Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Monday, December 04, 2006

Honorifics

I was working on a story and mentioned within it an uncle who wasn't really an uncle. He was unrelated to the family but was a close friend of my father's. We referred to him as "Uncle" and his wife as "Aunt." We also had within our family some distant cousins, 2nd or 3rd or even further removed, whom we referred to as Aunt or Uncle.

I was wondering if bestowing familial honorifics was a common practice within many other cultures. I come from an Eastern European (Ukrainian) background. I know that in some Asian cultures it is (or at least was) polite to refer to elders, even strangers, as "Uncle" or "Grandmother."

My own sons refer to my best friend and his wife as Uncle Mike and Aunt Virginia. I like the idea of conferring honourary uncleships and auntships to special friends. It carries the respect of a "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Sir" but with a special, affectionate component.

Any honourary aunts, uncles or grandparents in your family?

7 comments:

Andrea said...

I can't remember any friends of the family that I called "Aunt" or "Uncle" but I'm sure there were a few.

Frank Baron said...

Well, I suppose you could call me Uncle Frank if you like Andrea. ;)

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Our kids have a couple of friends who are honorary aunts and uncles. In South Africa, where we were born and raised, it's customary amongst the Afrikaans people to call anyone at least a few years older than yourself "Tannie" (Aunty) or "Oom" (Uncle). I was 16 the first time a stranger called me Tannie. I didn't like it :p

Frank Baron said...

Could be worse. In Ukrainian, the word for aunt is pronounced "Cha-cha" (approximately) and for uncle is "Week-oh."

I kind of like Tannie and Oom. :)

Dawno said...

Every adult friend of my parents - the close ones at least - were Aunt & Uncle. I grew up with dozens of them. It was nice - my father was estranged from his family and we never saw them and my mother was an only child.

star said...

When I was in Jr. High, my Uncle married a woman we had always called "Aunt." I was horrified, thinking they were related. I did finally learn that we only called her "aunt" because she was a close friend and not really related. Scary times for a little girl!

Frank Baron said...

Dawno, Star, thanks! :)