An informative email from Dana’s aunt’s husband explaining “anh em cot cheo”:
Any way, it’s not C. Bé that I want to write about, it’s about the “coc cheo” that was mentioned in your email. In Vietnamese cọc means a rod or a stick, and chèo means a paddle or rowing. The proper term should be “cột chèo”. Cột means a post or column. I went to Google translator and typed “anh em cột chèo”, it translated to “Brothers rowing”. These four words are used to describe the relationship of two men that are married to two sisters.
Last night we had dinner at B. Minh-Mai home with B. Hương and I consulted with B. Minh about the meaning of “anh em cột chèo”. B. Minh explained the proper term for “cột chèo” is “cột kèo”. Kèo is the sloping part that support the roof (rafter?). Indivdually, cột and kèo are not related, but when they are tied together to become a structure of a house, they are somehow related.
I also asked B. Minh about using “anh em cột chèo” for cousins. B. Minh answered yes and no. No, if family is a single family. Yes, if family is a big family that all members are related up to four generations.
My definition is very simple. We are “anh em whatever” after drinking tequila from the same shot glass.
Here is my response to him:
Thank you for your thorough definition of “Anh Em Cột Chèo.” For someone like me, whose Vietnamese is moving backward and whose English is not moving forward, your explanation is very helpful. Technically, Anh Ky and I are “Anh Em Cột Chèo,” but since we all are on the same boat, we might as well “row” together. LOL!
I also like your simple definition of “anh em whatever.” We’re not related by blood, but we’re related by tequila 😉