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No they've not your ancestor!

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No they've not your ancestor!

Postby AdrianB38 » Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:12 am

I realise this is going to make me sound like someone who's just discovered with horror that language changes. But please can we, of all people, use the terms ancestor, descendant and relative correctly?

Beverley Eikli's "My Family Hero" in the October 2013 contained, in quick succession, the statements "Spencer Perceval is one of [Beverley's] ancestors" and "Beverley is descended from Sir Spencer's great-uncle". If the latter statement is true, then Spencer Perceval is one of Beverley's relatives, not her ancestor.

Sadly, this confusion between ancestor and relative, and between descendant and relative, is becoming more frequent. Does it matter? Well, yes. If the terms get totally confused in people's minds, then simple statements saying "X is the descendant of Y" become meaningless.

This isn't like "disinterested" being altered in meaning - there we still have the word "impartial", which means roughly what "disinterested" used to mean. Here there simply isn't a replacement term with the correct meaning. I've seen the term "direct descendant" being used, as if it is intended to distinguish between genuine descendants and relatives. Alas - I remember reading about someone claiming to be a direct descendant of someone and then saying they were descended from that person's uncle. So the point of adding in the word "direct" was???

Is this a case for sub-editors mounting a counter-attack?

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Re: No they've not your ancestor!

Postby ksouthall » Mon Sep 02, 2013 7:22 pm

What's more annoying is when someone talks about their great-great-grandfather as "a direct descendant" when they mean ancestor.

Definition of descendant:

A person, animal, or plant whose descent can be traced to a particular individual or group.

Definition of ancestor:

A person from whom one is descended, especially if more remote than a grandparent; a forebear.

Definition of relative:

One related by kinship, common origin, or marriage.
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Re: No they've not your ancestor!

Postby Sylcec » Tue Sep 03, 2013 4:13 am

I totally agree with both of you and cringe every time I hear on WDYTYA or read in the magazine about someone's ancestor when they are sometimes only distantly related to an ancestor through marriage. You may despair of this also, but I tend to use the term "ancestral relative" for some one who may be a sibling of a distant direct ancestor.
Cheers, Sylvia
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