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Just folks

Please note: This page is a read-only archive of messages posted in the Word Fugitives conference of Post & Riposte.


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Topic: 10) Just folks (1 of 4), Read 89 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Wednesday, October 20, 1999 08:53 AM

Don Gamary writes: "There is a need for words that married people can call their mothers- and fathers-in-law. 'Mr ...' and 'Mrs. ...' are too formal, and 'Mom' and 'Dad' can sound strange and uncomfortable."

Other Word Fugitives correspondents have identified similar lacks in our language. For extra-credit points, here are their letters.

In May we posted the following letter, by Herb Bohler, of Flemington, N.J.:

"With a son preparing to marry, I've been groping for a word or term for the parents of the (soon-to-be) bride. Eventually it will be 'my daughter-in-law's mother/father' -- but there's gotta be a less-clumsy way of referring to these folks."

Recently Alison Landes Fiekowsky, of Wynnewood, Pa., renewed the call for a word to serve this purpose:

"I think there should be a word for the relationship between a married couples' parents. There should be a word my mother can use when she is referring to my husband's mother. 'My son-in-law's mother' is awkward."

And another word, or pair of words, being sought, by Oswaldo Hernandez, of Queens, N.Y.:

"There are two words in the Spanish language to describe the relationship between a godchild's parents and the godparents. The words are 'compadre,' for the males, and 'comadre,' for the females. Are there such words in the English language?"

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Topic: 10) Just folks (2 of 4), Read 69 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Birgit Houston (dbrhkraken@aol.com)
Date: Saturday, October 23, 1999 02:13 PM

Why not just steal comadre and compadre? It's not like the language hasn't done that before.

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Topic: 10) Just folks (3 of 4), Read 65 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Roger Gay (roger.f.gay@telia.se)
Date: Sunday, October 24, 1999 05:01 AM

His or her (referring to spouse) mom and dad.

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Topic: 10) Just folks (4 of 4), Read 45 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: David Rosen (d.h.rosen@worldnet.att.net)
Date: Sunday, October 31, 1999 05:14 PM

Why not borrow from Yiddish? Your child's in-laws are your Machuten (father) and Machetayneste (mother). These are pronounced (stealing this from Rosten's Joys of Yiddish): m'KHOOT-n, to rhyme with m'toottin," and mokh-e-TANE-es-teh, to rhyme with "Maritaine Esta." Be sure to rattle the "kh" in the back of your throat. Together, they are your Machetunim (mokh-eh-TU-nim.
The chief reason they have not yet been adopted, it seems to me, is that those to whom Yiddish is completely foreign have no hope of properly pronouncing the "kh." This includes many third-generation or later Jews.


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