Uncle is the eccentric protagonist in a series of six delightful and eponymous children's books by the English author J. P. Martin and illustrated by Quentin Blake, written and first published in the 1960s. These books have long been out of print and highly desirable by collectors. The first two books in the series were reprinted in a single edition in 2000, The Uncle Stories, which also is no longer in print.

The Titles:

  • Uncle - published 1964
  • Uncle Cleans Up - published 1965
  • Uncle and His Detective - published 1966
  • Uncle and the Treacle Trouble - published 1967
  • Uncle and Claudius the Camel - published 1969
  • Uncle and the Battle for Badgertown - published 1973

From the back cover of the 1982 Sparrow paperback edition of Uncle:

Uncle is a millionaire elephant. He dresses in a purple dressing gown and rides about on a traction engine. His money comes from thousands of dwarfs who live in the top storeys of his house and pay him rent. His life should be an easy one. But his sworn enemies, the dreadful Badfort crowd, led by the frightful Beaver Hateman, are determined to make it a misery.

Uncle's house, Homeward, is even more amazing than Uncle himself. Sold to Uncle by the Wizard Blenkinsop, it is a magical place described as "about a hundred skyscrapers all joined together and surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge over it... The towers are of many colours, and there are bathing pools and gardens among them, also switchback railways running from tower to tower, and water-chutes from top to bottom." Uncle himself does not know the full extent of the rooms, many of which are secret or hidden, or the inhabitants of his home.

Some of Uncle's Friends:

  • The Old Monkey
  • The One-Armed Badger
  • Goodman (a cat)
  • Cowgill
  • A.B. Fox (a detective, and a fox)
  • Claudius the Camel

Uncle's enemies, the Badfort crowd, inhabit a ramshackle fort called, obviously, Badfort. They constantly use intimidation and surreptitious attacks upon Homeward and its inhabitants, trying mainly to embarrass Uncle.

The Badfort Crowd

  • Beaver Hateman
  • Hootman, a ghost
  • Hitmouse, who uses skewers to stab Uncle and his friends
  • Jellytussle, a creature covered with quivering jelly
  • The Wooden-Legged Donkey

Uncle and his companions like to visit Owl Springs, from which authors (and fellow Uncle fans) Diane Duane and Peter Morwood have taken the name of their collective and web site, the Owl Springs Partnership.

From a genealogist's point of view, an uncle is the brother of your mother or father1. The (non-blood relative) spouse of your aunt is also called your uncle, though more correctly should be called your uncle-in-law (which is also what you would call the uncle of your spouse). If you have an uncle, then you are their nephew (male) or niece (female). While it is most common for your uncle to be older than you, it is well within the realm of possibility for you to be older than your uncle if your grandparents were still having children after you were born. Like cousins, uncles are neither ancestors nor descendants of you, but are simply related to you through other branches of your family tree.

Despite the formal definitions, many cultures throughout the world use the word uncle to mean various things. Step-fathers and basically any sort of secondary or replacement father figure have been referred to as uncles in various cultures. Quite often this was brought about through the custom of having a man marry his brother's widow. The children would continue to call their mother's new husband their uncle (because that's what he was). If there was no brother, or the brother could not marry the widow, it simply became customary for the children to call any new father their uncle. In addition, some cultures would call older male cousins uncles (though it is not as common to refer to an older female cousin as aunt). Some children were often encouraged to call close friends of their parents "uncle" as well.

Grand / Great Uncles

If the brother of your parent is your uncle, what is the brother of your grandmother or grandfather? This relative is called a grand uncle or great uncle. Genealogy purists like the term grand uncle best because it fits well with the nomenclature for your direct ancestors - grand uncle goes with your grandparent. Similarly, your great-grand uncle is the brother of your great-grand parent. Each generation you go back adds another "great" at the beginning of the name of the relation. In contrast, if you go down the family tree instead of up it, you become the uncle, grand uncle, and great-grand uncle and your relative becomes your nephew/niece, grand nephew/niece, and great-grand nephew/niece.

Uncles Diagram

To help you visualize the relationships, below is an ASCII diagram. All relationships are based on relationships through the male relative for consistency. Only blood relatives are shown.

                     |
                  +--+--+
                  |     |
          GGM--+--GGF   GGU   Great-Grand Mother, G-GFather, G-G Uncle
               |
            +--+--+
            |     |
     GM--+--GF    GU          Grandmother, Grandfather, Grand Uncle
         |
      +--+--+
      |     |
M--+--F     U                 Mother, Father, Uncle
   |
   Y                          You

Note to reader: All information can be applied to the aunt relationship simply by replacing all masculine references with feminine references.

1 Or alternatively, the son of your grandparents who is not your father.

uncle

Mine uncle's ; a necessary house.

He is gone to visit his uncle ; saying of one who leaves his wife soon after marriage.

It likewise means a pawnbroker's : goods pawned are frequently said to be at mine uncle's, or laid up in lavender.

The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Un"cle (?), n. [OE. uncle, OF. oncle, uncle, F. oncle, fr. L. avunculus a maternal uncle, dim. of avus a grandfather; akin to Lith. avynas uncle, Goth. aw&?; grandmother, Icel. Ai great grandfather.]

1.

The brother of one's father or mother; also applied to an aunt's husband; -- the correlative of aunt in sex, and of nephew and niece in relationship.

2.

A pawnbroker. [Slang] Thackeray.

My uncle, a pawnbroker. [Slang] --
Uncle Sam, a humorous appellation given to the United States Government. See Uncle Sam, in Dictionary of Noted Names in Fiction.

 

© Webster 1913


Un"cle, n.

An eldery man; -- used chiefly as a kindly or familiar appellation, esp. (Southern U. S.) for a worthy old negro; as, "Uncle Remus." [Colloq.]

Plain old uncle as he [Socrates] was, with his great ears, -- an immense talker.
Emerson.

 

© Webster 1913

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