In Swedish, the words for one’s grandparents delineate which side of the family each grandparent comes from. For example:
Your mother’s father: morfar
Your mother’s mother: mormor
Your father’s mother: farmor
Your father’s father: farfar
My mother is a first-generation Swedish American, so she always referred to her grandparents this way. She still does. It only recently occurred to me how incredibly useful this system is. When she talks about “Mormor,” everyone always knows which grandparent she is speaking of: her mother’s mother.
When I speak of my grandparents, I have to use their last names to differentiate, and now because I’m deep into genealogy, confusion arises. I was recently asking my mother a genealogical question about her mother, who was always “Grandma Erikson” to me. But my mother inadvertently skipped back a generation in her mind and began telling me about her “Grandma Erikson,” her father’s mother. We went back and forth for a while, each of us confusing the other more and more, until I realized the problem and said, “No, no–not your farmor, MY mormor.” “Oh,” said my mother. “Now I understand.”
Oh English. Why can’t you be more like Swedish?