#202: Meatballs! Part I

202.1  Today, a look at Swedish kinship terminology …but we’re going to start waaaay off-topic, with the possibility that aliens from space are living undetected among us. Could be? Probably not, but at least we can be confident that the only player in Major League history to hit 3 home runs over the course of 2 innings is not from Mars…that’s Nomar Garciaparra…No-Mar…Not Martian, get it?

202.2  Which brings us to one of my favorite Christmas movies, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, from 1964. This film has a reputation as being one of the worst movies of all time, but undeservedly so in my opinion…it’s a kiddie flick after all, and viewed thru little eyes I can’t see it being all that terrible. It has a great theme song by Milton DeLugg, featuring fake Al Hirt trumpet fills by Roy Alfred…Al would record his own version…and some truly memorable moments, like when the Martians first confront the 2 Earth children…they ask what’s that sticking out of your heads and one Martian answers: Our antenna. And the girl asks: Are you a television?

202.3  This movie features the first screen appearance of an 8-year-old Pia Zadora…see today’s wicked ballsy…and is also said to contain the first portrayal of Mrs. Claus, beating TV’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by mere weeks…that’s a research project for another day…altho quite frankly, I doubt it’s true, but who knows. What concerns us today however is the names of the Martian leader and his family.

inset 1

202.4  They are Kimar…for King Martian, pronounced key-mar….Momar, mother Martian…Bomar, boy Martian…and Girmar, girl Martian (that’s Pia.)  As I said, this is a children’s movie and can’t be analyzed too deeply…like, what are all the other Martian boys and girls named? And why isn’t is Quemar for Queen Martian? But sure, you could say these names are kind of silly….until you realize that there is a language…Swedish…that does the same exact thing with it’s basic kinship terminology.

inset 2202.5  As a starting point, I used the Swedish Wikipedia’s article on Släkt  or Kinship…it’s written in Swedish of course…and a few other Swedish articles. Google’s translation service is much improved since the last time I checked and did a decent job…and much could be gleamed from context. The colorful chart, above is also from Uncle Wiki…and it takes some shortcuts…specifically, with respect to parents. The black square labeled Jag is you…literally “I”…and your parents are collectively labeled Föräldrar  which means “parents.”

chart 727

202.6  My Chart 727 uses the individual words for father and mother…Far and Mor…and shows how they are compounded to form other kinship terms. These are listed in Chart 728.  And FYI, the words Nevö and Niece for your siblings’ children do exist in Swedish, borrowed from the French…but they are considered quite snooty, like in English calling your parents “Mater” and “Pater.”

chart 728

202.7  One important point: while the Swedish language kinship terms are clearly different from English, their system of relationships is the same as ours. There are systems of kinship where not only the terms, but the relationships themselves are different. For example, in a system where you can marry cross cousins (children of your father’s sisters and your mother’s brothers) but not parallel cousins (children of your father’s brothers and your mother’s sisters), these 2 groups of cousins are seen as different relationships. In fact, in some languages, a single word is used to refer to both siblings and parallel cousins…that is, those of your generation whom you can’t marry. As another example…in a strictly matrilineal system, your “uncle” is your mother’s brother…your father’s brother is not related to you at all!

202.8  But to Swedes, your uncle is still your uncle…the difference is, their word spells out the side of the family: farbror and morbror…and we can do that in English too…it’s just that we have no single words, but must use phrases: father’s brother and mother’s brother….or uncle on my father’s side and uncle on my mother’s side. I read one native speaker of Swedish commenting on how strange it was that “uncle” and “aunt” in English didn’t specify which side of the family. Then again, Swedish has no words that literally mean uncle and aunt in the sense that English does. As my grandmother used to say, it’s half of one and six dozen of the other…(yes, I know…but that’s the way she would say it!)

