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What's in a Name? Grandparent Nomenclature

How do you name a grandparent? Do you pass on the name that you called your grandparents? Or is that too confusing? I mean, if you called your father's mother "Momsie" (as I did), you can't really have your kids calling your mother "Momsie" because that's just going to be confusing. Which Momsie are we talking about anyway?

But maybe when my kids have kids, they can call My Lovely Wife "Momsie." No, still too confusing. Maybe just "Grandma Ruth."

I'm thinking about this because we're celebrating my father's 70th birthday this weekend. His birthday was actually last month but he and his wife were sailing down in the Caribbean at the time. (He's a pretty active 70-year-old.) His grandkids call him "Pop Pop."

That's actually his second grandparent name. When my older daughter was born, and before she could talk, we called him "Colonel Gramps." It sounds like a character from a board game or a children's book, doesn't it? But he couldn't just be "Grandpa," since there was another grandfather. As he'd been in the Air Force, and still had that military bearing, "Colonel Gramps" seemed like a good idea.

But the first grandchild had ideas of her own. She refused to call him "Colonel Gramps" and dubbed him "Pop Pop" instead. As they came along, all the other grandchildren -- 10 in all now -- had to follow suit. They couldn't each have a different name for the man. Of course, what happens next is that the grown-ups start using the name. The man I called "Dad" for the first 30 years of my life is now "Pop Pop."

How about in your family? Are there traditional names passed down through the generations? Or do you just keep it simple, adding a "Grandma" or "Grandpa" to a parent's first name? And if you're a grandparent, do you get to pick your own name?

Join me at noon today as we discuss this -- and anything else that's on your mind -- during my online discussion.

By John Kelly  |  April 10, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
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Very interesting post, John.

We called my maternal grandparents "Grandma" and "Grandpa", as did my cousins who shared these grandparents. My mother is known to her grandkids as "Gram", while my aunt is known to her grandkids as "Mimi."

We called my paternal grandmother "Nana," but had no name for my paternal grandfather, as he passed away many years before any of us were born. Eventually we settled on "Grandfather", because it just seemed wrong to keep referring to him as "Daddy's father" or "your father" (when speaking to our dad), and that seemed like the name that would have suited him. My father is known to his grandkids as "Grandfather."

Posted by: staxowax | April 10, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

It is indeed an interesting comment. And it is amazing to me that so many have such extended families that need to distinguish one generation from another.

On becoming a first time grandparent a few years ago, I landed on the mouthful of a name, "Grandmama". It brings back fond memories of my mother that we all [10] refered to as "Mama", as in "I remember....". I lost her all too soon when I just 8 1/2 years old.

My children refered to their maternal Great-grandmother as "G.G." and paternal grandparents, who refused to be called Grandma and Grandpa, as "Sally and Jack" as did their grandchildren before them. Ah, families.....

Posted by: dailykos1 | April 10, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I knew only my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather. My sisters and I called them "Nonnie" and "Puppa" -- because I (as the oldest) couldn't say Grandma and Grampa and those are the names I came up with.

My sister's kids call my parents Gramma and Grampa. They call their dad's parents Nanie and Papa. Not sure where those last two names came from.

Posted by: mensa58 | April 10, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

My mother's parents were Grandmom and Granddad to us; her paternal grandparents were Nana and Pop to her generation and mine. My dad's mom is Gram; his father was Grampa. Grampa's mother was also Nana, and her husband was Papa David.

I'm not sure who decided on the names, but whatever they were called by the first grandkid seems to be what stuck (with the exception of Gram, whom my cousins call Gramma, and Papa David, who married into the family after Nana's grandkids were grown).

After growing up with these conventional names, we teased my sister-in-law a whole bunch about her Memaw, Nini, and DeeDee. And now my niece and nephew call my mom Mimi - Dad's Poppy, which isn't so bad. But I can tell you, Mimi loves it, and I'm sure that my eventual kids will call them that as well.

Oh, and my mother-in-law is Aunt Lucy to her step-grandchildren, which is a bit of a sore spot with her.

Posted by: tomsing | April 13, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

My 4 siblings and I went the traditional route when we named our grandparents - good ole Grandma and Grandpa except for one grandmother whose nickname was Dearie. Upon gaining speech, my daughter named her maternal grandfather "Pockum" which later became "Grumpa", a reflection on his usual mood. Her paternal grandparents asked to be called Grandmasaurus and Grandpasaurus.

Posted by: PostOnlineReader | April 14, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

We and so many people we knew had such a difficult time choosing names, I actually got inspired to write a book of grandparent names! Our family now has Hoppa, Gramme, Gramma and PawPaw. I've received hudreds of grandparent name stories and I think my favorite is the one about the scratch golfer grandma who decided to be called Birdie and her sweet husband Bogey! Though Grandmasaurus is utterly adorable too. Thanks for covering a very fun subject that is close to the hearts of so many wonderful Boomer grandparents.

Posted by: lcharpio | April 16, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

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