Origin of names for grandmothers

Rosefolly

I thought I'd tap the wisdom of the group. No other collection of people I know is so interested in words, so if I'm going to get an answer, it would probably be here.

In my family, Grandma has been used for father's mother, and Grammie for mother's mother, for several generations that I am aware of. I have been wondering if it is just peculiar to us, or if it is a more general custom.

For a number of generations our family lived in northern New England and Canada so it could be a regional tradition. We are a blend of Irish/Scottish/English, so it could be something originating there.

Does anyone have any idea where this comes from? If it is just something we developed ourselves I am okay with that. However I am hoping for something a bit more historical, just because it would be fun.

Rosefolly

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vee_new

Rosefolly I think all family names/nicknames are so steeped in personal history it might be difficult to find an origin for any of them.

I come from a small family and only knew my Mother's mother who we called Nana. My children called their maternal grandmother Granny. They never knew my husband's mother as she wanted nothing to do with them, so that saved us thinking of a polite word to call her. My granddaughter calls me Nanny (which puts me in mind of a goat).

I know you didn't ask about the male relatives but my Grandfather was always Grampy as was my father to his grandchildren.

In England the combination of 'Granny and Grandpa' or 'Grandma and Granddad' seem to be the norm.

Apparently Prince Harry used to call HM Queen 'Gary' as he couldn't say 'Granny'.

Just to add I have remembered when I was very young and living in the VA USA my Great grandmother was called 'Granny Tina' (she had the unusual name of Custina) and it was a matter of family pride that she would hold our hands as "her hands were the hands that had patted General Lee's horse!"

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astrokath

I had a Nanna and a Nanny. My mother called her grandmothers Grandma Surname. We called our one grandfather Bumpa as my sister apparently couldn't say Grandpa.

Now that we are grandparents, we chose our own names. I am Minnie and my husband is Grampaul. I didn't fancy Grandma, Nanny or Nanna so went with Minnie as my boss at work was called that by her grandchildren and as I am very short, it suits. DH's name is Paul, so Grampaul is just a mash up. Our granddaughter's other grandparents are Grandpa and Jillybean (her name is Jill). Our DIL had a Grandma and Grandpa, and a Gramsie and Gramps.

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msmeow

One of my cousins dubbed my mother's parents Mammy & Pappy, My dad's mom died before I was born, but we called his father Grandpa Greener.

My DH's "nice" grandmother was Grandma Alice and his "mean" grandmother was addressed as Grandmother. LOL

Our niece (DH's sister's daughter) called DH's parents GrandFran and GrandBill.

Donna

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kathy_t

Rosefolly - I'd never before heard of a naming tradition like your family has. If you have a son and a daughter, would the son's children call you Grandma while the daughter's children call you Grammie? In my family, and other families I'm familiar with, a nickname "comes into being" one way or another and then all the cousins use the same name for their grandmother.

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annpanagain

We called my father's stepmother "Auntie". That was what she wanted.

I have a mixed nationality family and can be called Nanna-Ann, or Nanna, Oma, Nani-ji. I don't mind as long as the children speak clearly.

I am getting a bit deaf but am not ready for a hearing aid yet!

To answer the first post, Grammie sounds Scottish.

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sheri_z6

I'm New England born and bred, European ancestry, and we called both sets of grandparents "Grammy First Name" and "Grampy First Name". I'm guessing my mother decided on the titles when we were little. My Mom is now "Grammy First Name" to my kids. When my daughter was little she couldn't say Grampy and so called my husband's father (an absolutely wonderful man) "Pop-pop" which I found out later he really didn't like. When my BIL and his wife had their kids ten years later, their kids were encouraged to call him "Grandpa", which he preferred.

A couple of my close friends recently became grandparents and we had a wonderful discussion about what they wanted to be called. One settled on "Lovie" and the other is still undecided and waiting for one of her three grandkids to be old enough to talk. The undecided one is of Swedish descent and was considering traditional Swedish grandparent names, which go by maternal and paternal lines. Maternal grandparents are Mormor and Morfar and paternal grandparents are Farmor and Farfar, so the grandparent in question would be called one thing by her daughter's children and another by her son's children. It sounds like too much work to me ; )

I will no doubt be 80 by the time my kids decide to have children but I've already decided I'm holding out for Nana. We'll see what my (hopefully) future grandkids think about that!

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Rosefolly

Sheri, I have a friend who is of Chinese American ancestry (about 5th generation!) and whose husband was Norwegian. She taught her daughters to address her parents by whatever the appropriate Chinese name was for mother's mother and father, and they called their paternal grandparents Marmor and Farmor. It must be similar in both Norwegian and Swedish.

I'm now beginning to think that Grammie must be a New England term. I have always heard Granny among Scots.

My toddler grandson who lives with us (along with our divorced daughter) calls my husband Papa. He can't say Grandpa yet so we decided to just use this name. It's kind of cute. Recently he started calling me Mimi, and I was about to give up on the whole Grammie idea. However he began to get it mixed up with Mama. I call my daughter by her first name, and she calls me Mommy or Mom, so it is no wonder the poor little boy is so confused.

