Aunt In-Law Once Removed?
January 10, 2012 7:08 PM   Subscribe

What do you call your brother-in-law's mom?

My husband's new brother-in-law's mother (whom he is very close to) just added him as a relative on facebook. There is no category for brother-in-law's mom. The options are: Cousin, Wife, Sister, Mother, Daughter, Aunt, Niece, Grandmother, Granddaugther, step-sister, step-mother, step-daughter, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, partner. She is obviously none of these things.

This made us realize that there is no nomenclature for this kind of relationship. It seems that she is an in-law, but when my husband refers to his in-laws, he is either talking about my family or his sibling's spouses (spice?).

We are trying to develop an adequate nomenclature to designate the family members of our sibling's spouses. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
posted by janelikes to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Cousin covers everything.
posted by pompomtom at 7:11 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd go Chinese and say "Aunt."
posted by smorange at 7:12 PM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't think your brother-in-law's mother is related to you. Even if you're very close.
posted by Sara C. at 7:13 PM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

She's not related to you. She's just a "friend."
posted by Stynxno at 7:17 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Extended family
posted by devymetal at 7:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or family member by marriage
posted by devymetal at 7:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you want to do as little explaining as possible, just go with "aunt."
posted by griphus at 7:18 PM on January 10, 2012

I like "aunt-in-law" actually. It's cute - a gentle family joke.
posted by flex at 7:19 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

My family uses in-law-in-law. So, my sister-in-law's brother's wife (her sister-in-law) is my sister-in-law-in-law.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:20 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I will quote the New York Times. "Yiddish comes to the rescue by naming all one's relatives by marriage as machetunim, mokh-eh-TOO-nim, plural of the Hebrew mechutan, mokh-HOO-ten, which could signify your spouse's mother's second cousin."
posted by judith at 7:24 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

As someone who describes a former family member as my "evil ex step aunt," I like flex's suggestion of "aunt-in-law."
posted by phunniemee at 7:24 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're completely unrelated. The obvious solution is for you and your brother-in-law's mother to get married.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:24 PM on January 10, 2012 [11 favorites]

I like "aunt-in-law" too, and I have the same problem with Facebook!

Collectively, such folk are "kith" (as in, kith and kin).
posted by leahwrenn at 7:26 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've used in-law-in-law or in-law-once-removed for my BIL's family. But more generally we just consider each other in-laws/family by marriage.
posted by scody at 7:29 PM on January 10, 2012

Seconding that in my Chinese family, every relative of every conceivable stripe is called aunt, uncle or cousin depending on gender and generation. l find this very useful. Tangent: I believe Indian families take this one step further and call family friends of the same generation cousins.
posted by michelle lightning at 7:30 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd call such a person a "family connection" rather than a relation.
posted by orange swan at 7:36 PM on January 10, 2012

Every adult of my parents' or grandparents' generation, no matter how tangentially related, is either Aunt or Uncle, everyone of my generation is my cousin, and all of my cousins' children are my nieces and nephew. Therefore I'd also go with aunt as the relation.
posted by crankylex at 7:47 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I call my sister's in-laws (her husband's family) my extended in-laws or the in-law expansion pack. But that's just me being nerdy. I actually call peers and younger people by their names or I call those older than me, including their family friends who are not even related, Auntie or Uncle. It's pretty simple and graceful.
posted by maudlin at 7:47 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Whatever her first name is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

Australian Aboriginal languages usually have nice sets of "equations" that include all the extended kin by equating them to closer kin. So, for example, your same-sex sibling's grandchildren are equated to your grandchildren (and so are the grandchildren of your parents' same-sex siblings' children).

For sibling's in-laws, I just checked our database, and it works the following ways:

sister's husband's mother = husband's mother (2 languages)
sister's husband's mother = wife's mother (4 languages)

In most of the latter at least, this is also the same word as for a woman's mother's brother's child (i.e. your cousin, as long as it's your same-sex parent and the parent's sibling is the opposite sex from the parent), and your daughter's husband (i.e. your son-in-law). In some it is also the same word as for your "wife's father's father" (i.e. grandfather in law), and for your wife's mother's sibling (aunt/uncle-in-law). Also in at least one language it is the same word for son's wife's mother (i.e. your co-parent-in-law) and your sister's husband's father.

And in pretty much all cases it is the same word for the siblings of this person, ie. your sister's husband's mother's brothers and sisters.

The take-home message is that if you were of Australian Aboriginal background, you would probably call her "mother-in-law" or "cousin".
posted by lollusc at 7:59 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh no! I just realised you said he was your HUSBAND's brother in law's mother, not your own brother in law's. So that makes it slightly different.

He must be either your HBWM or HZHM (husband's brother's wife's mother or husband's sister's husband's mother).

That makes him something that doesn't even exist in our database. But since sibling pair marriages or cousin marriage is pretty common in Australian Aboriginal groups (i.e. two sisters marry two brothers), I think your husband's brother's wife would often be your sister, and your husband's sister's husband would often be your brother. So their mother would be your mother too.

