sibling cousins” would be more accurate…and second, because it’s easy to confuse that with full siblings who are also cousins, as for example siblings whose parents are cousins to each other, which could be called what?…”cousin siblings”? Stick with “enhanced” for siblings who are closer than 1/2…and half-siblings who are closer than 1/4.

197.14  And wouldn’t you know, another “other kind” turns up on the sibling “Talk” page…

inset 5

The answer of “5/8 siblings” is logical, but again misleading, since the coefficient of relationship is 5/16, not 5/8. The correct answer is that not everything needs to have a “name”…just say they’re half-siblings thru their fathers and half-1st cousins thru their mothers…because that’s what they are…Chart 708.

chart 708

197.14  Finally, we come to an “orphan” entry…something that is discussed on the sibling “Talk” page but is no longer on Uncle Wiki’s main sibling page.

inset 6

I believe you can access a list of all the changes if you want to know when exactly “cross siblings” was deep-sixed…I’m more interested in what they are…or were. And at the outset we should note that those with an anthropological or sociological bent would take “cross siblings” to mean siblings of the opposite sex…so there’s that.

chart 709

197.15  But here, Chart 709 diagrams the example that illustrated the deleted cross sibling entry. The correct way to look at this is to say that Eden is Michael’s half-sibling on Michael’s father’s side…and Kevin is Michael’s half-sibling on Michael’s mother’s side…what does that then make Eden and Kevin? The answer, at least by blood relations, is nothing. It’s the same situation you have with 1st cousins…you have some on your father’s side and some on your mother’s side…but unless your father and mother are themselves blood relatives, these 2 groups of 1st cousins are unrelated to each other.

197.16  These days, with increasing rates of divorce and remarriage, it’s more common to find a person with half-siblings “on both sides.” It has been suggested that 2 unrelated people who never-the-less have a half-sibling in common be called “quarter siblings.” Well, if such a term is needed, we’ll get one…I’d advise against this one tho, since the word “quarter” suggests a fraction of blood relationship that in this type of case doesn’t exist.

197.17  I suppose the term “cross sibling” is as good as any for now, at least outside of academic circles. I’d be tempted to just say: “Joe is my half-brother’s half-brother”…altho the implicit “but Joe isn’t my half-brother” might be missed by the hearer, resulting in confusion. But how this whole setup strains the meaning of step-sibling is seen in the response, which cites a real life example…except in that example, there is one specific series of events…and there could be another!

chart 710

197.18  What that response describes is Chart 710the Brady Bunch scenario, with say B being Mike and A being Carol. Now on the TV program they had no children together…but if they had, say a daughter Lola, then she would be a half-sibling to both the girls and the boys…but Lola would be a step-sibling to no one.

chart 711

197.19  But suppose it happened the opposite way…Michael came first, then his parents divorced and started new families. This differs from the traditional step-family in Chart 710, where 2 parents are dead. In Chart 711, Michael has both a father and step-father, a mother and step-mother…which traditionally of course wasn’t possible. And remember, altho Michael has step-parents, he has no step-siblings…Eden and Kevin are his half-siblings. It’s a stretch to call Eden and Kevin step-siblings…looked at from Eden’s point of view: your father’s first wife has Kevin with her new husband, and Kevin is your —what? I’d say your nothing…mainly because that first wife is nothing to you. Yet Eden and Kevin are step-siblings in Chart 710…so Chart 709 is ambiguous…it represents both the 710 and 711 scenarios.

197.20  All in all, I’d say this reinforces my basic point: keep steps simple!

wicked ballsy

wb 712

This is one of those “sayings” that circulates around Facebook…and before I could help myself, I’d diagrammed it out…d’oh!…a little lemon juice, a little tartar sauce….


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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