They don't wear their hair in buns and don't sport orthopedic shoes. They may rock out, but not in rocking chairs. Modern grandmothers are rewriting the book on aging. Is it any wonder that they often go for different grandparent names?
In all fairness, trendy grandparent names became a thing for a reason. Since people are living longer, modern grandchildren may have a whole gaggle of grandparents. If they are lucky, they have not only grandparents but also great-grandparents, with perhaps some step-grandparents thrown in.
What's a child to do with five or six “grandmothers” — besides being well spoiled, which is kind of a given! If all the grandmothers are known as Grandma or Grannie, the child is likely to be permanently confused. That's just one situation driving the move toward unusual grandmother names.
Modern Grandmother Names
Grandmothers-to-be who don't opt for Grandma or Granny have a world of names to choose from. Here are some monikers that hip grandmothers are choosing, along with true-life stories from some grandmothers.
Amma. Some cultures use this term as a synonym for mothers, but it can also be used to mean a spiritual mother. Robin Dorko chose this as her grandmother name because it didn't sound old, but she adds, “Wise spiritual elder is a role I'm willing to take on.”
Bebe or Bibi. Some grandmothers choose these names for their air of European sophistication, but children are likely to take to them because they are easy to say.
GaGa or GiGi. Since grandmothers are ga-ga for their grandchildren, GaGa seems like a worthy nickname. GiGi is a close relative. Terrie Stephens chose Gigi to remind her to be “a Godly grandmother.”
Glamma. This appellation is suggested as the name of choice for glamorous grandmothers. Dee O'Dell said that her girlfriends thought she should be Glamma, but her grandchildren chose to call her Gamma.
G-Mom or G-Maw. For some reason, using the letter “G” instead of “grand” has become a thing. (I blame the Internet.)
Lovey, Lolly and LaLa. Grandmother names that start with the letter “L” have a pretty sound, but grandchildren may have trouble pronouncing them.
Sugar, Shug or Sweetie. Since grandmothers are known to be sweet to their grandchildren, these nicknames make a lot of sense.
Sassy. This is a good choice for grandmothers with a little more tart to their taste. Donna O'Brien knew a doctor's wife in her home town who was called Sassy by her grandchildren. “She was the quintessential lady, always dressed to the nines,” Donna remembers. “She was one of a kind — the original Sassy!” Today Donna is known as Sassy to her granddaughter Smith.
Traditional Grandmother Names
Those who lean toward more traditional grandmother names can still make them unique. Instead of Grandmother, Grandma or Granny, they can become a Grams, Grammy, Gammy or Gran. Some families go for the “M” names instead, and there are a world of variations there, too. MawMaw, MeMaw and Mimi are the most common.
Some grandmothers add a name or an initial to their grandmother names to make them more distinctive. Some names work better than others. Anna Read became Nanny Anna, but says the grandkids just call her Nan. Angel Tatum thinks that she has the perfect combination grandmother name. She's known as Granny Angel!
Different cultures and countries have their own grandmother names, and borrowing them is common, even among those with no connection. The most commonly borrowed names are Nonna (Italian), Oma (German), Lola (Filipino) and Yaya (Greek).
The Child's Role
The first grandchild is likely to have some input about a grandmother's name, or at least the way it is pronounced. Kelly Morris tried to teach her grandchild to say Grana by saying, “Gu, Gu, Grana.” Instead her grandchild chose to call her “Guggie.” Now Kelly is usually Gug to her grands.
Jean Stommen's grandchild was digging around in the pantry when Joan asked her what she was doing. “Getting graham crackers, Gramcracker!” her granddaughter replied, giggling. The name stuck, and today Joan's blog is called Gramcracker Crumbs.
Pamela Shank always started a phone conversation with her granddaughter by saying, “Hello, Honey.” One day the child picked up the phone and said, “Call Honey.” Pamela has been Grandma Honey ever since, and her blog is known as “Grandma Honey's House.”
Although a child-chosen grandparent name may be quite different from the one that the grandmother originally picked out, most of the time it becomes extra special. In the end, most grandmothers won't care what their grandchildren call them — as long as they call them!
Susan Adcox frequently writes about grandparents and generational issues. She's a Grannie who is sometimes known as Grannie Pie.