So call her Mom :)
posted by lollusc at 8:06 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm Afghan, and I second michelle lightning and crankylex: everyone a generation above me is aunt or uncle, everyone in about my generation is cousin, regardless of actual level of blood relationship or how many degrees removed as an in-law. This even applies to people who are long-standing family friends, or who are extended family of extended family. (This can admittedly get a little complicated since there are different words for maternal/paternal aunts and uncles.)
posted by yasaman at 8:11 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would either call her Mary or Mrs. Smith or whatever her real names are. She is not related. Or maybe call her BIL-Mom.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:18 PM on January 10, 2012

It's complicated seems the obvious choice - will Facebook let you do that? That would amuse me to no end.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 12:42 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Urdu/Hindi equivalent of machetunim would be samdhiaana (some-dhee-aah-na). But I call my husband's brother-in-law's mother Auntie, as would the vast majority of Pakistanis/Indians, unless they had a blood relation that determined what she was called. (By the way, you can confirm that you are related to someone on Facebook, without specifying the relationship. It shows up as Unknown.)
posted by bardophile at 1:42 AM on January 11, 2012

My family is Italian, and everyone we're close to is called a cousin, with the exception of women who are at least a generation older than you...they're Aunties.
posted by kinetic at 3:40 AM on January 11, 2012

In my family anyone who is family-close and close to your parents in age becomes an "aunt" or "uncle". If from your generation, a "cousin," or much younger than you a "niece" or "nephew". I'm from the South (US) FWIW but things are the same in my boyfriend's family and he's of Midwestern farm boy stock. "Family" encompasses relationships that aren't necessarily blood in my book. Call her an "Aunt."
posted by madred at 4:23 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oops. Just saw crankylex's answer. Sorry. It's 3 am here and I should be sleeping, not repeating stuff on the Internet.
posted by madred at 4:24 AM on January 11, 2012

Facebook does not allow for any kind of cute naming scheme for relatives that don't fit the listed relationships. And you can't confirm them as 'family' unless you put them in as that. So call her an aunt or a cousin, or don't call her a relative at all.
posted by asciident at 5:10 AM on January 11, 2012

Rather, when I've used the family connections under the new Timeline scheme, it wouldn't allow confirming as "unknown." So possibly you can use that if you haven't been switched to the new Facebook.
posted by asciident at 5:12 AM on January 11, 2012

Step-mother-in-law once removed.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:12 AM on January 11, 2012

posted by fatfrank at 6:58 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

All the Aunt and Auntie suggestions seem odd to me. I'd think it was really weird if my daughter's SO's brother called me that. All of her friends have always called me Mom, which works for me. It's friendly yet more respectful than just calling me Amy. Though my first name would have been ok too, really.

I'd go with Mom or Betty if you're friendly, Mrs. Smith if you don't know her well or if she seems especially proper.

If I were added to the BIL's Facebook, I'd expect to be under friends rather than family.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2012

The only weird thing about this is that she marked him as a relative on facebook. Doesn't she have to have already chosen some checkbox to say what kind of relative she's marking him? If there's a fill-in-the-blank option, write "in-law" or simply "relative". If you have to choose something that's already there, there's no good option. What if he sent her a Facebook note that said
Hi Rachel (or whatever he calls her),
I see you added me as your relative. I didn't see a box for "brother-in-law's mother" so I assume there isn't a "son's brother-in-law" either - I hope you put me down as your grandfather, that'll really confuse them. Should I call you my niece, my son, or my aunt? If "aunt" makes sense to you I'll go with it.
(normal signoff, e.g. "smooches,")

If your question is about life in general, how he could/should refer to her when he mentions to a coworker that Rachel gave him a sweater for Christmas, then there's no one-size-fits-all answer. FWIW, I find "sister's mother-in-law" to be a clearer relationship than "brother-in-law's mother" because it clarifies between my husband's brother's mother and my sister's husband's mother, a distinction that might be important to a friend of my husband.

About the "aunt" thing: "aunt" won't convey anything except false information, unless he's calling her a kind of cutesy "Auntie Rachel" AND it's a culture where that's pretty normal. Don't try to take it literally, it's a call name, not a relation. Even though I had a neighbor who I called Aunt Matty (as a kid in the American South) I would never have said "Mathilda Doe is my aunt", because that's not true. I might have said "Aunt Matty lives across the street".
posted by aimedwander at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2012

Well, my sister married a guy who has our last name. And since we don't really have much to do with them, we just refer to them as "the [place they live] [Surnames]." I would never add any of them on Facebook, as I'm not even connected to my brother-in-law on Facebook, and never will be.
posted by jph at 9:52 AM on January 11, 2012

This is your husband's sister's husband, yes? And it's your husband who feels close his brother-in-law's mother, yes? She is his "other mother". At least, that's what I call my mother's best friend whom I am close to as well. BUT since Facebook doesn't allow "other mother" I would add her as an Aunt only because she added him as a relative.

My "other mother" doesn't have a Facebook account, but if she did I would add her as a friend to avoid any confusion.

I like scody's "aunt-in-law once removed" for use in conversation.
posted by deborah at 10:08 PM on January 11, 2012

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