#205: Who Was That Masked Nephew?

205.1  In the movie “A Christmas Story,” they mention the quiz question: What is the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse? I never knew the Masked Man had a nephew. Did he really?

205.2   Not to start with, no. The Lone Ranger was invented as a dramatic radio series on WXYZ in Detroit in 1933. His origin: a posse of six Texas Rangers, lead by Captain Dan Reid, is ambushed by Butch Cavendish and his Hole-In-The-Wall Gang. All are killed except Dan Reid’s younger brother John, who is left for dead. Revived by Tonto, he dons a mask made from his dead brother’s vest and becomes you-know-who.

205.3  Now among purists, there is even a debate about whether the Lone Ranger’s first name really is John. The claim is made that on the radio show a first name is never mentioned. Do all episodes still exist? Has somebody listened carefully to each and every one of them? At any rate, the theory is “John” came from somewhere else…a movie?…a published story?…nobody is sure where. But for our purposes, we will assume the Lone Ranger is John Reed…and as such, he rides through almost a decade of thrilling adventures, until the fad for juvenile sidekicks catches up with him in December, 1942…

205.4  …when a five episode arc culminates with “A Nephew is Found,” broadcast on Christmas day…and it is discovered that young Dan Frisby is actually Dan Reid, Jr. It seems that 15 years previously, Grandma Frisby was in a wagon train heading west along with Captain Reid’s wife Linda and their infant son. Linda is killed by Indians, and Grandma Frisby adopts the child as her grandson. Is the boy’s name really Dan? Grandma named him that because of a locket that contained two pictures, one of Dan Reid and his wife, the other of younger brother John. The Lone Ranger takes off his mask and Grandma Frisby now knows Dan’s true identity. Her dying words: “Ride on forever, Lone Ranger, with Danny at your side.”

205.5  Interestingly, the same radio people who invented the Lone Ranger also came up with the Green Hornet in 1936. Years later, in a November, 1947 episode, Britt Reid reveals to his father Dan that he is the Green Hornet. Dan recalls that as a youth he rode with another masked vigilante…and we briefly hear the Lone Ranger theme. This makes the Lone Ranger the grand uncle of the Green Hornet, all neat and tidy.


205.6  Except it gets complicated…it shouldn’t, but it does. And it shouldn’t because I daresay virtually every baby boomer who watched the short-lived Green Hornet TV series thought they were seeing the Green Hornet…that is, the Britt Reid from the radio series that their parents listened to. But these many years later, doubt creeps in. For example, Uncle Wiki cites a scene with Britt and reporter Mike Axford in the first TV episode “Silent Gun” and concludes that it “hints Britt’s father was the first Green Hornet”…by which they mean, the TV Green Hornet is the son of the radio Green Hornet. But as happens way too often, the Wikipudlians are dead wrong!

205.7  The scene in question has Britt authorizing payment to an “informant” for a news story, and Mike recalls when Britt’s father did the same thing…”I remember we once paid $5000 to an axe murderer!”  Thus it establishes…it does not “hint”…that Britt’s father was once the publisher of the Daily Sentinel newspaper, nothing more. And this resembles the backstory of the radio series: Britt’s father Dan owns the paper, and makes his playboy son Britt publisher to keep him out of trouble…even assigning Mike as his bodyguard. And of course Dan was never the Green Hornet, Britt was…he was inspired to do so when gangsters frame his father, who is sent to prison.

205.8  And while I haven’t seen all the TV episodes, it’s interesting to note that in a 5-minute test film with Jay Murray as the Hornet, his father is named father Henry Reid. But jump ahead to 1989, and NOW Comics reboots the franchise, with Britt Reid II, nephew of the original, now the Green Hornet. He eventually has a heart attack and is replaced by his nephew Paul Reid. Mercifully, the company went out of business in 1995. This obviously isn’t canonical, or “real” even in the fictional sense. Then we have Dynamite Entertainment Comics who in 2006 re-wrote the Lone Ranger saga to make both Dan and John Reid mere rangers, under the command of their father Captain James Reid…not to mention that in the 2011 Green Hornet movie, Britt’s father is also named James.

