As the holiday season rolls in, so too does the obligation to socialize with distant relatives who may or may not even know your name. Whether you’re from a large Italian family of brown-eyed, hand-flailing clones (and I say that in the nicest way possible, because I’m one of them) or you’re stuck on an island with a single volleyball companion, there is a high chance that you will be forced to encounter relatives around the month of December. So, to honor those dysfunctional people we call our own, the ones who wiped our faces when spoons seemed optional or drove us to insanity on long car rides, here is a list of words about the ones that look like us, or “family.”
1) Oikonisus (n.): the urge to start a family
Any time you see a woman rubbing her stomach and looking longingly at baby merchandise, you can assume that she’s experiencing some form of oikonisus. (Or, alternatively, that she’s a baby-eating demon that needs exorcising. How you interpret it depends on how much Supernatural you’ve been watching.) The root of this word, nisus, meaning “any strong effort or struggle,” comes from the Latin niti meaning “to strive.” Oikonisus can strike at any moment, but the sensation is usually strongest in the aisles of Babies R Us or immediately after watching an ABC Family special.
2) Pentheraphobia (n.): fear or dislike of one’s mother-in-law
Though there are some people who will jokingly make a jab at their spouse’s mother (such people will usually end up with a black eye or at least a few arm bruises), there are others who harbor serious reservations about seeing the parents of their significant other. Deriving from the Greek prefix “penthera” meaning “mother-in-law,” pentheraphobia describes the “excessive irritation of being around one’s mother-in-law” or the fear of having her intrude in maritial affairs. If you don’t share the same level of pessimism as I do, pentheraphilia describes the “love or fondness of one’s mother-in-law” or the desire to have her close to the family.
3) Stemma (n.): family tree; genealogy of literary text; simple eye of insect
While a stemma can be “a small, circular, simple eye present in various insect larvae”, it can also mean “a family tree.” Ancient Romans often used to record genealogical lists on old scrolls, proving that remembering the names of distant relatives has always been a problem.
4) Sib (n.): kindred; kinsman; brother or sister; descendants from a common ancestor; a. blood-related
Sib is not another unnecessary abbreviation that young folk are using nowadays, or at least, if it is, I haven’t been hearing it. Used as far back as the year 950, sib (or, sibbe) refers to a person related by blood, usually a sibling. In the world of cultural anthropology, sib originally referred to a kinship group among Anglo-Saxon peoples to delineate lineal kinship groups (OED).
5) Weregild (n.): value of a man’s life, payable to his family by his murderer
This word has slightly darker connotations than some of the others on this list. Commonly known today as “blood money,” weregild objectifies a person by equating them to a sum of money. Meaning, a person’s life worth could be determined by how much it would cost to kill them. If you could afford to pay your neighbor 20 dollars after killing their husband, who maybe had a better lawn or silkier hair than you did, then all rules were off.
6) Adelphogamy (n.): form of marriage in which brothers share a wife or wives
Also known as “fraternal polyandry,” adelphogamy refers to the marriage between a pair of brothers to the same spouse. Sometimes seen in places like Tibet and Nepal, the practice usually occurs as a result of an imbalanced male-to-female ratio in certain communities. For all of you who have ever had a crush on a pair of brothers, now is your chance!
7) Multipara (n.): mother of two or more children
Although technically described in the medical world as “a woman who has had two or more pregnancies resulting in potentially viable offspring,” in simple terms, multipara refers to a woman who has birthed more than one child. Now you have another nickname to add to the list of “words that will likely confuse or annoy your mother.”
8) Levirate (n.): custom requiring a man to marry his brother’s widow
Another anthropology term, a levirate is a form of marriage in which a brother marries his deceased brother’s widow. Stemming from the Latin word levir, or “husband’s brother,” levirate is usually found in societies that aim to maintain family lines.
9) Siblicide (n.): the killing of a sibling
And you thought “wergild” was going to be the creepiest term on this list. Siblicide refers to the murder of a sibling by a close relative. Though sometimes found in human societies (I’m looking at you, Cain), siblicide is more often found in the animal world among birds. In some cases, the mother bird will encourage her children to kill off the weakest link if there aren’t enough resources available, which makes me infinitely more grateful that my mom just forces my brother and I to share instead of brandishing a knife.
10) Mammothrept (n.): a child who is raised and spoiled by their grandmother
It is important to note that the same grandma that showers you with gifts is likely not the same woman that raised your mother, a fact which she will not hesitate to bring up when your nana hands over your third plate of chocolate chip cookies. If this is the case, you are likely a mammothrept. Enjoy the free goods while they last.
Image via Shutterstock.