One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone doesn’t know how the “cousin system” works. By this, I mean what you call your parents’ cousins and those people’s kids. When someone referred to their parents’ cousins’ kids as cousins, I would get annoyed because I want them to be specific. Don’t tell me a story about someone and refer to them as “cousin” when that person isn’t actually your first cousin. I know this sounds crazy, but I really like precision of language when classifying something because it helps me to understand. I know not everything in this world can be clearly labeled so when something that can be labeled comes around, I would like to see it categorized properly. That being said, and this is devastating for me to say, I was wrong. I thought I understood the system but it’s honestly more complex than I even imagined. I always thought your parents’ cousins are your second cousins and their kids are your third cousins. I’ve never bothered to learn the terminology beyond that because I find it excessive. I mean who cares what your parents’ cousins’ kids’ kids are called?
What I did learn however is that:
- Your parents’ cousins are referred to as your “first cousin once removed.” This is also true for your first cousins’ kids. The “once removed” refers to generations. Your parents’ cousins are traditionally a generation above you and your cousins’ kids are traditionally a generation after you, so it’s one generation removed.
- The children of your “first cousins once removed” are your “second cousins.” So all this time I was calling my dad’s cousin’s kid my “third cousin” when in actuality they are my second cousins. Oops.
- Although I don’t typically care to go beyond that with terminology, I was curious to see what exactly a third cousin was. Sit down for this one. Your third cousin is: grandparent’s first cousin’s grandchild! So yeah…I was way off.
While it breaks my heart that I was so wrong on something I’ve been very determined about for years, I’ve learned three things from my research. 1. Never trust something you randomly hear once as a child (like, what a second cousin is), instead do the research and make sure. 2. I’m still adamant that one must classify what “level” of cousin they are talking about. Although now I have the right terminology to give them! 3. Whoever sat down and decided this system had no life and made way too complicated.
For your viewing pleasure, there’s a whole graph of “cousin-ness” at the top of the article. Enjoy.