205.9  But getting back to your question, Dan Jr.’s horse was named “Victor.” This factoid ties into the question of exactly when “A Christmas Story” is supposed to take place. It had long been assumed that the year is 1940, since the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring shown is of the style introduced in 1940. Then somebody noticed that the calendar on the wall in the dinner scenes has the first of December falling on a Friday. That makes it 1939, in line with the department store sequence, as “The Wizard of Oz” also came out in 1939. But how could they know about Dan Reid Jr. who didn’t exist until 1942? Put together with all the other irreconcilable clues, the answer is: no exact year is possible. Cool movie though, sez me….and away!!


205.10 My friend Zoë says her Aunt Annie is also her cousin. Can that be possible?

205.11 Yes, it’s completely possible, owing to the old kinship truism that we have two distinct groups of relatives, those on our mother’s side and those on our father’s side. Thus 2 people can be related in one way on one side, and in another way on the other side. Your case would occur if two brothers married a woman and her daughter. Say Annie and Zoë’s fathers are brothers, making Annie and Zoë first cousins. And suppose that Zoë’s mother is the daughter of Annie’s mother, making Zoë the niece of Annie, right? Well, almost right, as diagrammed in Chart 741.


205.12   The sticking point is this: who is Y‘s father, Zoë’s grandfather? It’s either Annie’s father B or somebody else. And if it’s Annie’s father, that means one of the brothers married his niece!


205.13   This does not queer the deal at all…down thru history, and in many cultures today, this is perfectly acceptable…it’s called an avunculate marriage, and while illegal in the US, it is legal in such countries as Argentina, Brazil, Australia, France, and Russia. In some parts of India, a man can marry his sister’s daughter, but not his brother’s daughter. Interestingly, the marriage of a woman and her nephew is virtually unheard of.

205.14   And avunculate marriages occurred among European royal families as recently as the 1800s, so Chart 742a, while hardly likely, cannot be entirely ruled out. More likely however is Chart 742bZoë’s grandfather is not B but somebody else…and now we are dealing with step-relations and half-relations. Assuming X already had Y when she married B, this would make Zoë’s mother her father’s brother’s step-daughter. And Zoë is not Annie’s sister’s daughter but Annie’s half-sister’s daughter….Annie and Zoë are half-aunt and half-niece, not aunt and niece.

205.15  To sum up: if one of the brothers married his niece, what you describe is perfectly correct. If not, then it’s first cousins by blood on one side,  but half-aunt and half-niece on the other side. Either way, an interesting tangle…ain’t love grand?


Copyright © 2015 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#204: Presidents, Etc.

204.1  Not counting fathers, sons, grandfathers and grandsons, which two American presidents are the most closely related?

204.2   No brothers or first cousins have ever been president. In recent times, the Kennedys were of course a near miss, and Jeb Bush bears watching. A research project for another day would be to investigate siblings and first cousins with presidential aspirations…the Tafts and Rockefellers are two recent families worth looking at…wealthy clans for whom public service was of special importance. ch 736 204.3  Chart 736 shows the direct descendants…John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, and the Bushes. John Scott Harrison is the only individual whose both father and son were president, which just another way to say that William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison are the only grandfather/grandson pair. The “middle” Harrison served 4 years in the House representing Ohio, and after death was the victim of a bizarre grave-robbing scheme, which see. 124 re 204.4  Beyond these, the most famous collateral presidential relationship would be Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who were fifth cousins. FDR’s wife Eleanor was Teddy’s niece, the daughter of his brother Elliott, making FDR and his First Lady fifth cousins once removed. And there are some fascinating twists and turns here, like FDR’s father James Roosevelt’s blood relationship to his first wife, and his courting of another relative…you can read about that here: Related How Again #35. Franklin and Eleanor were one of those unusual couples who had the same surname before they married. But the Roosevelts are not the closest collaterals… 

