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One wonders whether prevailing custom in Virginia or the nervous aunt is more responsible for this particular decline. In at least, the custom was still practiced as a pro forma greeting:. And of course the supreme mythmaker of the American South, Margaret Mitchell, felt compelled to comment on the Southern obsession with degrees of cousinship:.

The ramifications of cousins, double cousins, cousins-in-law and kissing cousins were so intricate and involved that no one but a born Georgian could ever unravel them. Though by the s the expression is rapidly escaping the South — see this NGram — it is still felt as a regionalism, often enclosed in quotation marks:.

Distant relatives and informal cousins, sometimes called "kissing cousins," attached themselves to households. Most of them actually are 'connections ,' and when they aren't, they are 'kissing cousins,' which generally means that parents and grandparents were lifelong, intimate friends. We will call you cousin, and if young and good looking, which seems the rule in Indiana, we will count you close enough to be treated as "kissing cousins," as we say in Kentucky and Virginia.

Closely allied to the bride by old family friendships rather than blood ties, they arrived from every point of the compass and were always house guests. Haven't you any family? There may be a cautionary control over gossip in an environment in which almost everyone is a kissing cousin of everyone Kissing cousins inhabit a white Southern universe where rural planter families frequently intermarried; thus who and how two people might be related could be a not infrequent topic for conversation.

A scion of such a family was.

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The number of Southern words and expressions relating to the ties of family — kinfolks, blood kin, kissing kin, kissing cousins , connections, "Virginia cousins" — testifies to the strength of the code in this respect. Concepts like kissing kin and kissing cousins expanded that sense of family to include the children of family friends or relatives too distant to be considered close:. Bates, a lobsterman by trade, was a distant cousin. Not a kissing cousin to be sure, but a blood relative on her father's side.

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Active 1 month ago. Viewed 17k times. Example: kissing cousin noun 1. Has any else heard the term used to refer to cousins who can be married?

Mari-Lou A WhiskeyPapa WhiskeyPapa 1 1 gold badge 1 1 silver badge 11 11 bronze badges. According to Wikipedia: 'The United States has the only bans on cousin marriage in the Western world. EdwinAshworth Historically, the reason that European countries generally don't outlaw cousin marriage is perhaps because the royal houses, and aristocracies of Europe, have made frequent use of it. And in the modern age I think it is clearly shown to have little chance of adverse medical consequences. This question appears to be off-topic because it is about an inventive but highly unusual "folk etymology" that simply doesn't figure in standard dictionaries.

Not that I think it has any credibility or prevalence - but even if I did, that would be a Primarily Opinion-based perspective. Fumble Fingers: I simply don't agree. Perhaps it can be referred to as dialect. My question was: have other people heard the term used? Clearly it isn't in the UK, but you're not the only English speakers in the world! My understanding being raised in Kentucky has always been that it refers to relatives who are sufficiently distant to be considered candidates for romance -- basically something more distant than first cousins.

Yes, the reference works mentioned are completely, totally, wrong. The term cheekily suggests the frisson of very mild incestuous sexuality. But she's not too distant with me We'll kiss all night I'll squeeze her tight But we're kissin' cousins and that's what makes it all right All right, all right, all right My God, lyrics were explicit then. Fattie Fattie 9, 2 2 gold badges 26 26 silver badges 57 57 bronze badges. I have never heard it used the way OED defines it, which is why I haven't accepted the much up voted answer referring to the OED reference. Has anyone on this site actually used the term in the way OED defines it?

Yes, I do. Most common terms do not involve incest. In many, many jurisdictions world-wide first cousins are allowed to marry. Do a google book search for "kissing cousins" and you'll find many many examples of it being used to describe things that are closely related. Fascinating to hear "all the reference books say different from me, so they must be wrong".

Kissing cousins | Definition of Kissing cousins at

Even more fascinating that the OP thinks that's the best answer. For the record I've only ever heard the definition the dictionaries give. On the one hand we have this entry from Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms : kissing cousins Two or more things that are closely akin or very similar. The earliest actual usage I could find of "kissing cousins" in the sense of "blood relatives who are eligible to marry one another" is in Richard Jensen, Illinois: A History : The churches enhanced their cohesiveness by fostering marriages within the group.

Conclusions Perhaps the most interesting thing about the OP's question is how widespread the notion is that "kissing cousins" has the meaning "cousins distantly enough related to be eligible to marry each other," despite the absence of support for that meaning in reference works. Sven Yargs Sven Yargs k 21 21 gold badges silver badges bronze badges. It seems to me that at least two of your references above are not referring to the idiomatic "kissing cousins" but are in fact referring to the practice of kissing ones cousin.

HotLicks: Right. The two instances refer to the Virginia custom of kissing one's cousins, which I infer led to the term "kissing cousin" as used in the citation the date for which I unfortunately omitted until now. The mix of sociology and semantics is fascinating here. I grew up in the southern US, but not in a culture where men and women kiss does anybody do that anymore? So 'kissing cousin' always meant the salacious thing to me, a non-serious dalliance with a cousin, very literal with kissing being romantic.

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So all those dictionary definitions sound like from another planet to me. Mitch makes a perfect point. The idea that in the US, you might kiss someone in greeting is as ridiculous as suggesting that in France you'd have McDonalds for lunch whilst utilizing a drive-through bank in your pick-up truck.

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  • A kissing cousin is defined by the OED as: a relative or friend with whom one is on close enough terms to greet with a kiss There is no mention of it being an American term. WS2 WS2 Could OED be mistaken???? WhiskeyPapa Anything is possible I suppose. But the OED do welcome feedback, and on the one occasion I queried something it was dealt with expeditiously and very courteously, by way of a telephone call to me.

    It turned out, needless to say, that they were right. But you might like to try them!

    Kissin' Cousins (song)

    I was joking, but I find it strange that none of the dictionaries I saw mention this second meaning. It is used quite often where I live in southern Idaho. Our usage of the term is of two closely related people 1st or 2nd cousins who are romantically involved. However, phrases often mean different things in different areas, so whether this definition of it is correct or not is questionable. Kissing cousin is a close relationship, not a distant one.

    The OED is right, and the incest boosters need to scrub their brains to think a handy term is needed to regulate their lust for close relations. Frost Mr. Frost 61 1 1 silver badge 4 4 bronze badges. Just as Mr Frost says, it is utterly ridiculous to suggest, in the US, it has something to do with a salutation as in when Russians, say, kiss each other in greeting.