Wednesday, April 25, 2007


...or Linguistic Guide

Click to enlarge

After I saw this little family tree in a magazine explaining the different names applied to family members in China I thought I should do a post on yet again the joy of Chinese.

In English it’s pretty simple you’ve got:
Brother and Sister - Mother and Father - Grandfather and Grandmother - Uncle and Aunt - Cousin - Niece and Nephew

Well in Chinese depending on the degree and family side of parenting you’ve got different names.
First it’s easy: mom and dad is mama & baba 妈妈 - 爸爸.
It gets a little more complicated on the brother and sister level:
older brother is gege 哥哥, younger brother is didi 弟弟
older sister is jiejie 姐姐, younger sister is meimei 妹妹.
From the father’s side: grandfather is yeye 爷爷and grandmother is nainai 奶奶
From the mother’s side: grandfather is laoye 老爷and grandmother is laolao 姥姥
And it gets really complicated when you go to the uncle and aunt level not only does it depend on which side they belong but also on their birth place according to the person he/she is referred to!!. For example the uncle on the father’s side is bobo 伯伯 if he’s older than the dad but shushu 叔叔 if he’s younger than the dad…

Well all this is relative since Chinese people must comply with the one child policy since 1989 so not a lot of them have uncles and aunts or even cousins!!! Anyway the only one we need to know is ayi which technically means auntie but refer also to all the helpers we all have in our households and Jeremy loves his

As an example for Jeremy and Chloe:

  • Mamie Bernadette is laolao 姥姥
  • Papy Bruno is laoye 姥爷
  • Grandma Cindy is nainai 奶奶
  • Grandpa Don/Phil is yeye 爷爷
  • Tatie Severine is yi
  • Tonton Eric is yifu 姨夫
  • Uncle Todd/Tim is shushu 叔叔
  • Auntie Nicky is gugu 姑姑
  • Auntie Wyoming is shenshen 婶婶
  • Cousin Jocelyn/Gregoire is biaodi 表弟for Chloe but biaoge 表格 for Jeremy
  • I will let you know when Todd/Wy and Nicky or Tim have kids !!!!

By the way I’m Cindy/Phil and Don/Pat’s xifu 媳妇 and Jeff is Bernadette and Bruno’s nuxu 奴吁. Eric is my meixu 妹婿 (younger sister's husband), Jocelyn and Gregoire are my waisheng 外甥 (son of my sister).

I promise the next post will be more fun...