The naming of grandma—it’s a difficult matter

Hello, my name is ...?

Shortly after I announced to friends and family my son and his wife were having a baby—our first grandchild—almost the first question—after do you know the sex—was what are you going to be called?

My response: “Grandma, I guess.” I hadn’t really thought about it but then I heard from other friends that they selected special names. It reminded me of the TS Eliot poem: “The Naming of Cats” that starts:

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter.”

Well as it turns out the naming of grandparents may not to be as easy as it seems. Some friends said grandma sounded too old fashioned, too fuddy duddy. (I didn’t feel either old-fashioned or fuddy duddy. After all I was a child of the rebellious 1960s! Hmm, 1960s–that was a long time ago. )

Friends have chosen derivations of their names or gone back to their heritage to choose a name. One friend has Native American ancestry and grandchildren call her E-Ni-Si, the Cherokee name for grandmother; another whose first name is June is Juney to her granddaughters. Another friend wanted his grandson to call him granddad.  Well the toddler decided that Bop Bop was a better name.  So Bop Bop he is right now, but we’ll see what the future holds.

In fact, just like there are books with baby names, there are books on grandparents’ names. Amazon lists several, including:

The New Grandparents Name Book by Lin Wellford and Skye Pifer (Jan 5, 2009)

You Can Call Me Hoppa! The Grandparents’ Guide to Choosing a Name that Fits by Lauren Charpio (Aug 5, 2008)

The Big Book of Grandparents’ Names by Jeanmarie O’Keefe Moore (May 30, 2009)

When all was said and done we opted for the plain vanilla grandma and grandpa. But then I went to Ireland this summer and heard my many, many cousins referring to their grandmothers as Nan (a diminutive of Nana I think).  I fell in love with the sound of Nan and decided I wanted my grandchildren to call me that. After nearly three years of being Abuela (the Spanish for Grandmother), Gamma and Grandma Helen, what are the chances I can get my grandkids to call me Nan?  Stay tuned. I’m working on it.

What’s your favorite grandparent name?

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4 Responses to The naming of grandma—it’s a difficult matter

  1. Mary Reitz says:

    When I became a grandma, I decided that grandma sounded too old for me and besides my mother was grandma not me. So I wanted to be called Grammy. However, grandchild #1 pronounced this as Ami. Grandson, grandchild #2, called his mother and father Mama and PaPa. So, we became Grandmama and Grandpapa. I like both names. I look forward to the names grandchildren #3 and #4 will call me.

  2. LB says:

    In our crazy blended family, we had one traditional family name (Granny, passed down through at least 4 generations), one person who did not want a title, thank you very much, one person who wished to be addressed by his first name, his wife, who loves children instantly became ‘Oma’ (dutch from Grandma), one person who got a name bestowed upon him, and one person who is still in flux.

    What is the relationship of your husband’s father’s second wife to your kid, anyway?

    • Helen Hoart says:

      I think the husband’s second wife is the the lucky adult who gets another child in her life to love and cherish. She doesn’t have to be grandma but if she’s grandma or whatever derivation she (or the child chooses) she’s blessed to have another grandchild.

  3. Mary Brady Service says:

    My preference for “my” name was “Nana,” which is what my son called my mother: it has happy associations. However, my daughter-in-law’s mother has that name from other grandchildren, so I suggested “Grammy,” which has a soft sound (to me). Well, my almost-2-year-old twin grandchildren have begun calling me “Mimi.” Their parents and I don’t know where/how the children decided on the name, but I’m amused and happy. It’s their choice, and I like it — can’t ask for more.

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