 202.9  Now I suppose a native speaker of English, upon first seeing Chart 727, might think: wow, how logical! Well and good…but logic has its limits, truth be told. How do you take it beyond the generation of grandparents and grandchildren, and we’ll use Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as an example. Both are the great great grandchildren of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. If you wanted to, especially in a genealogical setting, you could literally spell it out…Elizabeth is a sonsonsondotter and Philip coincidentally happens to be a dotterdotterdotterson. But in common practice, it’s more convenient to say something more generic, as show in Chart 729. 

chart 729

202.10  So both are now a barnbarnbarnbarn meaning your “child’s child’s child’s child.” On the internet there is some disagreement about whether and where you should insert spaces and letters “s”…forgive me if I don’t have the stamina this Christmas season to sort it all out…hoping Santa will ask some native Swede to help! But going down thru direct descendants, it’s just that simple.

202.11  Going up thru direct ancestors, it’s a bit more complicated. The Swedish word for “parent” is förälder…plural föräldrar. But as you can see in Chart 729, generic grandparents still specify “father’s parent” and “mother’s parent”…perhaps as a sign of respect for the older generation. Then back from there, you stop specifying and use the word gammel, meaning “old.” I should also note that stor, meaning big or large, is sometimes used going down, as storbarnbarn  for great grandchild…but this usage seems infrequent, so I haven’t included in in Chart 729…pending further developments, of course. It is more common as storebror and storasyster, meaning big brother and big sister.

inset 3

202.12  In short, Swedish has its own conventions…twists, turns, and work-arounds, just as English does….and every language does. And what about cousins, removed or otherwise? Stop by next week for a second helping of Swedish meatballs!

wicked ballsy


Ahem…well…it’s not gentlemanly to look up a grown woman’s skirt, let alone an 8-year-old’s. Still, this is what you see in the movie, clear as day. And let’s face it, Pia didn’t grow up to be a shrinking violet, if you get my drift and I think you do…



Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#201: Stuffstockings

201.1  I’ve been a collector of verb-nouns after stumbling years ago upon this quote from James Thurber: “Why should a shattermyth have to be a crumplehope and a dampenglee?”  Why indeed. We don’t have that many of this type of word in English, but we have some: scarecrow, tattletale, slingshot, rotgut, wardrobe, killjoy, sawbones, pickpocket, spoilsport, spitfire, breakfast, skinflint, and worrywart…instead of crow scarer, tale tattler, shot slinger, gut rotter, robe warder, joy killer, bone sawer, pocket picker, sport spoiler, fire spitter, fast breaker, flint skinner and wart worrier….and that’s worry in the older sense of bothering or irritating…this is the dog that worried the cat, remember?

201.2  French has a lot more of these verb-nouns…2 of the more titillating being cache-sexe and pisse-vinaigre…look them up! Otherwise we’d have blowsnow, washdish, sitbaby, killpain, brokestock, beatbrow, stopgob, tendgoal, hopclod, setpace, countbean, holdplace, stormbarn, liftshop, warmbench, breakwind, browseweb, and yes, stuffstocking.

chart 723

201.3  Sooooo…let’s see what Santa has crammed down in there…first is a chart I found in my Futures File. Wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be for at first…then it occurred to me…except I had gone too far…don’t need double half-first cousins…love you guys, but not in this case, sorry!

chart 724

201.4  That’s better…this is a chart to counter the oft made claim that a “first cousin” is somebody with whom you share one grandparent. As you can see, you do indeed share grandparent G with your first cousin…but you also share one grandparent with your brother, your half-brother, and your half-first cousin….coefficients of relationship ranging from ½ to 1/16. The better definition of first cousin is 2 people who have siblings for parents. Now obviously, this does not mean the siblings married each other…but even if they did, their offspring would still be first cousins, along with being siblings…which we don’t see that much…which is a mercy, anyway.

201.5  Next, perhaps you miss my answers to questions posed at this website wiseGeek Cousins. I give everyone an answer there…and an answer here, with diagram, which I think makes it a world clearer. Can’t link to this site over there so they probably never see “their” chart, but a few very inquisitive and enterprising ones just might…and these are good examples of the kind of real-life questions people have about kinship and relations.

