My Cha-Cha Sister
nglish and most other European languages tend to have fewer words for family members — aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and so on — compared to many Asian languages, which use a much more precise terminology to name relatives. For example, in English we use the word “uncle” to describe all of our parents’ brothers and any men who married into the family. But in India, where such differences can be very important, the Hindi language has five separate words that can be translated as “uncle”: चाचा “cha-cha” — father’s younger brother ताऊ “ta-oo” — father’s older brother मामा “ma-ma” — mother’s brother, regardless of age फूफा "poo-pa" — father's sister's husband मौसा “mao-sa” — mother’s sister’s husband Likewise, there are four different ways to say “cousin”: You say “cha-cha brother” or “cha-cha sister” (“cha-cha” being “uncle”, as above) for the cousins from your father’s side, while those on your mother’s side are “ma-ma brother” and “ma-ma sister” (with “ma-ma” again meaning “uncle”). Hindi has equally detailed words for the various in-laws, and interestingly the name for your wife’s brother — “sala” (साला) — is also used as an insult, sometimes jokingly. This is apparently because calling a man “brother-in- law” implies you slept with his sister. hinese, meanwhile, is even more detailed in its family-member names than Hindi. Where Hindi has just one word meaning “sister”, Chinese specifies between older sister (姐姐) and younger sister (妹妹), and likewise for brothers. And in large families, relations often get a number in front of their name to show their age-ranking, such as “(number) three little sister” (三妹) for the youngest of your three younger sisters. The eldest usually get “big” () in front his or her name — for example, “big elder sister” (大姐). And confusingly, people in northern China sometimes refer to the youngest in a group as “old” (), so that if you had three maternal uncles, they would be called, from oldest to youngest: 大舅 big maternal uncle 二舅 (number) two maternal uncle 老舅 old maternal uncle (but actually the youngest of the three) The reason for calling the youngest uncle “old” is unclear. It might be something along the lines of the “old” in “good old Uncle John”, which doesn’t really refer to age. The literal meanings of Chinese names for family members can be pretty elaborate, and in some cases they use actual royal titles. Your father’s older brother is your “bwo-bwo” (伯伯), from “bwo” (), the Chinese equivalent to “earl” or “count”. Your husband’s father is your “gong-gong” (公公), from “gong” (), which means “lord”. Chinese has eight words for “cousin”, depending on the gender, whether they are older than you, and whether or not they have the same last name as you.   And where Hindi insults with “brother-in-law”, Mandarin speakers in northern China use “grandson” as roughly the equivalent of “bastard” or “jerk” in English. The word is pronounced “swoon-dzuh” and is written: 孙子 This also happens to be the name of a famous Chinese philosopher and military adviser, best known for his “Art of War”. (Usually in English, his name is spelled “Sun Tzu”.)  Given some of the stories about Sun Tzu, maybe this coincidence with the word for “jerk” is appropriate — it’s said he once had two concubines put to death for not leading a military drill correctly.
C E
E
C
My Cha-Cha Sister
nglish and most other European languages tend to have fewer words for family members — aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and so on — compared to many Asian languages, which use a much more precise terminology to name relatives. For example, in English we use the word “uncle” to describe all of our parents’ brothers and any men who married into the family. But in India, where such differences can be very important, the Hindi language has five separate words that can be translated as “uncle”: चाचा “cha-cha” — father’s younger brother ताऊ “ta-oo” — father’s older brother मामा “ma-ma” — mother’s brother, regardless of age फूफा "poo-pa" — father's sister's husband मौसा “mao-sa” — mother’s sister’s husband Likewise, there are four different ways to say “cousin”: You say “cha-cha brother” or “cha-cha sister” (“cha-cha” being “uncle”, as above) for the cousins from your father’s side, while those on your mother’s side are “ma-ma brother” and “ma-ma sister” (with “ma-ma” again meaning “uncle”). Hindi has equally detailed words for the various in-laws, and interestingly the name for your wife’s brother — “sala” (साला) — is also used as an insult, sometimes jokingly. This is apparently because calling a man “brother-in-law” implies you slept with his sister. hinese, meanwhile, is even more detailed in its family-member names than Hindi. Where Hindi has just one word meaning “sister”, Chinese specifies between older sister (姐姐) and younger sister (妹妹), and likewise for brothers. And in large families, relations often get a number in front of their name to show their age-ranking, such as “(number) three little sister” (三妹) for the youngest of your three younger sisters. The eldest usually get “big” () in front his or her name — for example, “big elder sister” ( ). And confusingly, people in northern China sometimes refer to the youngest in a group as “old” (), so that if you had three maternal uncles, they would be called, from oldest to youngest: 大舅 big maternal uncle 二舅 (number) two maternal uncle 老舅 old maternal uncle (but actually the youngest of the three) The reason for calling the youngest uncle “old” is unclear. It might be something along the lines of the “old” in “good old Uncle John”, which doesn’t really refer to age. The literal meanings of Chinese names for family members can be pretty elaborate, and in some cases they use actual royal titles. Your father’s older brother is your “bwo-bwo” (伯伯), from “bwo” (), the Chinese equivalent to “earl” or “count”. Your husband’s father is your “gong- gong” (公公), from “gong” (), which means “lord”. Chinese has eight words for “cousin”, depending on the gender, whether they are older than you, and whether or not they have the same last name as you.   And where Hindi insults with “brother-in- law”, Mandarin speakers in northern China use “grandson” as roughly the equivalent of “bastard” or “jerk” in English. The word is pronounced “swoon- dzuh” and is written: 孙子 This also happens to be the name of a famous Chinese philosopher and military adviser, best known for his “Art of War”. (Usually in English, his name is spelled “Sun Tzu”.)  Given some of the stories about Sun Tzu, maybe this coincidence with the word for “jerk” is appropriate — it’s said he once had two concubines put to death for not leading a military drill correctly.
E C