204.5  …because that would be 4th president James Madison and 12th president Zachary Taylor who were second cousins. Say “second cousins” today and you often get a blank stare in response. Hopefully, constant readers of this blog will find their own stares becoming less and less blank! But just as “first cousins” means two of their parents are siblings, “second cousins” simply means two of their grandparents are siblings, no more, no less. ch 737 204.6  As per Chart 737, Madison’s paternal grandmother Frances Taylor Madison and Zachary Taylor’s grandfather, also named Zachary Taylor, were siblings. And although the elder Zachary was 7 years older than his sister, their presidential grandsons were born 33 years apart, hence 11 presidents and 32 years between their administrations. ch 738 204.7  Oddly enough, when ranking the closeness of collateral presidents, 8th president Martin Van Buren was actually more closely related to Teddy Roosevelt than FDR was, owing to their Dutch ancestry. Van Buren was a 3rd great grandchild and Teddy a 6th great grandchild of one Cornelis Laurens. As third cousins three times removed, they are 1/1024 related, twice as close as the two Roosevelts at 1/2048. Genealogically significant, genetically not so much.


204.8   We’re having an argument at work. I say a man can be your first cousin while his son is also your first cousin. Everybody else says I’m nuts. Who’s right?

204.9  You, of course! But before I explain why, a couple of stipulations. It is common for someone to refer to their first cousin as their “cousin”…and their first cousin’s child also as their “cousin,” a simplification of the correct “first cousin once removed descending.” So in this sense, father and son could both be your “cousin.” I will approach your question from the literal viewpoint…both father and son must literally be a first cousin to you. Further, we’ll try to do it without any interbreeding, which is to say, nobody is our scenario has married a close blood relative…capeesh?

204.10  So…let’s say you have a first cousin named Bart and he has a son Sam. Now without knowing anything else about your family tree, we can say that you and Sam are first cousins once removed. But the fact is that two people, in this case you and Sam, can be related in more than one way…since everyone has two sets of non-related ancestors: their father’s side and their mother’s side. ch 739 204.11  We will suppose that you and Bart are first cousins because your fathers are brothers, as per Chart 739. All we need is for Sam’s mother and your mother to be sisters, and you and Sam are also first cousins. That almost seemed too simple, didn’t it? And as a bonus, since Bart is married to your aunt, so in a sense Bart is your “uncle” as well as your first cousin.

204.12  Thus you are Bart’s first cousin on your fathers’ side, Sam’s first cousin on your mothers’ side. Do you get the nagging feeling that Bart married a blood relative? No such thing. Bart married his blood uncle’s wife’s sister. It’s unusual, but assuming his uncle didn’t marry a relative, neither did Bart.


 204.13  Watching some of my favorite cheesy sci-fi movies from the 1950s and 60s, the name of novelist and screenwriter Ib Melchior sometimes pops up. But what the heck kind of name is “Ib”?

204.14  Oh, yeah…Reptilicus, Angry Red Planet, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Journey to the Seventh Planet, The Time Travelers, Planet of the Vampires…wonderful. He was from Denmark, and was born Ib Jørgen Melchior. But Ib is in fact a Danish nickname for Jakob or Jacob, as is Jep and Jeppe. Right now you might be asking, well, why isn’t it “Ob”? I don’t honestly know, but then I don’t mind a little mystery in life, know what I mean? inset 1 204.15  But wait…now that I think about it, you ought not confuse Ib Melchior with Disney cartoonist Ub Iwerks. He was born in the province of Frisia in northwest Germany, close to Denmark, so it should come as no surprise that his given name Ubbe is a Danish form of Urban or Urbanus. But when it came time to put credits on the screen, “Ub” was unusual enough that it was sometimes thought to actually be two letters, appearing as U.B. Iwerks.


