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In the movie Forrest Gump, Lieutenant Dan was asking Gump and Bubba whether they are twin brothers, but Gump said:

"No....we are not relations, Sir."

Is it also correct to say if I say this?

We are not related to each other.

or does it have a different meaning?

  • 1
    "No....we are not relations, Sir." doesn't make sense. How about "No....we are not relatives, Sir.". or "related" can also be used. Why did you choose relations? – user3169 Jun 29 '16 at 17:11
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    Have you read the definition of relations as a noun? 2. A person who is connected by blood or marriage; a relative: ‘he has no close relations’ – ColleenV Jun 29 '16 at 17:12
  • Relations meaning "kin/family" is fine in some regions. "No we're not family." is the same thing as "No, we're not relations." @user3169 – ColleenV Jun 29 '16 at 17:12
  • @ColleenV Comments too fast... Anyway, I have never heard relations used this way in AmE. Maybe outdated usage? – user3169 Jun 29 '16 at 17:16
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    @user3169 It's from the movie Forrest Gump, so I'm thinking Southern US. It might be a little old-fashioned. – ColleenV Jun 29 '16 at 17:17
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"We are not relations" does sound a little strange to me. But it also comes off as possibly a Southern saying (American South). And it fits since Forrest Gump was raised in Greenbow, Alabama, a southern state.

Looking at the definition of relations

relations
a (1) : a person connected by consanguinity or affinity : relative (2) : a person legally entitled to a share of the property of an intestate
b : relationship by consanguinity or affinity : kinship

we see that "We are not relations" serves to mean that they are not family, not twins. So I don't believe it is a matter of correct or incorrect. It might be more appropriate or familiar to say if you are in certain regions.

Possible alternatives include

  1. We are not related.
  2. We are not relatives.

Including "we are not relations", they all mean "we are not family". I think I would've used 1. I think most people are familiar with these two.

Here is some ngram data on the matter. enter image description here

  • It's really interesting to change the corpus that is searched - "we are not relations" is rare (or non-existent), and I wonder if that is a problem of contractions (we're not relations) or formation of the phrase somehow. It's really difficult to come up with a convincing NGram for a single word that has different meanings in different contexts. – ColleenV Jun 29 '16 at 18:14
  • This is interesting though - compare 'my relations' and 'my relatives' and look at the book results for "my relations" google.com/… – ColleenV Jun 29 '16 at 18:21
  • Also take a look at the positive construction: "we are relations." I ran a few NGrams with contracted variants (we're/we are) and case-insensitivity on, and got some interesting charts. I'd love to see what the context in some of the original sources are, though, to see if relations = related in them. Alas, the internet is not actually magic. – Epicedion Jun 29 '16 at 18:36
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Yes, 'we are not related to each other' means the same thing as 'we are not relations'.

The first one seems to be the dialect of standard English, the second a dialect based largely on the native Mississippi dialect of the guy who plays Forrest Gump as a kid. This was adapted by Tom Hanks for his role. A Mississippi dialect is a type of Southern dialect.

Whether people actually say 'we are not relations' is unknown to me. However, using the term "relations" to refer to one's (extended) family is idiomatic, as shown by the Oxford English Dictionary:

relation

5a a person related to another by blood or marriage; a relative (frequently in plural)

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We are not related to each other. Or, simply, we are not related.

"We are not relations," is wrong. In context, it's probably to highlight the speaker's lack of education.

  • 1
    According to Merriam-Webster, a relation is a member of one's family. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/… Oxford Dictionaries says something similar: oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/relation If you're not convinced about the used of the verb 'to be', here's an example from the Wiktionary: Yes, he's a relation of mine, but a only distant one.‎ – Archa Jun 29 '16 at 17:11
  • It is, but that particular construction "we are not relations" is not common usage. I'm not 100% on this, but if you're looking at a Forrest Gump quote, there's probably a better way to say it. – Epicedion Jun 29 '16 at 17:18
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    We are not relations is not ungrammatical; you're just not familiar with every accepted definition. – ColleenV Jun 29 '16 at 17:18
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    Since the learner has already encountered a use of we are not relations, correct according to context and dialect, calling it " wrong (in application)" seems to me confusing and of little purpose. It is dialectal, not wrong, although I agree I wouldn't encourage a learner to adapt any dialect other than standard English, in most cases. – Alan Carmack Jun 29 '16 at 17:54
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    Anecdotally, my extended family in Minnesota, who occupy the very center of the socio-economic bell curve and range in age from 12 to 93, refer to our cousins, aunts, uncles, etc., as "relations." It wouldn't be remarkable to hear one of them say of another family: "Oh, they're not relations." – P. E. Dant Jun 30 '16 at 4:13

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