201.6  There just that the steady stream of questions has dried up…there was one recently, and the one before that win in April of this year…in which Harriet asks…

inset 1

201.7  First thing is to correct where she says: “So new hubby has a marriage relation to old hubby.”  Actually, Old and New are blood relatives, specifically second cousins once removed, as per Chart 725A. I suppose Harriet can then call Old her second-cousin-once-removed-in-law, but I wouldn’t, and I would beg her not to as well, altho she’s perfectly free to.

chart 725

201.8  Otherwise, she had it narrowed down pretty well, just couldn’t pull the trigger. The fact that an ancestor is a great grand to Old and a grand to New tells us we’re dealing with some relationship that’s once removed, since there’s a difference of one generation. Question is, did she get the number of the cousin right…and Chart 725B confirms that she did. Thus we can say that her old children and new children are third cousins once removed…at the very least.

201.9  Because half-siblings have one parent they share, and one they don’t. Normally those 2 unshared parents are not related to each other, but sometimes they are, as in this case. The old and new children are thus half-siblings (1/4) and 3rd cousins once removed (1/256)…total degree of relationship 25.4%, compared to 25% for half-siblings only. Not a big difference, but a difference nonetheless…genealogists call them “enhanced half-siblings.

201.10  I said that Old and New are 2C 1R…to round out the happy new blend, new children and old husband are 3C…and old children and new husband are 2C 2R…all of it owing to the fact that New is second cousin to Old’s father.

201.11  The more recent question is less tangled but no less worthy of attention. What it boils down to is how you define “related.”

chart 726

201.12  I am assuming that the questioner and best friend are females. The word “related” I take to be short for “related by blood”…to be related to Joe, you and Joe must have a common ancestor…at least one, could be more. The other main type of relationship is “by marriage”…somebody in your family marries somebody in Joe’s family. There are 2 special categories…steps and in-law…and I limit these to your immediate family, that is parents/children/siblings. Anything beyond that, I would just say “related by marriage” and spell it out specifically if somebody is interested.

201.13  So here, the answer is: you are your friend’s sister-in-law’s niece…looked at the other way, your friend is your aunt’s sister-in-law. This is certainly a “connection”…personally I wouldn’t call it a “relation,” but you can if you wish…it’s a free country.

201.14  Moving right along…the British Royal Family. Before getting into genealogy, I never thought about them much…now, can’t get enough. At the present time, the line of succession to the British Throne is straightforward enough…Uncle Wiki’s list, with a little tidying up, works for me…

inset 2

201.15  As you can see, when Elizabeth II dies, Prince Charles (1)  becomes King…when he goes, it’s his son Prince William (2), and when he kicks off, his son Prince George (3), Charles’ grandson. Anybody who is born in the future is listed under their parent, and the rank is adjusted accordingly. And if somebody dies, as the Queen’s younger sister Princess Margaret did in 2002, nobody below them loses their place…the numbers are simply moved up one.

201.16  Now there was recently a very important change…the abolition of primogeniture…which meant sons were jumped ahead of their sisters in line. This starts with Prince William and is not retroactive. If it were retroactive, then Elizabeth and Philip’s second child, Princess Anne, would jump ahead of her younger brothers Princes Andrew and Edward…she’d go from 11th to 5th, taking her children and grandchildren with her. But it isn’t so she won’t.

201.17  As things stand, Anne is considered the “fourth” child…and the chances of her or any of her offspring ascending to the throne are remote. Such was not the case when Victoria became Queen on June 20, 1837.

inset 2.5

201.18  For my own reference, I took Uncle Wiki’s list of George III’s first 4 children and fleshed it out, above…let me recast it in the form of the current list.

inset 3

201.19  Notice that when Victoria was born in 1819, her grandfather George III was still King…and it was hardly thought credible that the offspring of the 4th son would ascend to the throne, since Victoria’s father and his 3 older brothers were still alive. But die they would, 2 after becoming King, 2 before. In fact, not only was Victoria the heir when 3rd son William IV died in 1837, she had been the heir since 1830 when first son George IV died. The only question was, would William IV live past Victoria’s 18th birthday…if not, she would have needed a Regent. But he did…by a mere 27 days.

