The Brothers <Surname>

I recently saw a movie called The Brothers Bloom. In looking it up on imdb, a list of movies came up called The Brothers <Surname>: The Brothers Grimsby, The Brothers Grimm, The Brothers Bloom, The Brothers McMullen, The Brothers Solomon. I’m sure if I asked for more results I could scroll and see more.

But when I put in “The Sisters” I had to ask for more and scroll before I came up with any matches of the syntax The Sisters <Surname>. Why is this? Why do we use the term The Brothers Grimm, but not The Sisters Bronte or The Siblings Sedaris? Why is it The Brothers Karamazov, but not The Sisters March or The Siblings Simpson?

http://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/the-novels-of-the-sisters-bronte-the-thornton-edition/author/charlotte-emily-and-anne-bronte/

Historically men have been more important than women. They did things. Women sat home. Bias toward men and against women is baked deep into our culture. It’s so deep that it’s often invisible until one trips over an unremarked aspect.

Why? For the same reason that you often see businesses named “Smith and son” but you never (or very rarely) see “Jones and daughter”. It’s because western civilization is centered on the idea than men are people but women are possessions. Daughters and sisters have traditionally been viewed as property which will some day be sold to another family, whereas sons and brothers were viewed as heirs and potential business partners. Only in the last century or two have we started embracing the idea that women are people. Nowadays we even ask women to give their permission to who wants to marry them (as opposed to having the whole thing arranged as a business transaction between the groom and the bride’s father). But we still expect women to (a) wait for someone to ask them rather than doing the asking, (b) change their last name when they married and © feel like a failure if nobody asks. Despite the progress we’ve made, there’s still plenty of residual traces of the old attitudes.

Yeah, “The Brothers _____” is kind of an old-fashioned thing; and in old-fashioned times, men were more likely to be referred to, period. Plus, it’s significantly less likely that two or more grown sisters would still have the same name.

And, I don’t know, there may be an element of “it just flows off the tongue better” (either in English or in some other language where the phrasing originated).

Just to throw a wrench in things, there’s a book called The Sisters Brothers. “Sisters” is the surname of two brothers, but I’m guessing they were so named by the author to have fun with the trope.

I would buy all this “men used to be seen as more important than women” logic if my post was asking why there are more works referring to brothers than to sisters.

But my question was more about the syntax where the surname follows the relationship. Admittedly, The Brothers Surname is not exactly common, but it is more common than The Sisters Surname or The Siblings Surname. Why?

Is it merely that titles of works that reference brothers are a lot more common than titles that reference sisters or siblings, so the “inverted” syntax refers to the same percentage of titles, but is much more uncommon for sisters or siblings? Or is there something inherent in the wording The Brothers Surname that makes it more desirable than The Sister Surname?

“The Brothers X” was made popular mostly through business and entertainment acts. Because it originates in a time of male-run family businesses, that’s the reason it’s mostly a male name. “Smith and Sons” implies the father and his two sons working the business. If the father dies “The Brothers Smith” makes more sense, unless possibly the sons have sons of their own and choose to keep the name. Of course, sometimes “The Brothers Smith” would just be two brothers in a partnership together with no father ever involved. Family businesses were so common in part because corporate structures were often not an option available to ordinary folk. Furthermore, many historical (and some modern) laws required the names of the owners to be listed in the name of the business.

Back in those days, women rarely worked, and they rarely owned property. So you wouldn’t expect to see “Smith and Daughter” because in that time your first thought would have been “Why isn’t she married?” (I’m reminded of the Progressive Insurance commercial making fun of the 1950’s, including the line “Where is your husband?”)

Likewise, “Sisters Smith” wouldn’t have made sense - if they got married, neither one would be a Smith any more, and society would have expected them to be both be taking care of the home, not the shop. At many times and places, the two sisters couldn’t even have owned the business themselves without a male figurehead. It wasn’t so long ago that even school teachers, maids and cooks were required to be unmarried. A married woman should be tending her home, not out working.

Nowadays, “The Brothers x” survives as a colloquial phrase and we don’t really think of the origins or meanings. We’re just imitating history. There was no regular usage of “The Sisters X” for us to imitate, so we don’t.

Russ & Daughters is the only business I can think of that uses that format; the founder had no sons & made his daughters partners in the business.

Wiki says the Brothers Karamazov has also been translated as The Karamazov Brothers. My guess is that inverted syntax sounds more literary, and that the fame of the novel influenced later works.

From the answers, I would also guess that nobody read your OP the way you intended. Maybe all of us weren’t wrong?

Former Monkee Mickey Dolenz makes fine furniture with his daughters:

http://www.dolenzanddaughters.com

The Brothers Marx never took off.

*Fractured Flickers * mentioned a movie title “The Grim, Grim World of the Wonderful Brothers Sisters.” :smiley:

But the Bee Gees did (but the “s” went rogue).

I’m guessing here that it might be something to do with the German formulation “Gebrüder”, which is a collective of brothers, and is quite widely used both commercially (the toy company Gebrüder Bing) and and more generally (Gebrüder Grimm). Somehow I suspect that got translated into English as “The Brothers…”, or maybe it always was there somewhere from Anglo-Saxon times.

There are similar words for sisters and siblings (Geschwester and Geschwister), but you won’t hear those so often in German (the most likely one I can think of is Geschwister Scholl, the brother and sister who were executed by the Nazis and often commemorated in street names and the like), and somehow never made the leap into English.

Geschwister in German indeed means siblings (plural form only, by the way).

I had never heard the German word Geschwester (which would be the equivalent of “sisters”) before so I googled it. Some hits led to an antiquated or plainly wrong spelling of Geschwister, but there also is a duo of female comedians (who are actually sisters) who call themselves Geschwester Lang. Which seems to be tongue-in-cheek.

Your question merely asks why, the limitation to answer it relating to syntax is all in your head, and it’s a bad approach to reading the answers you’ve got.

Could there be something inherently weird about “The Sisters <surname>” syntax? Sure, but 99% of the time appropriate syntax is about what we’re used to. Try re-reading the answers with that in mind and you’ll see that the thread both explains why we’re more used to and have held on to the old fashioned “The Brothers <surname>” syntax, and shows examples of “The Sisters Brontë” in use.

Duden seems to think that it can be used in the singular, at least in technical language or in Switzerland:

That’s interesting, I never knew.

I’ve heard "The Bronte Sisters " , maybe “The Brothers X” is more recent?