A little while ago, my brother pointed something out to me. He has two nieces and one nephew, but no way to refer to them as a collective. When talking about his brothers’ kids, he always has to say, “Nieces and nephew.” I had never thought of it until he mentioned it, but he’s right. There’s no gender neutral way to refer to nieces and nephews. For brothers and sisters, there’s siblings. For mothers and fathers, there’s parents. For sons and daughters, there’s children. There is no equivalent for nieces and nephews.
I can’t stop thinking about this since it was pointed out to me. But it gets worse. As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve realized that there is also no gender neutral term for aunts and uncles. I have three aunts and two uncles, but no easy way to refer to my parents’ siblings. It feels like there’s a vacuum in our language.
This lack of vocabulary has the obvious result of making our language more cumbersome. But what if a person’s parents’ sibling is non-binary? Or what if a sibling’s child is gender-fluid? There ought to be a way to refer to those relationships without applying (or misapplying) a gender to that person.
I’d love a way to make our language more nimble and inclusive. My first instinct is to try to coin two new words. That’s probably not going to work, though. First, I can’t think of anything that sounds right. And second, I don’t think I have the reach to get other people to start using them. Instead, I want to know if anyone has run into these problems? If so, please share your solution or workaround. It’s not much, but I can at least help to spread the answer.