201.20  Recall the difference between heir apparent and heir presumptive. An heir apparent is first in line, and cannot be displaced…the only way they will not become monarch is if they die before the current monarch does. An heir presumptive is first in line, but can be bumped if someone closer is born. In 1930, 11-year-old Victoria was the heir presumptive…King William IV and Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (yes, the Australian city is named after her) had no living children…any subsequent child would have become the heir apparent and moved Victoria down the list. But at that point the Queen was 38 years old, and given her difficulty in bearing children in the past, an heir apparent was considered unlikely. Endlessly fascinating, sez me…and whose blog is it again?

wicked ballsy


Above are the most common names of the fingers, along with some alternates…the ancient Romans called the 4th finger digitus medicinalis…they got that from the Greeks…nobody today knows what it meant. Then you have the kiddie rhymes…


On the left is the way I learned it…but there’s another way, on the right…starting on the other side, with the pinky. And before you jump to the conclusion that lame one got renamed lean one out of sensitivity to the crippled…I seriously doubt it. I trace it back at least a century and it’s more likely just a shift in pronunciation…after all, we still have lamebrain, right? And calling the index finger the licking finger also goes back to antiquity…thus the inspiration for the title of today’s blog…and full circle.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#200: Re the Royals

200.1   Dear Stolf: I was reading where Prince Charles and Camilla Shand Parker-Bowles  are related to each other…to what degree being a matter of some controversy, owing to the inconvenient issue of wives versus mistresses. But thinking back, weren’t Charles and Diana related as well?  ….from Omar Q. Regalgawker, Munching-on-the-Thaimes

200.2  Dear Omar: In a word, yes. Now to put this in context, demographers and mathematicians have calculated…roughly…that everyone alive today is related to everyone else by at most 50th cousins…and the vast majority of course are a lot closer. Among Europeans the outside limit is about 35th cousins…for Britons, 25th cousins…for the British aristocracy, around 15th cousins.

200.3  A quick check of the internet gives Charles and Diana as 11th cousins once removed…even a couple of astrology site agree. And before you start to chortle over that, I should say that however dubious their premise…that the stars and planets control our destiny…astrologers tend to be meticulous when it comes to genealogy…and when it comes to astronomy for that matter…after all, whatever Pluto is, it’s still out there, nez pah?

200.4  And before even investigating that claim, I should say that it sounds reasonable…first cousins 11 times removed, for example, would not sound reasonable. The simple reason is that Charles and Diana were alive at the same time…meaning their genealogical generations co-existed…and how many generations of a family can you expect to have living representatives at any given point in time? In Chart 718, we are assuming that this family starts a new generation when a member reaches the age of 20…and all the the relatives shown were still alive in the year 2000. (BTW, Quntus’ parents purposely left the “i” out of Quintus to see if anybody noticed…nobody did.)


200.5  Here we have 6 generations coexisting…and notice that the 4 generations from Primus to Quadrus have living representatives coexisting for 40 years (1960-2000). Taking my mother’s family as a real-life example, with me as the youngest, 4 generations back to my great grandparents lasted only about 10 years, which I think is more typical. You’ll occasionally see pictures in the newspaper of 5 living generations, but that’s rare. And truth be told, 6 generations is hardly the theoretical limit, if you had a family that as a matter of tradition starts reproducing at age 15 instead of 20. But in Chart 718, the 4 generations of Primus to Quadrus makes Quadrus and Fred first cousins 3 times removed…thus 4 times removed is unusual, and anything beyond that is likely a mistake in genealogical reckoning.


200.6  At any rate, Chart 719 confirms that Elizabeth II and Diana Spencer were 11th cousins, making Charles and his wife 11th cousins once removed. And while Charles was the elder by chronological age, Diana belonged to the older generation, so she was the ascending, he was the descending. How close is that? I noticed one commenter’s opinion: “Even though it’s distant, it’s not right!!”…showing admirable restraint in limiting themselves to a mere 2 exclamation points.

200.7  But here’s the tale of the tape: they shared 1/16,777,216 of their genes…that’s a bit more than one out of 17 million. When you consider that human beings only have about 25,000 genes, it was highly likely that the number of genes they shared by descent was zero. Mathematically, Charles and Diana shared .00000596% of their genes by descent, and did not share the rest, that being 99.99999404%. They were as unrelated as you can be…genetically, there is no practical difference between 11th cousins and 50th cousins…altho genealogically there is a world of difference, which is why we do all this in the first place.

