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In the English language there's the option to say my paternal grandmother, but does such a convention work further back? For instance my paternal maternal great-grandmother?

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    There are no generic shortcuts. The more distant a relation is, the more syllables it will take to identify them unambiguously in English. I'm not sure this would be brief even in languages with a richer set of kinship terms relative to English's paucity. – Dan Bron Mar 15 '17 at 16:08
  • @Dan: I was quite surprised to discover last night that among those countries that tolerate marriage between "first cousins", at least some distinguish between the child you fathered marrying your brother's son (often permitted) or your sister's daughter (often discouraged). My mission tonight will be to investigate whether this has any implications for birth defects due to inbreeding, which are rife in the UK today. – FumbleFingers Mar 15 '17 at 17:18
  • @FumbleFingers Does the reason for the difference in acceptability have anything to do with "mother's baby, father's maybe"? That is, you can't be 100% sure that your brother is the father of your broher's son? – ab2 Mar 15 '17 at 18:13
  • I would assume @ab2 is correct. A man marrying his "daughter" to his brother-from-the-same-mother increases the chance that his "grandchildren" will carry some of his DNA. Mom, on the other hand, already knows that her daughter's children will carry her DNA, so there's no percentage in marrying her to Mom's brother. Of course, marrying a son to a sister's daughter would be good for either Mom or Dad, genetic-heritage-wise, hence first-cousin marriage. – 1006a Mar 15 '17 at 20:01
  • I know that in Norwegian you can say something like "farmormor", and I suspect other languages have similar things. English does not have such contractions, but "father's mother's mother" is the same thing, only longer. – Hot Licks Mar 15 '17 at 21:44
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When the family becomes that extended, it no longer is appropriate to be so specific. (Formally)

If your conversation requires this level of specificity, you would clarify it with reference to the entire line if necessary. Otherwise, "Distant Grandmother", or "Ancient Grandmother" covers all grandmothers more distant than "Great Grandmother"

A general rule, is that if you couldn't have met her, she doesn't have a specific title in relationship to you. Even the royals referenced these relationships as commoners would. After the 4th generation, they would use the official title, rather than the filial title.

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