This fine glider is en route to me right now.  It is riding with an old jeep body and some tines from an old hay rake.  A fine load of rust is slowly making its way to the eastern time zone.   The glider belonged to an “outlaw” of mine, and none of the children wanted it; my sister is her daughter in law.

The word “outlaw” can be descriptive of three kinds of relationships.  The first is an in law of someone in your immediate family.  Like Ruth.  We see each other at family gatherings.  Since we do not live in the same area (which is the reason the glider has to be “en route”, and that tag is good for about fourteen hours) when we do see each other, it is at holidays mostly.  Feels like family.

Another use of the word applies to former family, now not family because of divorce.  Again, all the family socialization has taken place, but the bond is now gone.  Outlaw.

The third use, and the one first applied to me is the new wife of a brother in law by the sisters of the deceased wife.

This is such a good way to describe these kinds of relationships that I was surprised when doing a quick check with on line dictionaries, that this word has not been attributed to having an alternate meaning like the one described here.  As we know, in English, we can use the same word for all kinds of meanings.  Think about “cleave”.  Or “sanctioned”.  Love that one!

Having just finished “Death Comes to Pemberly” by PD James, and of course, one must have read Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice” to get the full meaning of that book,  I was struck by one of the pivotal ideas put forth in the older book.  That is when one marries, the person we would call a “sister in law” is called simply “sister”.  The pain of Darcy in the James book is to acknowledge that the complicated Wickham is his brother (and in former, happier times the two boys did operate as brothers) rather than some person known, but removed from his circle for some time.

Perhaps that is why within the years between the early 19th century and now, the “in-law” has come to pass.  It is a more specific label.  And this is why I nominate the phrase “outlaw” to further specify a relationship.

Said glider can today be accused of creating the worst gas mileage across Illinois to the deep south due to its acting like a sail on the trailer.  Still worth it.


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