stepgrandparents and relational ambiguity

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 22 18:22:24 UTC 2009

As always, I must defer to Arnold Zwicky's superior (and far earlier)
explanation of the phenomenon in question.

For those not familiar with a variety of emoticons commonly known as
"ORZ", this is how this sentiment should be expressed:


followed by a full


But, when in doubt, one can simply suggest Wayne's World as a cultural


PS: Variants include O7Z and Or2. I won't go into orZ-0 and orZ* here.
Note the difference between Chinese and Japanese usage.

PPS: I wonder if Sro is the opposite of orZ.  I have not found any
common examples. POerhaps it should be ;-)

Arnold Zwicky wrote:
> On Jan 22, 2009, at 1:22 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> ... Brother and sister as well as uncle and aunt are ambiguous in some
>> cultures as you have to indicate younger or older.
> this is a confused formulation of the idea here, and it uses
> "ambiguous" in a way i object to.
> to start with, it's *linguistic expressions* (like "brother") that can
> be said to be ambiguous, not concepts.  Now, "brother" is a word of
> *english*; it can't be ambiguous in some other culture, because the
> word doesn't occur in the language associated with that culture.
> what you're trying to say is this: english has a single word "brother"
> with a denotation that some other languages lack a single word for.
> instead, these languages have two (or more) words that together cover
> the territory of english "brother" -- say, one word glossable in
> english as 'older brother' and another glossable as 'younger
> brother'.  it doesn't follow that speakers of such a language lack the
> *concept* BROTHER; they just have to refer to the concept by means of
> a complex expression.
> it also doesn't follow that the english word "brother" is ambiguous,
> as between OLDER-BROTHER and YOUNGER-BROTHER.  instead, english
> "brother" is neutral, vague, or unspecified, with respect to this
> distinction.  the difference between vagueness and true ambiguity is
> explored at some length in an old paper by jerry sadock and me,
> available on-line at:
> (the distinction wasn't original with us, of course.)
> "brother" is one of the examples we looked at in this paper.  the
> (somewhat more complex) cases of "uncle" and "brother-in-law" are
> similar.
> arnold

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