The words for relations in China are quite complicated.
Uncles, Aunties and Grandmothers, and Grandfathers too, all have different names depending on if they stem from the mother’s or father’s side of the family.
Even sisters and brothers have different names, depending on whether they are older or younger than you.
People address each other by their relational title. 哥哥 姐姐。 妹妹 哦人弟弟 －gege, jiejie, meimei, didi – are the words for older brother, older sister, younger sister, and younger brother.
But wait – it’s not just your family that you get to use these terms for. Basically, you address the whole world in one of these relational terms. Let’s just say you meet someone new – its obvious, most of the time, that they are older/younger than you, so an older woman would be called Ayi, the word for maternal aunt, and an older man would be called Shushu, the word for paternal uncle who is younger than your father.
Unless they’re quite old, and they’d simply be called Nainai or Yeye, Grandma or Grandpa on the father’s side.
Linguistically the whole nation is just one large family!
I’ve even see two parents, whose toddlers were just introduced, inquire of the other the children’s birthdates.
“My son was born in October.”
“Oh, so was my daughter. What date is your son’s birthday?’
“Really? That’s my daughter’s birthday too!!”
“Truly? What time was she born?
“4.30 in the afternoon. What about your son?”
“9.00 in the morning”
Both women laughed. “Okay, well my daughter will call your son 哥哥gege”
“And my son will call your daughter 妹妹 meimei!”
No names needed. Even twins call each other by these relational terms – it goes down to the wire.
Confused? No problem. Just watch this video from “Off the Great Wall” and it should clear things up. 🙂
And the title of this post?妈妈 的 哥哥叫救救 mama de gege jiao jiujiu
is a line from a children’s song, assisting children to remember the correct terms 🙂