My Anglo-Australian parents were eager to take on the traditional mantle of Gran and Granddad. My husband’s folks, however, took things in a slightly new direction, opting for Gramps and Granola instead.
Tracie Egan Morrissey writes a very funny piece this week in Jezebel about her mother’s announcement that she’d like to be called “Shaw-nay” by her grandchildren. “I almost choked on my French toast I was laughing hard. A baby can’t say something that difficult! She’ll be like eight or nine before she’s able to do the neck roll and finger snap that’s required of its proper pronunciation.”
The culture and psychology of grand-parental monikers is actually kind of fascinating. Though lots of names– Emmy, Nana, Yaya– seem to be the inventions of toddlers who are, in Morrissey’s words, “still really shitty at talking,” the most traditional names are still the most popular ones. According to the website namenerds.com, the most common grandparent names in the U.S. are: Grandma, Granny, Gran, Gram, Grammy, Papa, Grandpa, Granda, Granddad, Gramps, Bubbe and Nana.
But now that Boomers are stepping into the role of grandparents, we’re seeing some resistance to names that connote rocking chairs and walking sticks. Goldie Hawn somewhat famously asked to be called, “Glam-ma,” which has since taken off among regular folk. Maybe it’s a fear of aging or maybe it’s an affection for a more personal ‘branding.’ Why go for something generic, when you can be called Granola??? Or Shaw-Nay? This is the voice of the Me Generation, after-all.
A quick survey of friends and scan of message boards on this subject indicates several genres of grandparent naming:
If you look at the lists of grandparent names from around the world, you instantly see this is toddler-based linguistics. Nanni, Nonna, Yaya, Bomma, Dida are Hindi, Italian, Greek, Flemish, Bengali, respectively. Along those lines, sometimes a toddler mistake sticks: ‘It was going to be Darlin’ and Gramps. but now it’s Dardin and Drats.’
2. Shout-out to ethnicity/nostalgic callback
Italian families often run with variations on Nonna and Nonno. I like the Yiddish Bubbe and the Zulu Ugolo. My Welsh grandparents were Mam-gu and Tad-cu (mam-GHEE and Tad-KEE). Polish grandfathers are called Dzia Dzia (Zsa Zsa); Germans are Oma and Opa. Southern variations on Grandma include Memaw, Grandmaw, Maw Maw and Mimi and Bepaw or Paw Paw for Grandpa. Here’s a list of grandparent names from around the world.
3. Toddler Taxonomy
To clarify which grandparents are being discussed, toddler-relavent details are added to the name: Grandma Choo Choo is thus because she has a train set, Grandma FarFar lives in Australia. From a comment thread on namenerds: “We called our grandparents Fancy BaBaw and New PaPaw and the other set was Plain BaBaw and Old PaPaw.” Do you think Plain BaBaw hates Fancy BaBaw?
4. Grandparent’s choice
Glam-Ma, Shaw-nay… I read about a couple who decided they’d liked to be called FiFi and Sir, and so they were.
5. Word play with Gran–
Granola, Granite and Granddude. How about Grandiose for an ‘ageless’ boomer granny?!
All this makes me wonder why we have so few names for mothers and fathers. I would love to hear something other that “moooooooooommmmy” all day long. I’m sure any name would get tiring in it’s 4000th whiny utterance, but maybe there’s some way to branch out? It’s always so refreshing to hear “Ima!”(Israeli word for mother) called out at the playground in an otherwise deafening chorus of “mooooooooom”s.
What are the official titles going to be in your family?
Photo Credit: Dan Morgan/Flickr