Copyright © 2015 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#203: Meatballs! Part II

203.1  As we saw last week, the Swedish words for the members of the nuclear family…father/mother, son/daughter, brother/sister…are readily identifiable to native speakers of English…in fact the word for “son” is the same. This is not surprising, since English and Swedish both belong to the Germanic family of languages, as shown in Chart 730…I have included another member, Dutch, for no other reason than the intriguing Star Wars connection.

chart 730

203.2  And while there is a certain amount of compounding in English…grand+mother, great+grand+nephew, half+3rd+cousin…we have nothing like the compounds indicated in Chart 730 in green…they almost resemble Legos pieces clicked together…BTW, Legos invented in Denmark. This Swedish convention is also unique in the Nordic or Scandinavian sub-family of languages. These include Danish and Norwegian, which together with Swedish are mutually intelligible among native speakers of those three languages…plus Islandic and Faroese, which are less so. Finnish is not a Germanic language, but belongs to a group that includes Hungarian and Estonian. Even so, about 5% of Finns speak a dialect of Swedish as their native tongue, and vice versa.

203.3  But we’ll start Part II of our tour of Swedish kinship with cousins, and it’s a double dose…

chart 731

203.4  …because there are 2 basic ways to refer to what I call your “numbered” cousins. On the right, männing means relative or kinsman…and the prefixes are literally the Swedish words for 1, 2, 3. As we shall see, there are different words for 1st, 2nd, 3rd. If you have a mathematical bent, you no doubt recognize the former as cardinal numbers, the latter as ordinal numbers. “1” for sibling and “2” for 1st cousin are archaic and not normally heard…I suppose they could pop up in genealogical discussions, nez pah? But this inconvenient convention, at least across languages, means an xth cousin in English is an (x+1) relative in Swedish…can’t be helped.

203.5  These männing terms for cousins are the most commonly used, and have their direct counterparts in the other Nordic languages. But Swedish has a second set of words for cousins…the –ling group…which are more old-fashioned, and today likely to not be understood by a good portion of the younger generations…sound familiar? The obvious disadvantage is that you have to “invent” a different word for each degree of cousin…with the männing terms, you simply continue counting…sju, åtta, nio, tio  for 7, 8, 9, 10, and so forth.

203.6  How did these special -ling terms originate? If you noticed S for sister/syssling and B for brother/brylling, you’re on the right track. Syssling originally mean the son or daughter of one’s aunt or parent’s sister…and brylling, of one’s uncle or parent’s brother. The meanings eventually changed, migrating over to more distant cousins.

203.7  Pyssling has several meanings in Swedish…a small person, pygmy, or runt…but also what we would call a “wee person”…a fairy or elf. Amusingly, Google Translate returns “Leprechaun” for pyssling, and indeed this sense has extended to Femmånningar, the plural of femmånning, which in Swedish means “the Little People.” Obviously elves have nothing to do with the number 5, but that’s language for you.

203.8   In Swedish trassling also means tangles or entanglements, and can be used in a general sense to refer to distant relatives. None of this has anything to do with brissling, the juvenile stage of the fish we eat as a sardine…and “brisling”…with a single “s”…is an English word taken from Swedish…which is why you see it on cans at the grocery store. Perhaps you thought it meant something fancier than “small fish” but I’m afraid it doesn’t…which is how marketing works.

chart 732

203.9  To further complicate things, there are several regional variations on cousins…and those for northern Sweden in red do use the ordinals…1st, 2nd, 3rd. On the island of Gotland in yellow, they use letters of the alphabet. And the southern Swedes (green) and Swedish-speaking Finns (blue) have their own words for 2nd cousin…”small” and “next” seem eminently appropriate to me.

203.10  So far, so good. We now come to that sticking point in English, cousins removed…and in Swedish, the descending (descendants of your cousins) and the ascending (cousins of your ancestors) are dealt with differently. For the children, grandchildren, etc. of your cousins, you simply do what you do with your own grandchildren, nieces, and nephews…apply the appropriate sequence of sons and dotters…or the appropriate number of barns…and you’re done. No removeds to fuss with going in that direction.

