Mark Breta

Terms of Identity

I originally wrote this for the Midday Connection blog on April 14, 2014.

Those close to me know that I have an appreciation for terms of endearment (the words, not the movie… ha!) and there are special meanings for these terms associated with those in my inner circles.

Some use the term “bro” for someone they work with, their group of buddies, or maybe to any random person. I only use it for my three brothers (two of whom are non-biological brothers). One of my cousins and I refer to each other as “Cousin” as if by name:
“Hey, Cousin. Wanna grab a bite to eat tonight?”
“Sure, Cousin. What time do you wanna meet up?”

My brother and sister-in-law and younger cousins call me “Kuya,” which in Filipino is a title given to an older sibling or relative. To my nieces and nephews, I am “Tito Mark” or “Uncle Mark” — and some of them are not blood-related. This also include the kids of close friends with whom I grew up and still regularly keep in touch.

These are just a few reminders of special relationships in my life. When any of them call me, email me, or even send a text message, and they call me by that unique “term,” I get that special link of identity that affirms the bond I have with that person. There are times when they use my “real name” and, being used to hearing the other name, it somehow sounds strange!

One of my co-workers refers to her closest girlfriends as her sisters. Many have different names for grandparents. Then there are the current colloquialisms, “BFFs” or “besties.” My sister-in-law’s siblings occasionally call their mother Sandra, “San,” sometimes meant in jest, but truly a demonstration of love.

What special identity markers do you have with those who know you best? And what does it mean to you?

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