Friday, 6 August 2010
Addressing people correctly
I never really considered it that way. In fact I don't object at all. It makes me feel like I am accepted. However, it got me thinking a little more about terms of address.
The words for the immediate family are fairly straightforward. Anne (mother), baba (father), kız çocuk (daughter), erkek çocuk (son), ağabey (older brother), abla (older sister), erkek kardeş (brother) and kız kardeş (sister). But, when referring to relations beyond the immediate family it gets a little more complicated.
On the maternal side there is anneanne (grandmother), dede (grandfather), teyze (aunt) and dayı (uncle). Enişte (the maternal aunt’s husband), yenge (the uncle’s wife), yeğen (nephew or niece), and kuzen (cousin). Yeğen, kuzen and enişte are used for both maternal and paternal relatives.
Yenge, also, does not just apply to a maternal link. It is also used to indicate a woman married to the brother on both the maternal and paternal side, as well as a foreign woman who has married into a Turkish family. When used by someone outside of the family, the term yenge is used to recognize the fact that a foreign woman has married into the larger family of Turks in general.
On the father’s side there is: babaanne (grandmother), büyükbaba (grandfather), hala (aunt) and amca (uncle).
In addition to these expressions, there are more complicated ones to be added to the mix. Elti means sister-in-law and refers to the relationship between two brother’s wives. Baldız is another term for sister-in-law, but is only for use in reference to the wife’s sister while banacak is the husband of the wife’s sister. The wife’s brother is kayınço, and the husband’s sister is görümce. Finally, the mother-in-law is kayınvalide or kaynana, and the father-in-law is kayınpeder or kaynata.
I hasten to add that I have never grasped all this. I had to research it again to be able to do this post. We have been fortunate in that we have never lived close to immediate family, so I haven't had the opportunity to get it wrong!
Children of close friends may refer to older people as teyze, amca, abla and abi. I'm referred to as teyze by the children in the village, and Mr Ayak is referred to as amca. This denotes a close personal tie and is a sign of respect, even though there are no family connections. So naturally I like this, because it shows that even after a relatively short time, we have been accepted by the village.
Even in business transactions titles are used alongside names. It is common to hear the word hanım following a woman’s first name, as in Mary Hanım. Bayan is also added sometimes to a woman’s first name, but usually before the name, as in Bayan Mary. For men it is easier, as you will usually only hear the word bey added to the man’s first name, for example, Mustafa Bey.
One explanation about the use in Turkey of titles to indicate relationships both inside and outside the family structure is that this practice is left over from times before the surname law was enacted. Prior to 1934, Turks did not have surnames and so titles were a way of establishing a person’s place within the family unit, as well as their place in society. While the custom continues and is a way to show respect to others, it is an often confusing minefield for foreigners!