WUOMFM

There oughta be a word, nieces and nephews edition

Jan 15, 2017

When we talk about our relatives, there are plenty of gender-neutral terms to cover the bases.

We use "grandparents" to talk about both our grandmothers and grandfathers; "parents" takes care of mothers and fathers; "siblings" refers to both brothers and sisters; and a "cousin" can be either male or female.

But what about nieces and nephews? 

There's good news for aunts and uncles who crave a word to speak collectively about the kids they love to spoil.

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Meet "nibling."

This gender-neutral term is a blend of "niece/nephew" and "sibling." In other words, niblings are your siblings' children.

Unfortunately, nibling doesn't appear in most standard dictionaries. But that's not for lack of trying.

In 2004, a group of schoolchildren in England campaigned to get the little-known word added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Clearly, they weren't successful, but their efforts give us hope.

With or without dictionary approval, nibling is just too darn cute to give up. If we say nibling and use it, that counts as a word, right? We think so.

Nieces and nephews aren't the only relatives without an official gender-neutral term. Don't aunts and uncles deserve something too? 

If you've got an idea, let us know at rkruth@umich.edu or acurzan@umich.edu.