Grandparent by any name

Published 8:54 am Monday, September 22, 2008

By Staff
Grandmothers and grandfathers have earned a name for themselves over the years. Not mine specifically, by grandparents all over the world have taken on names that make no sense to anyone except their grandchildren.
Many people, especially in the South, use the term “granny” to refer to their grandmothers. As a matter of fact, that's what I called my grandmothers. I grew up with two grandmothers and referring to them only by granny could sometimes become confusing. To cut down on confusion when we spoke of our grandmothers, we usually ended up using their whole name preceded with granny. We had a Granny Ida Blair and a Granny Ella Wilson.
I only had one grandfather since my paternal grandfather died before I was even a glimmer in my daddy's eyes. The remaining grandfather had it easy. We simply called him “Paw” without the added Buford Blair for identification purposes.
In my husband's family, his paternal grandmother was called “Little Granny” for as long as I can remember. Apparently, a cousin started the whole thing when there had to be a separation of grandparents. Since Little Granny was very petit, it just seemed to fit and the whole passel of grandchildren ended up calling her by that name.
As I pondered why there are so many versions of grandmother and grandfather being spoken today, I began taking surveys around the office.
Apparently there are a lot of people who have simply dropped the “grand” part of the moniker when they refer to their grandparents.
Although some of those surveyed said they used names that did have part of the “grand” left in the names they used for grandparents. Lydia called her grandparents granddaddy and grandmother. Adam refers to his grandfather as granddaddy, but calls his grandmother Mawmaw.
Mawmaw, it seems, is the reference of choice when speaking of grandmothers in this area. There were seven Mawmaws in the survey, compared to two grandmothers, and four grannies.
Pawpaw is also a common term around here for grandfathers. As a matter of fact, it has been determined by some folks that if the grandmother is mawmaw, then it stands to reason that the grandfather has to be pawpaw.
Not necessarily so since grandfather references included granddaddy, pop pop, paw and papa. Most of those had a mawmaw as a sidekick.
In further study of the results of my informal survey, I found that grandparent's nicknames usually are fueled by a generation.
Since I'm in my 40s, most of the people in my age group refer to their grandparents as granny and paw or pawpaw. In my parent's generation, grandparents were referred to as papa and granny.
As the years have gone by, folks my age have a whole new variety of names to be called by their grandchildren. As a matter of fact, some grandchildren are simply using the person's given name. For instance, Susan is called Suesue by her granddaughter. Another friend of mine, Linda Sue, is also called Suesue and some times Meemee, by her grandchildren. I have a wonderful friend who has a granddaughter that refers to her as my Pug, since Pug has been my friend's nickname for years.
In my little survey of people who happened to be around when I thought of this, there were so many different names for grandparents it's almost staggering.
I'm including a list of those names so everyone can see how vast the choices are when referring to grandparents. If you see the name you use for your grandparents on this list or if it's the name your grandchildren call you, please don't be upset. I don't really know the real names of the people being mentioned here. I'm just giving results of the survey.
Grandmother - also known as yaya, meemaw, mam-maw, meemee, big mama, neenee, go-go, honey, and mama followed by the grandmother's given name or surname.
Grandfather - also known as pop, pappy, poppy, naynay, big daddy, pap-paw, or daddy followed by the grandfather's given name or surname.
No matter what you call your grandparents, I'm sure they loved every mispronounced name that stuck like glue.
By any other name, grandparent means love.
Lisa Tindell is news editor for The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by email at

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