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msmeow

When my oldest nephew was very young (maybe 4 or 5), my mom asked him to call her Dot (her preferred nickname for Dorothy) because she didn’t really like “Grandma”. He thought about it for a minute then declared “I’m going to call Dot Grandma” and that was it...she was stuck with Grandma. :)

Donna

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carolyn_ky

My mother's mother died young, but we called her father Grandpa. Paternal GPs were Grandma and Granddad. I had the first grandchild in our families and had wondered what our parents would like to be called. DD was born in Hawaii, and both sets of parents sent pretty Welcome to the New Baby cards. My mother signed theirs Granny and Granddad and his mother's said Grandma and Grandpa, so no confusion there.

I wanted to be Granny, but the first little one said Nana in his attempt, so I've been Nana to all of them--four step-grandchildren and their nine offspring, and one single grandson. My husband was Papaw (which I hate), but he was dearly loved by all the children and was proud of his title.

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colleenoz

My maternal grandfather died before my mother married and my maternal grandmother died when I was about 18 months old, so we didn't have names for them. My paternal grandparents were Granma and Granpa, though my older cousins called them Mamie and Dandy respectively, I never knew why (their given names were Beatrice and Thomas).

When our daughter was born, she was the first grandchild for DH's parents. She called my parents Grandma and Grandpa. When we brought her home from the hospital and were visiting the extended family for the first time, DH's mother, who was thrilled to be a Granny (DH's parents were Scottish), was taking baby DD around the room and telling her, "...and this is your uncle X, and your aunt Y..." and when she got to FIL she said, "...and this is your Grandpa...". FIL looked ast DD solemnly and corrected, "Tom", as he was not comfortable with grandfatherhood. So DD had a "Granny and Tom".

"Nanna" is very common here, at least as common as "Grandma".

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annpanagain

My husband was 39 when he became a grandfather. He was sometimes mistaken to be his grandson's Dad.but I was never mistaken for his mother! Ouch!!

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netla

I have always been fascinated by all the different names children in the English-speaking world have for their grandparents, so reading this thread has been a lot of fun. In my language we have "amma" and "afi" for the female and male grandparents, respectively, and that's it.

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msmeow

Ann, my brother was 17 when I was born, and he was not amused when people thought his baby sister was his daughter!


Donna

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vee_new

Annpan your DH must have been what we call a 'fast-worker' or at the very least a child bridegroom!

Over here in the last 10 years or so people have been getting married/taking partners much later and giving birth at 40; even mid 40's doesn't seem so unusual. Is this the same elsewhere?

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annpanagain

Vee, DH and I married when he was 20 and needed parental permission back then! He was a father at 22. It was my D who was the fast worker! A 16 yo mother of a girl and then a boy at 17! She got mistaken for an older sister, in her casual gear!.

She was offered soft drinks when we went to restaurants and once was asked at a party at the local hospital what she intended to do when she started work! Matron was on the hunt for student nurses and was surprised when I said D had two school aged children. D looked so young wearing mini skirts and pigtails!

Her D had her two girls in her late 20s though.A career girl who wanted a house first! I think my D still looks young, dressing in BoHo ...

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skibby (zone 4 Vermont)

In my family me grandparents were Grammie and Grampa. DH's grand kids call him Grampastelli (part of his last name). Since I am a step-gramma I'm just called Skibby, if anything. My sister's kids called my folks Grammie and Bop. I have no idea where that came from but I love it. I've called him that a few times myself. He even looked like a Bop.

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Rosefolly

Well Skibby, that pretty much settles it for me. You are from Vermont and you use Grammie. It must be regional to New England, or perhaps northern New England. Although she was raised in Boston, my mother spent her early years in Vermont and New Hampshire, and all her extended family lived there as well.

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friedag

I don't know much about New England naming traditions, but I always wondered why the March girls in Alcott's Little Women affectionately called their mother "Marmee". Was (or Is) this common in New England? Alcott and her books seem quintessentially New England to me, but I have no idea if that is an accurate impression.

In my family we called our great-grandmother "Marmie" or "Mormie". That makes sense if Marmie/Mormie are diminutive forms of mormor, Norwegian for mother's mother. Our great-grandmother was an immigrant from the Stavanger district. I had never considered this naming aspect before!

It's funny, though. Marmee March seemed such a gentle, warm, and wise parent in contrast to my family's Marmie. Our Marmie was 6 ft 2 in in her stocking feet with hands as wide as bed slats (and "twice as hard" as Harper Lee said of Calpurnia in TKaM). She was extremely taciturn, and her zone of what she considered her personal space was at least a four ft. radius. If someone approached her and got too close, she began backing away from them. She didn't want to be hugged or kissed by anyone, not even her grandchildren. She was not a warm and fuzzy person. In spite of this description, our Marmie was actually a very kind woman. But 'social distancing' would have been no problem for her.

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