Nepotical Nephew

Upon first glance, nepotic, a rarely used adverb, seems slightly sinister. Could it mean the same thing as despotic, or maybe even necrotic? Logophiles may recognize that it is a form of nepotism, which today refers to the act of providing employment or other favors to relatives or friends, whether or not they are qualified for such rewards.

Looking deeper, one finds that nepotic has a close relationship with nephew. At first glance, it doesn’t quite stretch the imagination that a word defining a relative became associated with the act of playing unqualified favorites. But why a nephew, and not a son? The answer traces to various Popes of the Middle Ages who occasionally requested men of influence to employ a “nephew” who was actually the Pope’s son. More commonly, however, was the Papal practice of elevating any male relative to the post of Cardinal; an actual nephew was the most common choice. It’s no wonder that nepotism is generally held in such gloomy regard.

There is a brighter side, however, the natural feeling we have for those we know and trust, relative or no. It’s natural to seek connections for those we hold in high regard. When it comes to the youngest member of my immediate family—my 3 and ½ year old nephew—his energy and spirit have enlightened and delighted me since he was born.

I’m looking for someone to fill the position of junior associate of joy and wonder, a position for which my nephew is highly qualified. Yes, I’m definitely guilty of nepotism.