Kinship terms in English
We've been thinking about a relative of mine who’s been having health issues lately. His relationship to me is “father-in-law of my sister-in-law,” which strikes me as having potentially three different ways of being interpreted:
- He could be my brother's wife's husband’s father, which would make him my own father.
- He could be my wife’s sister's husband's father.
- He could be my wife’s brother's wife’s husband's father, making him also my own father-in-law.
(Not sure about that last one, actually.)
But if I wanted to disambiguate it down to the one actual situation, I could tell you either (1) that neither I nor my wife have brothers, or (2) his relation to me cannot be simplified further from “father-in-law of my sister-in-law.” Either way, it all miraculously reduces down to one possibility.
I know that other languages do a better job of making these precise distinctions.