May 21, 2012 Leave a comment
When two people get married, they instantaneously acquire a whole new bunch of relatives, referred to in English as “in-laws”. Without going into details, I have to say that I really dislike this term and its derivatives. French belle-famille sounds so much better!
“In-laws” have no exact equivalent in Russian. Instead, there is a bewildering array of terms, seemingly for every possible relationship the spouses and their family members can have. Now imagine translating a family saga from one language to another.
I first heard this song by Vladimir Vysotsky when I was about ten. I thought “Шурин” was a possessive adjective derived from the name “Шура” used as a matronym, just like the name “Райкин” (Raikin) can be interpreted as “Райки” (“one of Raika”).
Another song has more relations in it than one could possibly digest:
It is not that most Russians nowadays know exact meanings of all these words. (I never even heard — or read — the word ятровь until I came across this Russian post.) Gradually, they become obsolete, and I believe there’s a good reason for that.
As the families are getting smaller, there is simply no need to classify your relatives into groups some of which may be seriously underpopulated. Besides, the use of these terms can make a discourse rather awkward — or ridiculous. Take the couple from the Vysotsky’s song: Ivan can talk about his шурин but for Zina it is weird as шурин is simply her brother. Weirder still, it is she who brought him into the conversation. I can’t imagine anyone seriously addressing his or her relatives as “mum-in-law” or “bro-in-law”. I think it is better to stick to the names.
|зять||male relation to wife’s family: son-in-law; the husband of one’s sister or sister-in-law|
|невестка||female relation to husband’s family: daughter-in-law; the wife of one’s brother or brother-in-law|
|сват||father of one’s son-in-law or of one’s daughter-in-law|
|сватья||mother of one’s son-in-law or of one’s daughter-in-law|
|свояк||husband of wife’s sister|
|ятровь, ятровка||wife of husband’s brother|