203.11  In the other direction, different story. We need to look at what I call a Cousin Ladder…designating how you are related to each of your cousin’s direct ancestors, back to your common great/grandparent ancestors. The sources I found on the net, including Oom Wiki, were no help…I was pleased to finally find a chart by a Swedish lady named Emmy, reproduced as Chart 733 with my additions in red.

203.12  And as an aside, släktskapsdiagram means kinshipchart or relationshipgraph…as a Germanic language, Swedish has the tendency to run words together, altho without nearly so much abandon as the German language itself does. And wouldn’t you know it, the German record-setters are found in bureaucratese…mind you, the Germans own up to doing this and even have a word for it…bandwurmwörter  or “tapeworm words”…ha!

203.13  But these come and go…several years ago the 67-letter monstrosity grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung meaning “regulation governing the delegation of authority pertaining to land conveyance permissions” was retired, leaving the 63-letter rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz  or “law concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labeling of beef” the reigning champ…altho I believe that was recently ditched too. One wonders how you realistically deal with such words, and the answer is by abbreviating…like this: RkReÜAÜG.

chart 733

203.14  At any rate, Emmy’s Cousin Ladder is pretty anticlimactic…there are no words, compounded or otherwise, for your cousin’s parents, grandparents, etc. …you simply spell it out…for example, your 4th cousin’s grandparent, what we’d call your 2nd cousin twice removed ascending, is your “mother or father’s parent’s 2nd cousin.” Which, surprise surprise, is precisely the best way to say it in English too…and when you think about it, it’s equivalent to our removed system, since “twice removed” here literally means “your grandparent’s”…the fact that people don’t recognize this is the primary season they get so bollixed up with removeds in the first place.

chart 734

203.15  What’s left to look at is the uncles and aunts…the siblings of your direct ancestors…back beyond your parents’ generation. Here again, there are 2 ways to do it…comparing Emmy’s chart with Wikipedia’s above, and looking at the Cousin Ladder for your 3rd cousin as an example…Wiki does it with gammel = “old”…Emmy does not… you can dissect the particulars if you like, bearing in mind that bröder, a word I don’t believe we’ve seen yet, is just the plural of bror or brother.

chart 735

203.16  What is of significance, if we can believe Onkel Wiki’s diagram, is that uncles and aunts, that is, siblings of your direct ancestors, accumulate multiple gammels the further back you go, whereas those direct ancestors themselves do not…with them, a single gammel signals you’ve moved past your parent’s parent…and from there back it’s an ever-increasing litany of parent’s parent’s parent’s parent’s parent’s whatever. If this reminds you of the “great uncle” controversy…where using that terminology instead of “grand uncle” gives you a direct ancestor and his brother, of the same generation, who are identified with a different number of “greats”…well, it should, sad to say.

203.17  A couple final thoughts…Swedish has halvkusin for half-1st cousin, as well as dubbelkusin for double 1st cousin. And while halvbror and halvsyster are your half-siblings, these terms can also refer to step-siblings…context is key, I guess. Such odd words as halvson and halvdotter exist, again meaning steps…and the opposite of these would be “2nd mother” or “2nd father” instead of step-mother/father. At the same time, styv in front of anything indicates a step-relative…go figure.

203.18  Helbror and helkusin  are full brother and full cousin, as opposed to half…hel can mean “full” in Swedish but is here closer to “whole.” Svår  means “hard” in the senses of difficult or severe…but it also signifies in-laws…svårfar, svårmor, svårson, svårdotter…the word for law is lag. But brother-in-law can be both svårbror and svåger…sister-in-law, svårsyster and svågerska…their word for “nepotism” is svågerpolitik…politik means politics but also policy.  And since in English, the word “degree” can mean any number of things when applied to kinship, I’ll just mention such a phrase as släkting i andra led…”relative in the second degree”…without further investigation.