200.8  In Chart 719, I have indicated British monarchs with a purple-and-gold box…and I have gone to the trouble of showing all of them from James I to Elizabeth II. You will notice that there are 2 breaks in the continuity of parent-to-child. George I succeeded his second cousin Anne not because there wasn’t anyone closer…there were around 50 individuals closer….but because those closer were Catholics, and by the Act of Settlement in 1701, you had to be Protestant…and George I was Anne’s closest Protestant relative. The other break occurred when Victoria succeeded her first cousin William IV…and that had to do merely with who was alive and who wasn’t…her father was a King’s fourth son, but not only was he dead, but so were his older 3 brothers, and those 3 had no heirs at that point.

200.9  But as a result of these breaks, the monarchy, in the years directly after James I, shifted from Diana’s side to Charles’ side. And this is significant, because when it comes to aristocratic families, you don’t get much more blue-blooded than the Spencer family. To wit: the consensus among genealogists is that however you quantify “British royal blood flowing thru one’s veins,” the Spencers have a lot more of it than the Windsors, regardless of who’s sitting on the throne.

200.10  Take Elizabeth II and Diana…as 11th cousins, they share James I and his wife Anne of Denmark as 10G grandparents. But each also has 8190 other 10G grandparents and their accompanying families and ancestors. Now they also share some of those other 16,380…and  many of those “slots” are filled by the same individuals, shared or not. But a large number on the Windsor side are Germans…and a large number on the Spencer side are not…but are instead Tudors, Stuarts, William the Conqueror, Mary Queen of Scots, etc. It didn’t get much press on this side of the Atlantic, but Diana and her kin would talk about her marrying into a family of Germans…or “Huns” if they were feeling catty…so none of this was lost on those involved. In fact, in private, Diana was known to occasionally “pull rank” on her in-laws, if reports are to be believed…hardly endearing behavior, but there you go.

chart 720

200.11  As for the connection between Charles and Camilla, there are 2…the official one, scrubbed and cleansed, is ninth cousins once removed, as per Chart 720Charles being Camilla’s mother’s ninth cousin, so he is the ascending and Camilla is the descending. I found on the net several mentions of ninth cousins not removed, but these omitted Catherine Tufton…making Catherine Cavendish the mother of Catherine Watson, when it should be grandmother. As a rule, I use a woman’s birth or maiden name on trees and pedigree charts…this is for more precise identification, since a woman can have several married names but only one birth name. And in Chart 720, Catherine Cavendish when married became Catherine Tufton…and her daughter was also Catherine Tufton, who then became Catherine Watson, whose daughter was also Catherine Watson…my way helps you keep better track.

inset 0

200.12  If however…and rest assured it’s a big if however…Camilla’s great grandmother did the wild thing with Edward VII, then Camilla is half-second cousin to Elizabeth II and half-second cousin once removed to Charles. Feeling lazy, I decided to go with a chart I found online without redoing it…notice the line between Edward and Alice Edmonstone is dotted, not solid…ahem…’nuff said.

chart 721

200.13  But wait! There’s more! The old English gentry are entangled in innumerable ways, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that Elizabeth II and Sarah Ferguson’s grandmother were fourth cousins, making Fergie’s erstwhile hubby Prince Andrew her fifth cousin once removed. And since this traces back to the Cavendish clan, Sarah and Camilla are tenth cousins, as per Chart 721 And here’s the kicker…the reason Charles and Diana were called 11th cousins once removed was because this was thru royal  lines…as we saw, back to James I. But they were related in other ways that were closer, just not as illustrious…the nearest I’ve found is seventh cousins once removed, thru another Cavendish line. Just sayin’…

  200.14  Dear Stolf: With your interest in the family matters of the Royals, whatchoo think of this?  …from Sir Benditt Kwayle-Overbite, QED, ESP, LMNOP


200.15  Dear Benny, if I may be sold bold as to call you that: Yeah, I did happen to see that at Mail Online, the cyber wing of the Daily Mail, UK’s redoubtable bottom-feeding tabloid. And the first thing that springs out at you is the word “plotted” which is, honestly, overreaching. Indeed, the young Queen did do several things to make situations at Buckingham Palace cleave more to her liking, as was her right…but they were hardly earth-shattering…family matters really…and what a family, sez me.

