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What Shall We Name Grandma?

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Guest blogger Skye Pifer, of Sarasota, Florida, co-authoredThe New Grandparent Name Book; a lighthearted guide to picking the perfect grandparent name,” with her mother, Lin Wellford, who lives in the Arkansas Ozarks.

I guess you could say my mom is something of a name fanatic. She picked out my name when she was still a little girl, after seeing it in one of her aunt’s movie magazines. Soon after that, she modified her own name, one she points out, that is shared by at least a million other girls born in the late 1940’s through the mid-1960’s; Linda. She tried to get people to call her Lynn but public school teachers seemed determined to use the name on her records. Only after the fresh start of college did she try again, spelling it ‘Lin,’ and that time it took.

So when she learned I was expecting, it didn’t take my mother long to began wondering what her grandchild-to-be should call her. In our family, grandparenting names are pretty personal. My maternal great-grandparents called themselves “Gramma and Gran.”  Another set were “Mamaw and Pampaw.” My own grandmother (the person who stuck my mom with ‘Linda’) was certainly old enough to be a grandmother when I came along. But she rejected all the more standard grandmother names and elected to be called “Mutti” (a German version of ‘Mom.’  She’s now in her late 80’s and is known as Mutti not just to her eight grandchildren, but also to our spouses, friends, and now several great-grands as well.

Because she was aware that the name she picked was likely to stay with her for the rest of her life, my mom was determined to choose one that made her happy. It needed to suit her personality, not be super-common, and sound good coming not just from a toddler but also from a teenager. We both began paying attention to what other grandparents were calling themselves, jotting down various options to try them out. I discovered how inventive people in my parent’s generation are when it comes to their grandparenting names.

I’ll admit that I hoped Mom wouldn’t come up with anything too off-the-wall. I kind of cringed at the thought of her being a Bubbles, or Glamma. There are so many options for variations along more traditional lines, like Nanna, Gram or MeMo. Or she could have picked a name from another culture, like Oma, which is German, or Abbi, short for Abuelita, Spanish for grandmother. Noni, Peaches, Sonoma, G-Ma, MoMo, and Grindi, are just a few of the more unusual names we ended up collecting. My mom’s cousin is a professional nanny caring for a set of twins whose grandparents call themselves Rocky and Kitty. My cousin’s in-laws go by Bubba and Bama. One of Mom’s friends confessed that she hoped that if she ever had grandchildren, she’d ask them to call her Granzilla! Luckily, in the end, Mom decided upon using Mimi as her grandmother name. My dad was not that picky, so when I suggested he be ‘Popi’, he was happy to go along with that.

What we discovered in the process is that there is an almost infinite variety of names available to those who want to be called something a little different, a bit more youthful or edgy, a name inspired by their heritage, or one that reflects their interests or hobbies. In fact, long after mom had decided what she wanted to be called, we were both were still collecting names. She’d spot an obituary mentioning the deceased person’s grandparent name, and shoot me an email. CoCo and Pogo were two she found that way. And I asked my circle of friends to pass on unusual grandparent names, too.

Before long, our collective list had hundreds of names! Somewhere along the line it dawned on us that there were probably millions of other baby boomers like my parents, people who were becoming grandparents and looking for names that suited them. So we turned all those names into a small gift book. Not only can grandparents use it to help find their ‘just-right’ name, but it’s proving to be a popular way for expectant parents to break the news to their families, as well. It’s a fun first step in the process of becoming grandparents.

My son Cameron is now almost 10, and he has a little sister, Catelin, who’s four. They are crazy about their Mimi and Popi, and I’m sure they could not imagine calling them anything else.

This mother-daughter team are the co-authors of the book, “The New Grandparents Name Guide.”


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