203.19  But like it or not, languages evolve. Swedish has a small but earnest “gender-neutral” movement afoot…I leave it to you to figure what grievances such neologisms as mappor, pammor, and broster  are intended to ameliorate…they don’t look gender-neutral to me, not completely anyway, but then again it’s not my language. Ciao for niao…

wicked ballsy


…but before I go, Uncle Wiki also has a chart for Danish, with the same basic layout as the Swedish chart. There are many interesting nooks and crannies…but what caught my eye was 2nd cousin called “half-cousin”…halvkusine…and 3rd cousin being “quarter-cousin”…kvartkusine… with corresponding half- and quarter- uncles and aunts. Reminds me of Spanish and their 2nd uncles and 3rd aunts…difference is, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th would easily extend such a scheme indefinitely…1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, if that’s in fact how they do it, less elegantly, but still possible. But that’s a research project for another blog.


Copyright © 2015 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#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.

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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.

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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

#199: TV and Movie Picks…

199.1  This week, a couple of interesting bits from the screen, large and small…starting with Charles Bronson in The Magnificent Seven.

inset 1

199.2  His character was named Bernardo O’Reilly, and when it was suggested that with that moniker he must have been adopted, he famously responds: Yeah, that’s my real name. Irish on one side…Mexican on the other…and me in the middle.

199.3  Bernardo O’Reilly has always been a favorite of Russian film fans…easy to understand since Bronson, born in Pennsylvania coal country, was the son of Lithuanian immigrants with Tatar lineage…as a child, he spoke both Lithuanian and Russian to family members. His surname was Buchinsky…his father changed it from Bunchinski, on the theory that the former sounded more “American”…Charles took it one step further with Bronson.

inset 2

199.4  And it’s hardly a stretch to think that the character’s name was inspired by Chilean freedom fighter Bernardo O’Higgins, above left. And here’s a parallel in baseball, above right. Recall that a typical Spanish name consists of a Christian name, the father’s surname, and the mother’s surname in that order. The Alou brothers are famous for a discrepancy: they were actually Rojas Alou, and in their home country of the Dominican Republic, the family was, and still is, known as Rojas. Somehow, they got their mother’s surname when they played in the US…see Related How Again? #176. 

199.5  Now the Alous are the best known example, but this has happened to a smattering of other Latin ballplayers as well. Unfortunately, standard references are inconsistent in the way they differentiate such double surnames…we assume Vince’s father was Gonzales, his mother O’Reilly, but I can’t honestly say for sure. I can tell you his career in the Bigs was brief…one game, 2 innings, ERA of 27.00…don’t ask.

199.6  Next, a tantalizing question…on The Mod Squad did Pete Cochran once date his cousin? Watch the second season episode “Call Back Yesterday” and it’s easy to get that impression.

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199.7  It opens with the Squad arriving at police headquarters just in time to witness an argument between Mark Goddard (Doug Allen) and Margot Kidder (Claire Allen)…Pete says he knows them, they’re his cousins. The dust-up concerns why she isn’t being allowed to see her father Bob…Bob Allen and his brother Howard, Doug’s father, run a chemical company. As the plot unfolds, it appears Howard and Doug are trying to kill Bob…turns out that isn’t the case…they’re actually trying to prevent Bob from killing himself…his son Dave, Claire’s brother, died in Viet Nam from exposure to a chemical that the Allen Company manufactures…and the guilt has send Bob over the edge.  

chart 717

199.8   But even before the opening credits, we learn that Claire is, as Linc says to Pete, “your  Claire”…that is, they used to be an item. OK, the show takes place in Los Angeles, and 1st cousin marriage is legal in the state of California…was it in March of 1970 when the episode first aired? So as  I’m watching it today, I’m also wondering…his cousin?

199.9  Pete finds out that Claire, back from a trip to Europe, is staying with his wealthy parents…he goes to see his mother…his father, whom we met 2 episodes earlier, is away on the business trip “up north.” Pete asks why Claire is staying there and his mother replies “She doesn’t need a reason…the Allens are still our very best friends.” Well, she didn’t say the Allens are family… presumably she isn’t an Allen, which would have fit the 1st cousin scenario, so that’s one thing.

