Saturday, April 16, 2011

Uncles and Aunties

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Bosnian has a complicated set of words for uncle and aunt. There are different words for your father's brother (stric, unless you're Muslim, in which case it's amidža), your mother's brother (ujak, unless you're Muslim, in which case it's daidža),  and yet another word for the spouse of one your parents' siblings (tetak).

You also use the word differently in Bosnian. In Bosnian you don't append a first name to the title. So, when you spoke to your uncle you might address him as Stric but never as Stric Darko. I had a hard time figuring out how this would work out in real life (not call my Uncle Paul "Uncle Paul"?!) until I realized it's the same way we use the titles "Grandma" and "Grandpa" in English: we rarely append a first name to them; we simply use the title by itself to address the family member.

There is one exception to that rule. If you are talking to an adult you are not related to and want to show them respect but using the formal equivalent of "Mr." or "Mrs." would be too stiff, you call them Čiko or Teta along with their first name. So our landlady taught our children to call her Teta Fatima when we lived here before. It's a lovely tradition, kind of like "Don" or "Doña" in Spanish. The closest English equivalents I can think of are the Hawaiian use of "Aunty" as an honorific and the Southern use of "Miss" before a grown-up woman's first name.

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