When Societies Put Cousin, Marriage Together

The writer of the following article is married to a man from the Middle East. While he never suggested that one of his sons marry their female cousin, he told his wife about the acceptance in his country of the cousin, marriage scenario. The writer's awareness of that tradition has formed the basis for the following speculative look at that seemingly strange lifestyle.
In western societies, there is always one thing missing when one cousin meets a second cousin, marriage talk. Unlike people in the Middle East, westerners do not use cousin, marriage together in any conversation. Families in western societies do not visualize cousin couples when planning for the future.

In the first half of the 20th Century, the children of one Pennsylvania family had one strangely-named cousin. Marriage had left one woman without her father’s surname. She wanted to give that name to her son. Therefore, she named him “Hershner.”

Now it is not unusual for a mother in a western society to give her son her maiden name for his middle name. That practice does not take place in the Middle East. There, families do not make a habit of giving children a middle name.

Still a survey of Middle Eastern names leads one to suspect that there too women sometimes use one or more form of their maiden name in a child’s name. But just as those societies anticipate a cousin, marriage scenario, they seem to anticipate such seemingly unusual names. One finds that men from the Middle East often refer to a male friend by his last name.

No doubt the existence of the cousin, marriage scenario, combined with many mothers’ desire to retain some form of their maiden name, has aided the creation of unusual names. In fact, the proliferation of cousin couples might even lead to the creation of a number of people who have the same first and last name.

Suppose, for example, that a woman from the Afnan family married and had children. Suppose that she decided to name a son “Afnan.” Suppose then that after Afnan married, he and his wife did not have a son. Instead they had four daughters. Perhaps Afnan would choose to name that fourth daughter “Afnan.”

If that daughter found her life ruled by the cousin, marriage scenario, then she might end up the wife of man with a surname like her own first name. She might end up living the rest of her life with the name “Afnan Afnan.”

Suppose some tragedy would lead to the death of Afnan Afnan following the birth of an infant son. The father of that infant would have good reason to name his son after his mother. The boy would be named “Afnan.” He would share with his mother the experience of having the same first and last name.

All of the above illustrations show what can happen when a society follows the cousin, marriage scenario. Of course western societies do not avoid cousin couples in order to prevent the occurrence of a single name used twice by one person. Western societies are more concerned about how the marriage of cousins can strengthen a mutated gene.

Western societies learned from the former aristocracy what can happen when people with a mutated gene intermarry. That perpetuates the existence of that gene. The family becomes plagued with children who suffer a special medical problem.

In order to avoid that chain of events, western societies have chosen against the encouragement of the cousin, marriage scenario. Western societies have few cousin couples.
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