My Drift

(L-R) William, GiGi, Bryce, Dude and Hughes
(L-R) William, GiGi, Bryce, Dude and Hughes

Just Call Me G-Dawg

“What’s your grandmother name going to be?”

Nine years ago, as I eagerly anticipated the arrival of our first grandchild, I found myself constantly fielding this question. Everybody wanted to know what the little bundle of joy was going to call me.

I felt befuddled at the prospect of choosing a grandmother name. My own grandmothers had been “Grandma” and “Oma,” the German form of Grandma. Nothing cutesy. I agreed with my late mother-in-law, who had her grandkids call her by her given name. She didn’t want to risk being called, in her words, “something dumb like ‘Peepo’ or anything like that.” So she went with Martha, and every grand and great-grand called her that.

Originally intending to follow her lead, I settled early in that first pregnancy on Patsy. My son and daughter-in-law, however, were not on board.

“You have to have a grandmother name,” they insisted. So, I dutifully set about finding one, beginning by researching the subject. Someone told me there was a website devoted to grandmother names. “Surely not,” I thought, and it actually was not entirely true. There were, in fact, MULTIPLE websites dedicated to the subject. One even featured a quiz designed to help each of us select our perfect name, much like the quizzes in Ingenue magazine once assisted us in determining our fashion personalities.

In addition, my research yielded numerous books about grandmother names, one of which is inaptly titled The World’s Only Grandparent Nickname Book. I’m still not sure how you fill an entire book with grandparent names, but I didn’t spend the money to find out since plenty of suggestions were available on the Internet for free.

One website featured a blog written by a former schoolteacher who had retired to become a full-time grandmother of seven. She blogs about ways to be a better grandparent. She has a newsletter, and you can follow her on Twitter. I’m not making this up.

After reading several lists on the Internet, I decided to take the quiz. It indicated that I’m a “Hip Grandmother,” and suggested I might be suited for a name like “G-Dawg.” While I rather liked it, I didn’t think I could keep a straight face hearing a baby say it.

One woman, who shall remain nameless (although not grandma-nameless), decreed that her grandchildren would call her “Grammy.” She and her husband took their first grandchild, when he was very young, to one of those wine warehouses where you need a shopping cart because the prices are so great. The child sat in the cart as they loaded it with their chosen vintages; the woman leaned over to the baby and whispered, “Your Grammy is a wino.” Can you guess what the child has called her ever since? Talk about a hip grandmother name.

Grandfathers need names, too, of course, although nobody seems quite as obsessed with the grandpa names as they are with the grandma monikers. The best grandfather name I discovered was “Doo-dad,” but I couldn’t convince anybody to adopt it. It’s catchy, though, don’t you think?

Grandma and grandpa names that go together are always an option. “MeeMaw” and “PeePaw” make up a popular pair, as do “Grammy” and “Grampy.” A friend reported on a couple who are known to their grandchildren as “Lolly” and “Pop,” which you must admit is pretty cute. Sadly, however, Lolly and Pop recently divorced, which really ruins the whole thing. Then again, you never know if you can believe those “friend of a friend” stories.

A list of playful grandmother names includes such entries as “Peaches,” “Bambi,” “Bubbles” and “PomPom.” Is it just me, or do those sound more like exotic dancers than grandmothers? Some ideas are far out there, like “Momette” and “NotherMother.” A few are rather insulting, like “Ninny” or “Big Mama.” Others are simply, in my opinion, unattractive. I don’t want to be called “Geezer Girl.”

In the grandmother-names-gone-sideways category, my friend Lisa carefully planned to be “Mama Lisa.” When her first grandchild tried to say it, however, it came out “Meese.” It stuck.

Doubling the first letter of your given name, aka “DeeDee” for Debbie or “LeeLee” for Linda, is fun unless your name is Patsy. Lucy was going to be “LuLu,” but that late-developing “L” sound created a roadblock. The earlier accomplished “YuYu” stuck, despite the grandchild’s eventually perfect diction.

A joke I heard when I was in kindergarten comes to mind. Johnny opens the front door to a caller looking for his mother. “She ain’t home,” Johnny says. “Johnny!” scolds the caller. “Where’s your grammar?” Johnny’s reply? “She’s in the kitchen baking cookies.”

Though I spend little time baking cookies, or even in the kitchen, “Grammar” would be a good name for a grammar nut like me.

Such a lot of fuss over grandmother names. It wasn’t until William, our first grand, was a couple of months old that I settled on what I wanted mine to be. When William cried hard, as newborns do, he would get a little catch in his throat that made a hard “G” sound. I dubbed myself “GiGi” so I would be the first of his many grandparents whose name he could say. My ploy worked, and I’m still happily called GiGi by everyone in the family, including my husband.

Speaking of my husband, his original plan was to take a page out of his mother’s book and just be Don. That worked for a while until one day he addressed one of the grands as “Dude.” The two-year-old addressed him back in the same way, and he forever became “Dude.” It suits him, in an ironic sort of way.

All this ruckus over grandparent names shouldn’t come as any surprise. It is, after all, a bunch of baby boomers who are becoming grandparents these days. In typical boomer fashion, we’ve made it all about us. It’s what we do.

Despite all the commotion, it looks like most still consider old school the way to go. A recent survey of 3,000 new parents revealed the most popular grandparent names by far to be “Grandma” and “Grandpa;” they’re instant grandparent names with no imagination required. Hip, playful and creative are great, but sometimes tried and true constitute the best solution.

Give a grandchild a hug from me. And maybe a popsicle.


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