Why We Do What We Do?

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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Rule #1: My Age When we are three, we often call our relatives by different names than what we would at twenty. This simple fact dictates my first rule. In my kinship terminology, I apply this rule to my mother, father, and sister. When I was younger, I addressed to them as Mommy, Daddy, and Sis. Today, I address them as Mom, Dad, and Breann.

Rule #2: Habit This is the exception to my first rule. Some of the silly names that I called relatives when I was younger happened to stick around into adulthood. In my kinship terminology, I apply this rule to my grandmother, Jean, and my aunt, Deena. As a child, I called my grandmother "Jean" because it was easier to say than grandma. Today, I still call her Jean out of pure habit. This is also true of my aunt, whom I called "Aunt Dee" because it was easier to say than Aunt Deena.

Today, I still call her Aunt Dee out of pure habit as well.

Rule #3: Informality I am from a very informal family. We do not have a formal dining room, big dinner parties, or wear fancy clothes. I think that the casual environment of my family lends to a very casual kinship terminology system. Forty of the fifty-nine kin on my list are people I address solely on an informal, first name basis. This is true even of my husband's family, whom I feel just as close to as my own family. Unlike most families, age does not automatically merit a specific title in my family. Of course, like any other rule, there are a handful of exceptions, which leads me to my fourth rule.

Rule #4: The Old-Fashioned Family Members In my family, there are a few old-fashioned members who prefer to be addressed with a little bit more respect than the average person. These people wish to be addressed with a particular title of their own choosing. In my family, these people include some of my husband's grandparents. All of which, wish to be referred to as "grandma/grandpa" followed by their last name.

Rule #5: The Individual's Attitude There are also several people in family that are or were a little more stubborn and argumentative than the average person. These individuals have the ability to change attitudes with the drop of a hat; thus, also changing my kinship terminology. When their attitude towards other people turns hostile, my kinship terminology changes as well. In my family, my grandmother, Judy, and my grandfather, Prier, fit perfectly under this rule. When they are being civil people, I address them as grandma and grand-dad. When their attitude turns mean-natured, I address them as Judy and Prier.

Rule #6: I Just Plain Do Not Like Them Sadly enough, there are a couple of people in my family that I just do not like. These people are, in actuality, very closely related to me, but they have at some point turned into someone whom I would rather not be related to. I guess that these are the "black sheep" that every family supposedly has. In my family, my uncle and my father ""in-law fit perfectly under this rule. Both individuals have proven themselves, through divorces, to be the most inconsiderate members of the family. It is for these reasons that I simply address these individuals by their first name. I could call them "Uncle Mitch and Dad", but I so not believe that they deserve such fond labels.

Rule #7: Nicknames are Easier Sometimes, nicknames are faster than regular names and much easier to spell. In my family, I address one of my cousins by his nickname quite often. His real name is Zachary, but I cannot ever remember how spell it and it takes too long to say in a hurry; therefore, I often just call him Zach.

Rule #8: Alone or Not Alone There are also a handful of people whom I address differently depending on if I am alone with that person or not. My mother-in-law and father-in-law and my husband are perfect examples of this rule. I call my mother-in-law and father-in-law "mom and dad" when I am alone with them. In public places, I address them as "Glenda and Wayne." As strange as it might sound, I do this simply to avoid confusion. I want them to know that I think of them as my own parents, but I also do not want other people to get confused on who is who. Similarly, I also address my husband differently when we are alone. I call him "Sweetie" when we are alone and "Jarrod" when we are in public places. In this situation, I address him differently out of respect for people around us. I do not enjoy seeing two people address each other with cute little pet names in public; therefore, I refrain from doing so as well.

Rule #9: Inherited Terms There are two members of my family whom I call my aunt and uncle who are, in actuality, my great aunt and uncle. I grew up hearing my father call them "Uncle Buddy and Aunt Jane;" therefore, I picked up on that and started calling them that as well. As a matter of fact, my great-uncle's name is not even Buddy. His real name is Walter! I have no clue where the name "Buddy" even came from. It is almost like I inherited my father's kinship terminology.

Rule #10: My Reference Rule This final rule applies solely to the way I refer to people. Due to my recent marriage, my family has quadrupled in size within the past month. Due to this fact, many friends and family members do not know who everyone is; therefore, referring to people can be somewhat of a challenge. When I refer to someone, I often have to connect him or her with someone whom the person I am speaking to already knows. For example, when I am telling one of my friends about Tina, I may have to refer to her as "Jarrod's sister" for them to understand whom I am speaking about. This is the underlying rule with all of my names of reference.