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That’s where Hermione helps us out, as a short while later she has a new baby son, Charlie: Alice and Charlie belong to the same generation: as children of first cousins, they are second cousins.So it follows that your second cousin is: the child of your parent’s first cousin It’s worth remembering that age is irrelevant when working out degrees of relationship.We can say, for example, “aunt-by-marriage” or “paternal grandfather”, but those precise terms aren’t common in everyday speech.We accord our parents’ siblings and our siblings’ children special status (uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces) but beyond that we rely on a single catch-all term which is mysteriously ambiguous when it comes to age, sex, degree, or side of the family: cousin. Old English (spoken in England until about 1150) had several phrases to describe first cousin relationships more precisely, among them fæderan sunu for father’s brother’s son, and mōdrigan sunu for mother’s sister’s son. According to the cousins: the children of their parents’ brothers and sisters.To try and resolve this particular issue, let’s take a look at an extremely conventional (and at the same time slightly odd) fictional family, headed by Anne and Gilbert; their two children, siblings Peter and Jane; and their two grandchildren, Tom and Hermione: Tom and Hermione belong to the same generation; as children of siblings, they are first cousins.So far, so good: first cousin relationships are usually fairly straightforward to work out, since most people can identify their aunts and uncles with relative ease, if you’ll excuse the pun.

This situation is more common in very large families where there can be a significant difference in age between the eldest and youngest child, and in fact this explains why our second cousins once removed were the same age as we were: their father was two decades younger than his first cousin (my grandfather).Typically, the reaction would be one of deep befuddlement (particularly from other children: “removed from what??”) Meanwhile, anyone vaguely familiar with the workings of kinship would hazard tentatively, “But if they’re once removed…why are they the same age as you?The Oxford English Corpus indicates that removal is a forceful process: the most frequent collocations of remove show that figures of authority (police, government, doctors, surgeons, officers) remove troublesome objects (barriers, materials, tumors, obstacles, restrictions, threats) so that we can get on with our lives unhindered by such hurdles.Who knows – perhaps our own terminology could be partly responsible for that lack of familiarity many of us can feel towards our extended family, at least in the English-speaking world?They are still first cousins but separated by two generations, and are therefore first cousins twice removed.

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