No More Mistakes With family
In a rush? Jump straight to
Hi there, I’m Hilary and this is the latest podcast from Adept English. Today I thought that we would have a look at names for family members. Some of these are standard, normal English and some of them are slightly colloquial. Colloquial, if you don’t know that term, means words which are used in spoken English between people who know each other well, but they’re not what you would use in written English. They’re informal words. And sometimes words are used in certain parts of the UK and not others. So because Adept English aims to teach you real English, we like colloquialisms.
So you’ve probably learned words like mother and father. But, unless you’re very posh – perhaps like Princes William or Harry, most people in the UK would not call their own parents ‘My mother’ and ‘My father’. Most people when talking about their parents would say instead ‘my mum’ for their mother and ‘my dad’ for their father. It’s a bit of a class thing. Perhaps I should do a podcast on social class, but it is quite difficult to explain! Little children call their parents ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’. This sounds very sweet, very cute and parents like hearing this from little children. However, children usually stop using these words before they’re 10 years old – possibly because other children at school might laugh at them, might tease them if they heard this. So mummy and daddy really is for little children. If you’re an adult and you say ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’, it can sound a bit silly! So mum and dad are the usual words that we use. In US English, mum M-U-M changes to M-O-M, mom – I can’t do an American accent, but it’s more like ‘Mom’. Strangely you’ll also find mom M-O-M, used in the Midlands in the UK, in places like Birmingham. Also in the North of the UK, you hear mothers referred to as mam, M-A-M. And usually it’s ‘me mam’ [‘my mam’]. In Scotland and Wales, you might hear mammie, M-A-M-M-I-E and in Northern Ireland, you might hear Ma, M-A. So there’s a bit of what we call regional variation – you’ll hear different words, depending on where in the UK you are. But mum, dad, mummy, daddy, mom, mam, mammie or ma. It’ll usually be obvious from the context.
You probably also know words like sister and brother. A short form of this that you might hear in the UK, people will talk about ‘my sis’ or ‘my bro’. Again these are very informal – you wouldn’t say that in an interview, or to someone who was asking for a medical history or something like that. You might say ‘My bro’ or ‘My sis’. If you were talking about more than one brother, you might say ‘My bros’, but I’ve never heard anyone say ‘My sisses’. If your brother or sister is much younger than you, you might refer to them as your ‘baby sis’ or your ‘baby bro’. Sometimes you might also hear boys informally talk about friends as ‘their bro’ or ‘their bros’. But you don’t really hear ‘my sis’ used to mean a female friend. You might also sometimes hear ‘bruv’ B-R-U-V to mean brother, but I’m not really aware of many variations on sister and brother. Sis and bro or sister and brother will do wherever you are. You might occasionally hear the word ‘bromance’. And it’s usually said slightly jokily, with humour – and it’s a slang word. It’s a bit like Brexit – made up from two words, British Exit. So this [‘bromance’] is made from ‘brother’ and ‘romance’. People will talk about a ‘bromance’ when two boys or two men get on really, really well, they’re really good friends – such good friends in fact that the tease is it’s almost like a romance.
What about names for your grandparents? If they’re your mother’s parents, then they’re your maternal grandparents and if they’re your father’s parents, then they are your paternal grandparents. But again unless you’re posh, like Princes William and Harry, then they’re referring to Queen Elizabeth of course, you probably wouldn’t say ‘my grandmother’ and ‘my grandfather’. So everyone would recognise those words, but it’s not generally what we use. So probably the most common ones are grandma and granddad. And they would be understood anywhere in the UK. But what people call their grandparents is often to do with family tradition as much as where you’re from.
So for grandmother you might also hear grandma, grannie or gran. We even have a type of apple in the UK called Grannie Smiths, bright green ones. Sometimes people add in the surname, the second name, so Grandma Smith or Grandma Jones to show which grandma it is you’re talking about. Often people call their grandmother their Nan or their Nanny. And for grandfather, usually granddad – but you do hear other things, like gramps or grampy or Poppa or Papa even.
Obviously there are a lot of people in the UK, who have different heritage – so whose parents or grandparents come originally from other places in the word. For example, you might hear Oma and Opa from grandma and granddad, if somebody’s family are German or Dutch or even South African. I think my favourite word for a grandmother however is the Russian – Babushka. I think when I’m a grandmother – and hopefully that’s a quite long way off – I would like to be [a] Babushka!
So there are also some other terms that you might come to hear with regard to different kinds of parents. So stepmother. A stepmother means that your mother and father are no longer together and your father has married another woman. This is your stepmother. In children’s stories, they’re always bad, they’re always evil and wicked – like in the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’, if you know that one. Speaking of Princes William and Harry, their wicked stepmother is Camilla – that’s if you follow our Royal Family at all. I don’t really – but that seems like a good example. In real life, children sometimes have a nice relationship with their stepmother – they’re not always evil! And of course, if your mother has married a different man, that would be your stepfather – so someone who’s in the place of your father. You can also have stepbrothers and stepsisters, of course – they’re the children belonging to the person that either your mother or your father has married. And we do say stepmum and stepdad.
Family relationships are complicated sometimes – if your stepfather or a stepmother, has a baby with your parent – then that baby is your half-brother or a half-sister – half because they share one parent with you. I’m sure you have words for all of this in your own language. So stepmother, stepfather, stepsister, stepbrother – and half-sister and half-brother.
Another term – if someone talks about their ‘adoptive mother’ or ‘adoptive father’, it means the person who’s adopted them. So adoption is when a woman or a man agrees to take a child as their own, even though the child is not their child, is not related to them. This sometimes happens because the child has no parents, or because the child’s parents don’t want the child or can’t look after the child. In the UK, as in many countries, there is a long, formal process of adoption and there are lots of laws around it. Adopting a child is permanent – it’s forever. Whereas, if someone looks after a child that is not their own child, for a shorter a period of time, we would call them a foster mother or foster father. So a foster mother or foster father would take a child for a period of time and look after them, but the child might go to somebody else to be looked after in the end. And when someone is adopted or fostered, they may refer to the mother who actually gave birth to them as their ‘birth mother’. Like in ‘birthday’ B-I-R-T-H. So the birth mother is the person who actually gave birth to them.
Well, hopefully that’s given you something to think about and some new words. Maybe you could start speaking to yourself in English and try to describe to yourself what your family is like. Do you have grandparents, do you have a mother and a father? What are the names of your brothers, your sisters, your stepbrothers, your half-sisters?! See if you can start to use these words by just talking through your own family to yourself.
OK, if you like this podcast, then please like us on Facebook, so that we know. And if you want lots more English language like this to listen to, then visit our website at www.adeptenglish.com.
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day, speak to you again soon. Goodbye.