199.10  But later, when Pete holds a get-together for family and friends, to search for clues as to what’s happening with Claire’s father, Claire calls Pete’s mother “Aunt Grace”…so there’s that. The episode moves along…car chases, fist-fights, the revelation that all is not as it seems, and eventually Pete rescues Bob by pretending to be his dead son Dave, who was Pete’s best friend…a little weird maybe, but that’s what the writers came up with. And will Pete and Claire get back together? That’s the underlying plot element, and in the final scene we discover they will not…just as well for Pete…Claire is cute but squirrelly, thanks to Kidder’s scenery-chewing portrayal. Still…cousins?

199.11  Like I said, that’s how the show played out, at least to me. But something clearly wasn’t right…so I went back to that opening scene…and what Pete says exactly is: “I know those two…they’re cousins.” Aha! Those two, Doug and Claire, are cousins…Pete didn’t mean they were his cousins…altho that’s the way I took it the first time around, especially his tone of voice when he said it. And Claire’s saying  “Aunt Grace” simply meant Pete’s mother was a close family friend of Claire’s parents, that’s all. Mystery solved, altho they sure had me going for a while, boy!

199.12  And you know, upon further reflection…I can see why I was so quick to grant Pete the benefit of cousins. I’m watching the 5 seasons of the series in order, and in the first season episode “Love.” Pete does have a cousin, Karen Westphal, played by Diane Ewing. Her parents are Arthur and Virginia. Pete calls her “Aunt Jenny,” and from their one scene together, it sure seems as if she would be Pete’s father’s sister…but who knows? BTW, Harrison Cochran is in insurance…they all live in Beverly Hills.

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199.13  And finally…there has never been a brand of cigarettes called Brenda, Joanne, Maureen, Dolores, or Nancy…trust me on this, tobacco history is one of my specialities. So why should there have been a Shirley? That’s an easy one…because it wasn’t meant as a girl’s given name, but as a surname or family name. It’s from a British place name and dates back to the 7th century…derived from “scir” meaning bright and “leah” which was a glade or clearing in the woods, later a field or meadow. Early forms included Sirelei, Shyrley, Shirleye, and Sherley.

199.14  In English, middle names began not as a second Christian name, but as a way to preserve a maternal family name. Eventually, such surnames became given or first names…originally for males, then for females as well…hence Shirley Povich, Maury’s father, a famous sportswriter…and Shirley Temple, who could have very easily been Temple Shirley in a parallel universe.

 199.15  For those who are interested….Shirleys were made by Larus and Brother, which operated from 1877 to 1974 and was one of the more prominent of the “small” cigarette manufacturers, outside of the Big Six*. Their factory was along the famous Tobacco Row in Richmond, Virginia, and they were successful enough to sponsor a radio station that exists to this day. Their main product was known world-wide, House of Edgeworth pipe tobacco, but they also made such cigarette brands as Domino, Holiday, Alligator, Lords, and Yukon…garnering a minuscule but apparently still profitable share of the market into the early 1960s. Shirleys date back to the mid-1930s…seen here as as 70mm “straight”…altho one reference says they also came as an 85mm, so perhaps they lasted into the filter era of the 1950s.

* American Tobacco Company, R.J. Reynolds, Liggett & Myers, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, and Philip Morris, just so you know…

199.16  And yes, I did check the Larus family backwards and forewords from the tobacco brothers Charles Dunning Larus and Herbert Clinton Larus. They were descended from a dentist who came to America with Lafayette, one Phillippe Larrusse…”the Russian”…and their father was named Pleasant Crump Larus…whew! Other surnames associated with the Larus family include Archer, Baldwin, Black, Cherry, Harris, Keen, Morris, Nutting, Reed, Sanders, Skinner, Traylor, Word, and Yarbrough. No Shirley…doesn’t mean there wasn’t one somewhere…altho realistically, the smokes in question were likely named after the Shirley Plantation in Hopewell, Va, about 15 miles southeast of Richmond.

199.17  Till next week, smoke ’em if you got ’em…and it’s still legal!


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved