Your Grandparent Name: A Twenty-first Century Choice
What is one of the oldest jokes about becoming a grandparent?
“I don’t mind being a grandma, but I’m not sure about sleeping with a grandpa!”
Getting used to the role of grandparent takes time, but is a universal experience.
Getting used to the name, these days, is much more culturally variable.
Depending on how you answer the questions below, your grandparent name could vary a lot!
1. How old are you?
2. What do your friends’ grandchildren call your friends?
3. What associations, negative or positive, do you have with grandparent names?
4. What do the children themselves say when they first try to say your name?
5. How many languages are spoken in your family?
A few months ago I saw a funny video about grandma names on Facebook.
I can’t embed it here, but take a minute and click the link and you will enjoy.
Also you may enjoy this article about why “grandma” has fallen out of fashion.
If you are a grandparent, please share the name(s) you and your partner, if any, use. And if you have time to tell the story behind the name, please do!
If you aren’t a grandparent, please say what you called your own grandparents and what feelings their names evoke in you now.
My two beloved grandmothers had their own names: Deem Dom and Gammie. As the first of her three grandchildren, I gave Deem Dom her name as a little girl just learning to talk. My two younger siblings knew her by the same name. Her mother’s (Hilda Cristina Nelson) parents came from Sweden. Her father’s (John Morgan) family came from Wales. Now in our sixties, we still speak of Mae as Deem Dom. We lost our dear, loving grandmother, when I was 11. Gammie was given her name by her first grandchild, Gratia Ann, who was named after Gammie (Gratia De Zouche). We lost this equally dear, loving grandmother when I was 4. Her mother was Mary Barker; a family sampler bears her name. Gammie’s father, Louis Samuel De Zouche, was descended from Huguenots. The “a” in Gammie is pronounced “ah.” All nine of us cousins knew Gammie by this name, and we continue to remember and speak of her fondly.
Dear granddaughter of Deem Dom and Gammie. First, I apologize for the terribly long delay in responding to your comment. Hope you are still signed up to get the notice of a response. My site was down for awhile, and I missed the notification of your message.
Such a wonderful heritage you have from two countries and from a courageous faith, the Huguenots. Your grandmothers did not have a long time with you, but left a deep impression. May their lovely spirits remain with you always. Thank you for sharing your stories.
I am “Mana” and my husband is “Grandpa Don” (for a long time the now Grandpa Bill was also called Grandpa Don — it was the generic) I told my daughter that the kids could call me anything and “Mana” was the earliest pronunciation and I love it. The other grandmother is more traditionally Grandma MaryBeth.
Thanks for starting this ball rolling, Maren. Sounds like you took a hands-off approach to naming and you like the result. Mana sounds close to Maren and, of course, to manna, which I think fits you very well. Unexpected gift; spiritual nourishment.
Is Grandpa Bill married to Grandma MaryBeth? Just trying to keep the families straight. The grandchildren used the same name for both grandpas, I take it.
Shirley — I thoroughly enjoyed the drawing and the photograph that you shared.
As to grandparent names…
Luna knows Len and I as Nana and Papa. Her other set of grandparents are Grandma and Grandpa. We requested to be called Nana and Papa because my parents (who are no longer living) were that to our child.
I didn’t know my father’s parents, but was extremely familiar with my mother’s parents who we called Grandma and Grandpa—except when we wanted to make my Grandma mad, we’d call her “Nanny Goat,” and then run like our pants were on fire!
Ha, Laurie. I see saucy little girl you running like your pants were on fire. I think that image deserves a cartoon too! Sounds like Grandma was a bit of a disciplinarian??
I like the way in which your name choices pay homage to a family tradition.
Thanks for sharing your stories.
I am called “GiGi” but my 4-year old likes to sometimes shorten it to one syllable “Geeg “
Nancy, your name reminds me of the play “GiGi” with the title song at 30 seconds in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kKM0u5JBhw
Loved your sketch of Grandpa and the joke about sleeping with him!
Hardy and I are Opa and Oma to our grandchildren as were our Mennonite parents to our children. I always only had one grandparent, my mother’s mom and we called her Oma. For a short time I also knew my great grandmother, and she was Grossma. All the other grandparents died young because of the Russian Revolution resulting in war, famine and imprisonment. I always tell our grandchildren how fortunate they are to have two sets of grandparents.
Elfrieda, I first encountered Oma and Opa when my Goshen College students with Russian Mennonite backgrounds told me about their grandparents. I can tell it is a name treasured in many families as they celebrate, like you, survival after great suffering. I imagine that the name contributes to healing when these bittersweet memories come back. (())
What a fun question! I have two grandsons via my stepdaughter and her husband, who is Indian by ethnicity. Apparently, the name for the maternal grandmother in my son-in-law’s culture is “Nani,” so that has been my name. I feel like it suits me, I’m not really old enough to be a grandma yet (at least that’s what I tell myself! 🙂 ). My husband is grandpa, which suits him, too. Don’t know what I will be called when my sons (hopefully!) have children, but I wouldn’t mind being called Nani then, too.
Thanks for adding an Indian name to the list. I can see you as “Nani.” It’s a name for a runner, a professor, and an author!
After a gap in years, and in a blended family, you may get another naming opportunity some day.
Nice to have you stop by to add your voice.
When we first became grandparents, our son and daughter-in-law asked us and her parents to choose our “grandparent names”. We chose Opa and Oma because of our (mostly) Russian Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. Our daughter-in-law’s parents wanted to be Grandmother and Grandpop, but those names were too difficult for to pronounce, I guess, and have evolved into Nama and Pop. All four of us wonder sometimes how our children got to be old enough to be parents and how we got to be old enough to be grandparents. Whatever we are called, we are all delighted to be grandparents and to be alternating favorites! And, Curt and I are glad that the maternal grandparents are close by in Harrisonburg so the boys have frequent contact with at least one set of grandparents. We are fortunate to be living in the age of Skype and Facetime so we can have virtual face to face contact with the boys.
Whenever I use FaceTime with our grandchildren (almost every week), I smile, remembering how I once read a prediction in the Weekly Reader in elementary school that some day people would be able to see each other when they talked on the telephone! That seemed like science fiction, but it turned out not to be even more amazing. Everyone can do it with almost everyone else in the world through a piece of glass covered with metal that they have in their pocket or purse. Grandparents and great grandparents who live too far away to travel often can be grateful for this invention. Even as it comes with other dangers. Addiction to screens being high on the list.
I like how your story shows an evolution in naming on the part of the in-laws. It sometimes takes a year or more for a grandparent name to “settle” — being a mixture of the choice of the grandparent and the ability of the child to say the name. One of the first of many navigations in life!
About communicating with the grandkids via FaceTime—One of our grandchildren takes piano lessons from her other grandma that way. Her grandma is a piano and organ teacher, but lives too far away, so this is how they do it, by FaceTime, and it works perfectly!
Elfrieda, as I read your words, we are hoping to hear the phone buzz us with the invitation to FaceTime. It’s a weekend tradition at our house and the next best thing to being there.
I am very impressed by the piano lesson story! Wow. That takes discipline on both sides. Sometimes technology truly is a blessing.
What a fun blog entry! We started out as Grandmommy and Granddaddy since that’s what our children called my parents and what I called my grandparents. Hubby’s parents were Grandma and Grandpa. (We’re not very creative.) Didn’t know this was such a big issue until friends started having grandchildren and they spent considerable time discussing the pros and cons of different names (just like the video you linked to :-)). My daughter was the one who decided that I would be Mimi which I actually like. Hubby is still Granddaddy. Interestingly, our 2-year-old grandson has continued to play with our names and delights in it. Mimi sometimes becomes Meme, or Meemaw or Meemoo. (His name is Henry so when he changes my name I change his to Henhaw or Henhoo :-).) Granddaddy turned into Greendaddy and currently is Geendaddy. It cracks me up that this child loves trying out different nicknames. It is quite a game for him. His other grandmother is Lola (the Filipino name from grandmother) and his other grandfather is Grandpa. My mother who lives with us now is Grammy because hubby’s mom who also lived with us until she passed was Grandma. Multiple generations make things interesting :-). I always called my grandmother who lived with my parents most of my life “Grams” and she liked that. One of my all-time favorites was a friend’s dad who was known as “Doo-daddy.” Not sure where that came from but it always made me laugh. I agree with Sarah…I don’t care what I am called, just thrilled to have this amazing and wonderful little person in my life! We can’t imagine life without him and now his two-week old brother. God is so good!
Marlene, I apologize for the long delay in this response. My website went through a transition, and I lost some comments, yours among them.
I love the idea that names can be play. You can mimic your grandson’s various names for you with similar creativity for him. Yes, multiple generations, each with their own naming expectations, can lead to much variety. I am amazed by the number of names I never heard of before just in this comment section. Thank you so much for adding your experiences.
Your love for your two little grandsons is so abundant and clear. May you enjoy these blissful days of early relationship to the full. God is good indeed.
What all us grandkids called our Grandparents was, Nan and Pop. Both my Nan and Pop passed before my children were born. When I was expecting I asked if my parents would like to be called Nan and Pop. I believe my parents were flattered. My 1st husband’s parents were Dutch and they were called Omma and Ompa.
My 2nd husband’s grandkids call me June.
June, your story brings some new and fascinating topics into view: the relationship of names that pass from generation to generation and have loving. honorific, associations and the issue of how and when you become a grandparent influencing the name. Second families are very common, and small grandchildren can have multiple grandparents. And older children may prefer a more adult name. Thanks for enlarging the circle.
Shirley, the granddaughter we share calls me “Grammy” and she calls Neal “Pops”. I chose the Grammy because I thought it would be easy for Lydia to say. The “Pops” comes from our daughter Larisa who sends birthday and Father’s Day greetings from Scotland addressed to “Pops McStoltzfus”. She has been doing this since she has been in the UK and we have received every greeting. When Nik and Kate asked us to choose our grandparenting names, Neal choose Pops, I expect because he already answers to it.
I love the picture of Lydia reading with Stuart.
Ila, I love sharing a granddaughter with you! And I love listening to Lydia talk about her Grammy and Pops. Thanks for sharing the backstory on your names. I hope Lydia will have some of Larisa’s sense of humor. I think she does. 🙂 Sorry it took so long for me to find this comment. My website was down.
Stuart enjoyed a brief visit to Lydia by himself. He enjoyed getting a lot more laptime with her.
My husband and I are Papa and Lala and their bio paternal grandmother is Mimiana (their Mimi from Indiana) from the days when they lived in NC and their maternal grandmother Mimi also lived in NC. Now they live in Indiana near us and Mimiana lives in NC.
Laurie, I love it. Mimiana now lives in NC. Clever naming and proof that meanings of names and places are not permanent. Rather, a good name (like Ecclesiastes reminds us) is worth more than precious ointment — and can be poured into a new place!
I love this. Our first grandchild named us, basically. I am Memaw, and John is Papa. William (named after my dad who passed away 2 days before he was born) set the bar for all the rest of the grandchildren. I love this. I always just called my grandparents “grandma and grandpa,” so I was fine with the same. It was fun, however, realizing we were going to be something different. I would have been fine with whatever I was called. I know some people really hate to be called grandma and grandpa, but I hold such honor and joy to those titles (and any others meaning the same). ?
Sandy, you got to the heart of the matter: “I hold such honor and joy to those titles (and any others meaning the same).” The important thing is always to find a name that speaks to all parties in the relationship and comes back to love. Some people, for example, adopt their own grandparents’ names out of respect; some respect so much they want something different! Some are active seekers. Some are passive but listening. Have a good day, Memaw.
Our first two grands entered our family when our son married their mother. They were raised in Brazil and spoke only Portuguese. Vovo and Vovo (slightly different pronunciations, with accent marks I can’t type!) are the terms they used for my husband and me. Their baby sister was raised with Portuguese and English. She had difficulty communicating to her siblings which of us she was talking about, so we became Vovoman and Vovogirl. Still are! For a time, we also had Vovodog in our house.
Fast forward to when our Brazilian-born grandson and his Phillippina wife gave us our first GREATgrandchild. In the Philippines, Lola and Lolo are the terms used, so now we are Vovololo and Vovolola to that little one.
When our first son was born, he was my parents’s first grandchild. My husband’s folks had already claimed Grandmother and Grandfather, so we though Grandma and Grandpa would be fine for mine. Our son did not comply and they were Gamu and Boppa.
Another oops – Lola and Lolo are used in the Philippines
I was able to correct the text to show the intriguing, highly complex, naming system in your family. You not only have two cultures and languages, but three, to navigate. Hats off to all of you!
I love the way you combine the two languages and traditions in your names. You may be the only Vovololo and Vovolola in the world!
And, ha ha, children have a way of making their preferences known even before they can fully express them. Thanks for this fascinating glimpse into your adventures in naming.
Thanks for fixing my post, Shirley!
FYI I may not be the only Vovolola in the world – tried to use it as a password and it was already taken!
We have 2 grandkids or grandlings as I like to call them, age 19 and 16. The call me, Batty, and Bill is Grandaddy. Zoe, the oldest is the one who used the name, Batty. I love it and have stuck with it since. I think she truly understands who I am! ;-0
I love this, Joan. Grandlings. Like Starlings and hatchlings. Just grand! I love that you not only got the name “Batty” but that you claim it and find it endearing. I do too!