2

We don’t call our cousins cousin Somebody the way we do with uncles and aunts; we just refer to them by their given name directly.

But sometimes we cannot use their name to address them, such as if they are older than we are, so then we refer to them as brothers or sisters.

One of my cousins, who is older than me, recently got married. What is the appropriate way to call his wife in this case? Calling her my cousin-in-law is little embarrassing to me, so I would like a word that does not embarrass me.

closed as off-topic by TimLymington, tchrist, Chenmunka, Edwin Ashworth, choster Sep 7 '14 at 17:46

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    This idea of not being able to use somebody's name if they are older is not a contemporary English custom. As is the idea of calling cousins brother or sister and not cousin (in 19th century English novels, I believe people were addressed as cousin, or it's shortened form cos, quite often). I don't know whether English has a word available for this purpose. – Peter Shor Sep 6 '14 at 13:34
  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about etiquette rather than English. – TimLymington Sep 6 '14 at 13:41
  • 3
    aniskhan001, calling your cousin's wife a sister-in-law is contrary to fact and to ordinary English usage. It would confuse anyone who hears you call her so unless you've already explained to them the non-standard meaning you've assigned to the term. But in the explanation you may naturally find it difficult to avoid the phrase “cousin's wife”. Also, your cousin's wife may well object to being called your sister-in-law, and your sister-in-laws may object to your calling your cousin's wife a sister-in-law. By the way, what culture is "we" in the question? – James Waldby - jwpat7 Sep 6 '14 at 14:12
  • 1
    If you and your interlocutor are using English as a second language in a particular cultural setting, then check with what others in that setting use in that context. As others here have said, none of what you ask about using is correct or usual English practice, as far as native English speaking and Western culture are concerned. But perhaps it is useful in your particular setting. That would be hard for someone unfamiliar with your setting to know or help with. Consider asking at English Language Learners. – Drew Sep 6 '14 at 14:36
  • 4
    South Asian cultures have a bewildering variety of names and nicknames for every conceivable relative. In some Indian families, people use the Hindi words for relatives, even when speaking English. This is probably the simplest solution. – Peter Shor Sep 6 '14 at 16:43
2

If your cousin's name was John Smith, you would call his wife Mrs. Smith.

  • I wonder whether the OP is from a culture where a cousin Bob who is of a generation older than one’s own (like for example one’s first or second cousin once removed) is addressed not as Bob but as Uncle Bob as a form of respect. That particular practice is not long gone from the English-speaking world, and may still exist here and there in isolated pockets. – tchrist Sep 6 '14 at 15:40
  • @tchrist You may be correct. In most English-speaking regions, using the honorific Mrs. would be considered correct and respectful. This would not be the case if you referred to her using the first name of his ex-wife. – Gary's Student Sep 6 '14 at 15:46
  • 1
    The problem with Mrs. Smith is that when attending a Smith family gathering, there are likely to be several Mrs. Smiths, and perhaps even a multitude of them. :) It is also rather distancing to use Mrs. for a family member, which is why we have familial honorifics replacing general ones for family. Grandma Jones would never be just Mrs. Jones to a family member. It could even risk being interpreted as a sign not of respect but of disrespect, since it effaces the family relationship. – tchrist Sep 6 '14 at 15:53
  • @tchrist Once again you may be correct. It may be a difference in cultures. If I met the woman for the first time and she was older than me, I would use Mrs. Normally she would immediately respond: Please call me Mary. I would then feel comfortable using her first name. – Gary's Student Sep 6 '14 at 16:01

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.