Who’s Who in the Family Posted by Anna on May 22, 2009 in Grammar, Vocabulary
Today’s post is about something that even I have problems with. Brother’s wife wife’s brother and sister’s husband and husband’s sister and sister’s daughter’s best friend’s neighbor’s son. Or something like that.
Either I’m monumentally stupid, or it’s really easy in English. Just stick “in-law” at the end of anything you’re not quite sure of (when talking about the “other” side of the family) and voila, your work there is done. So, whether you’re talking about your wife’s sister or your brother’s wife, you simply say “my sister in-law”, right?
Well, it’s not quite so easy in Polish (why would it, it’s Polish after all!) and all these people have their own individual names.
So, to be sure I get it right (because I hardly ever get it right) I consulted a book and my aunt. And while sometimes even Polish dictionaries can’t agree on what is correct, I know for a fact that my aunt is never wrong.
OK, so here’s the list (according to the book and my aunt):
- brother’s wife – żona brata – bratowa
- sister’s husband – mąż siostry – szwagier
- wife’s brother – brat żony – szwagier
- wife’s sister – siostra żony – szwagierka
- husband’s sister – siostra męża – szwagierka
And there’s more:
- sister’s daughter – córka siostry – siostrzenica
- brother’s daughter – córka brata – bratanica
- sister’s son – syn siostry – siostrzeniec
- brother’s son – syn brata – bratanek
And now for the fun part, because we all love our in-laws, right?
- daughter’s husband – mąż córki – zięć
- son’s wife – żona syna – synowa
- wife’s (or husband’s) father – ojciec żony (lub męża) – teść
- wife’s (or husband’s) mother – matka żony (lub męża) – teściowa
When it comes to people like mother’s brother or father’s brother, back in the olden days (like about 20 years ago) they were called “wuj” and “stryj” respectively. But now, they’re just called “wuj”, or diminutively “wujek”, regardless of whose brothers they are.
And how for example would my father refer to my husband’s father in Polish? I have no idea. My dad has no idea either. He just said “father of my son-in-law” (ojciec mojego zięcia). Hey, works for me!
PS. And just to see if you remember your noun cases, can you tell which one we’ve been using today to describe all these people?
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