200.16  The most famous example being her breaking with tradition and declaring that Windsor would remain the Royal House…by past precedence, it should have been Mountbatten, her husband’s. Recall that the Royal House is essentially the house…or today, the surname…of the royal offspring…the Queen herself is forever a Windsor, married or not. Philip complained publicly that he was the only man in the realm not permitted to give his children his last name…true enough, but that’s their system. And the royal kids do today consider themselves Mountbatten-Windsors, in deference to him, whereas by law they are just plain Windsors.

inset 2

200.17  But that word “plotted” sure gives a 61-year-old tale an added tang. Reading these subheads provided with the article, they do flesh out the details…end result: the whole thing seems nothing but reasonable. What you must realize is that as hidebound by tradition the laws of succession may seem, they are just that: simply laws. Now in the old days, might made right, and the law…or which law shall we have?…was upheld by force. Today, instead of armed conflict in the streets, such things are decided before learned magistrates in oaken courtrooms. But it still comes down to what is the law?

200.18  And the law in place in 1953 was the Regency Act of 1937…here regency refers to the guardianship of a monarch who is not yet of legal age. Well, “official” guardian, since we are assuming here that just one parent dies, and Charles did have 2 parents after all. As things stood, had Elizabeth dropped dead in 1953, 4-year-old Charles would have been King, and the law stated that the next claimant in line to the throne, assuming they were 21 years old, would be Regent, acting in Charles’ place until he hit 18. And that would have been that crazy mixed up kid, Princess Margaret, at the time aged 23 and dating a commoner, and a divorced commoner to boot. Such a possibility disturbed Elizabeth…and Philip too, remember him?…and they were rightly moved to propose a remedy, the Regency Act of 1953, which named Philip the potential Regent.

200.19  The provisions of this act have long since become moot. But in 1953, all and sundry thought the change completely prudent…yes, it was traditional, and in some sense logical, that a Regent also be a Royal, but in the general scheme of things, even things Britannic, it wasn’t that big a deal. In case you were wondering about Margaret’s take on all this, she was fully on board, so really, there’s not much of a story here…politicians fiddled and fussed for a time, as they will, but that was it. One interesting tidbit…the new law eliminated a strange anomaly…that a Monarch came of age when 18, but a Regent had to be 21…which seemed a bit cockeyed and was changed.

wicked ballsy

chart 722

But we were speaking of Mountbattens…and if you’re yearning for something more salacious, and seventh, ninth, or 13th cousins just doesn’t do it for you, I have something I think you’ll like. Before Diana, Charles proposed to his second cousin, Amanda Knatchbull. As you can see in Chart 722, Charles’ paternal grandmother and Amanda’s maternal grandfather were siblings. In fact, that grandfather was Prince Philip’s favorite uncle, the second Lord and Admiral Mountbatten…his father Louis Alexander, who married one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, was the first. While Amanda was deciding whether to accept or not, her grandfather and grandmother were killed by an IRA bomb planted on their fishing boat. She decided not. Philip went with Di.

Interesting about the Mountbatten surname. The first Lord was born in Austria, and eventually became a naturalized British citizen. The second Lord was born in London, but at the time the family name was Battenberg, in due course anglicized to Mountbatten. Now when Prince Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu, he had no last name, since his father had none. When he became a Brit, his original choices for surname included Oldburgh and Oldcastle, based on Oldenberg or Oldenborg, the Germanic house of which his family belonged to an offshoot. For whatever reason…you’d have to have been there…this was considered too pedestrian and he was encouraged to go with his grandfather’s surname Mountbatten…technically not his mother’s, since she went by Battenberg up until the time she was married.

And if it sounds like old Phil got “pushed around” a lot, well, he knew what he was getting into and the pluses apparently outweighed the minuses, if you follow my drift and I think you do. BTW…when perusing Chart 722, did you notice that besides being Charles’ second cousin on his father’s side, Amanda was also his fourth cousin on the Queen’s side? You did? Brilliant.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved