Who are you? Naming extended extended family

I hosted a family gathering at my house over the holiday weekend, in celebration of my Aunt Darlene and Uncle Mac visiting from North Carolina.

 aunt and uncle

Traveling with my aunt and uncle on the cross-country road trip were Mac's two sisters, Virginia and Helen — vibrant women I'd never had the pleasure of meeting before.


After the party was over and the road-trippers hit the road once again, I considered our time together and what a treat it was to spend time with not only my aunt and uncle but also with my... well... with Virginia and Helen. Odd thing is, I don't know what to call the engaging women who warmed my heart and home with their presence. They aren't my aunts. In fact, they're not blood relatives at all, as Darlene is my maternal aunt and Mac her husband, so Mac's sisters certainly aren't really related to me.

Yet they are.

Even a Google search yesterday resulted in no term for the connection between Virginia and Helen and me. Nor did a search result in the right word for some of the others in attendance at my Sunday gathering.

For instance, what is the name for the children of a niece or nephew. There were a few such in attendance. So is this my grand or great nephew with his mama, my niece Jessica?

 niece and grand nephew

And are these my grand niece and great nephew, children of my nephew Nick?

young girl  toddler at BBQ

"Who are you?" Roger Daltry sang out. And just like him, "I really wanna know."

Further complicating my desire to know the names of familial connections were several conversations during the gathering about the accomplishments of — pay close attention here — my sister's husband's daughter's son. My brother-in-law's daughter is my step niece, so does that make her son my step grand nephew? My step great nephew?

The ties that bind will tangle even further next weekend when folks from near and far — including all my immediate family — will gather at Megan and Preston's house to celebrate Baby Jak's baptism. Among the celebrants will be my daughter's in-laws. Now, there isn't an English word for Jim's and my co-grandparents of the baby honoree (trust me, I Googled it) but the Yiddish word for a child's in-laws is machatunim.

Other than the fact I can't pronounce machatunim (I'm not Jewish and verklempt is about the only Yiddish word I use — and become — regularly), there's then question of what my son-in-law's grandparents are to me, for they will be there, too. As will my son-in-law's sister's baby daughter, who is the niece of my daughter — "by marriage" may be the term for that — but what does that make her to me?

Nothing really, I know. And does it really matter that I don't have a term for my connection to that baby girl — or to any of the undefined connections?

It shouldn't... and it pretty much doesn't. But as someone who makes her living off words and using them correctly here and there (most of the time), I relish having — or at least knowing — the proper terms for everything from dandling (that playful bouncing of a babe on our knees that we grandparents do) to the microhenry (the unit of measurement of electrical inductance that equal to one millionth of a henry).

As such, my nescience — aka ignorance — on the familial connections in my life drives me, well, a wee bit bonkers. Yet as I'm unable to locate the proper terms for my connections, it's apparently bonkers that I shall be.

In the end, I suppose that the only word I truly need in order to describe each of those above and the many others I've not mentioned, those for whom I have no definitive term, is family. For in some indefinable form or fashion, that is what they all are, what we are to one another. And family is all that matters most of the time, family is what matters most of all all of the time — regardless of the shape and style our family may be.

So family it is. And that, my friends, is no bubkes* — the third and final Yiddish word I know.

*bubkes = nonsense

Today's question:

What familial relationship do you find most difficult to define in your family?