What's in a name? A whole lot of love, our readers tell us.
Submissions flowed in when The Olympian invited readers to tell us about the nicknames that have been given to the grandparents in their families. The names range from Gaugin to Bup Bup, but they almost all spell the same thing: a special name that makes grandparent and grandchild alike light up.
So, in honor of National Grandparents Day today, we offer the stories of Tootsie, Gigi, and LaLa – and whole bunch inbetween.
• My grandma name is “Gaugin.” When my first grandchild, Sarah, was learning to talk, she would repeat everyone’s names except mine. We would go around the room pointing to each member of the family and she quickly knew everyone’s name except “Grandma.” After several days of her not responding with my “grandma” name, she clearly said “Gawgun.” I was thrilled that she had a name for me. So, I became “Gaugin.” She is now 18 years old and still calls me Gaugin, along with her brother, and two of her cousins. When I hear that name, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling and am thankful that my grandchild honored me with a special name.
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– Caroline Fenn, Lacey
• Hi, my name is William Winokur-Royer and I am 9 years old. My grandmother’s nickname is “Tootsie.” This name came about because when I was a baby, she called me “my little tootsie” and so that is what I started calling her as I got older. I love that name for her!
– William Winokur-Royer, Olympia
• When our daughter, Merisa, was very young (she’s now 30 years old), she started calling my mother “Me-ma” and my father “Pe-pa.” My mother, who had been called “Grandma” by her other grandchildren, grew to love this new nickname, and signed all of her cards to Merisa in this way.
When our daughter and her husband, Dan, had their first child, Marcus, five years ago, Merisa wanted me to be called “Me-ma,” which I happily agreed to. Now with granddaughter Eden on the scene, the nickname of “Me-ma” is well established. I love it!
– Marsha Tadano Long, Olympia
• I am a great-grandparent and as the result of a couple of divorces in the family, some of my great-grandchildren have more than one grandma or grandpa. To avoid confusion, I decided that I would like my great-grandchildren to refer to me as “GiGi.” Since my oldest great-grandchild started talking, he has referred to me as Gigi and all the rest have followed suit. No confusion in our family.
– Beverly Jackson, Olympia
• When our daughter telephoned to us from Portland to sing about the arrival of our granddaughter Tacy, she remarked that her newborn didn’t cry waa, waa like the other babies, but entered the room with “Laa Laa.” “She was already singing,” her mom told me. Tacy’s mom, Koren, is a middle school choral teacher and has been singing her song of wonders since day one.
“Dear heart,” I said, explaining to her. “She was calling for me, her grandma Lana. She was crying for La La.”
Tacy was the first of four grandbabies to know me as LaLa. For the past five years, Tacy and our other grandchildren, Tav, Zane and Soshie, warm my heart when they ask LaLa for a hug, or request to bake cookies or hand me a book to read.
Even the parents of our little ones refer to us as LaLa and PaPa (Gordon), especially when they request us to baby-sit. PaPa is named to differ from the other grandfather in the family, granddad.
LaLa and PaPa are easy to spell, too. The magnetic alphabet has been a good way to begin to spell..
Our daughter’s mother-in-law, Pat Butt, is known as Boosha. She has three grandchildren. Great grandma, Marjorie Socha, is called “granny.”
Our son’s mother-in-law, Rebecca Jetton, was known as Nana. She passed away in July from a long fight with cancer. She and granddad (Max ) have five grandchildren who will always remember their Nana.
All the grandparents like the names given to them by their grandchildren. Each name is special and when the grandchildren need to clarify their relationship, they tentatively say “You’re my grandma. You’re grandma LaLa.”
Perhaps, I will still be LaLa for my great-grandchildren. Whatever my grandchildren call me, their voices put a “dance in my step and a song in my heart.”
– Lana (LaLa) Russ, Lacey
• My mother’s grandparent name was given to her by her oldest grandchild 37 years ago. My sister was driving two hours to visit, saying repeatedly to her 14-month-old son, “We’re going to see Mommy’s mom! Can you say Grandma?” Upon arrival my nephew looked at Grandma and said “MommyMom!” He and all of the grandkids called her MommyMom, (or MM when they were teens and thought the long version to be very un-cool!). We did wonder what she’d have been called had either of our brothers had children!
My mother died in 2004. She was a very good mom and grandma. She once told me that if her grandparent name hadn’t been chosen for her and she’d chosen her own, it would’ve been Grandy. In 2008, when my first grandchild was on the way, I asked my daughter and son-in-law if I could have the pleasure and honor of choosing my grandparent name. I chose Grandy. I have two grandsons now, Presley and Sawyer, and love hearing my name, especially spoken by the 2-year-old!
– Ellen Supplee, Olympia
• We were on a road trip – my five Grandkids and me – picking out souvenirs at a tourist gift shop. They each wanted a harmonica and I found myself saying yes. The clerk grinned as I paid for five harmonicas and asked me if I was sure about the purchase. “Please pray for me,” I muttered under my breath.
Back in the van, I made only one rule about the harmonicas. Everyone could play as long and as loud as they wanted until we reached our destination two hours away. And we were off. In an instant, the van filled with something that could only be described as heavy metal acid screaming harmonica. I began laughing at the ridiculousness of it all and noticed I was driving increasingly faster. Maybe it wouldn’t take the full two hours after all!
While this high-decibel music was going on, I thought someone called out “Grandma” and I answered “Yes?” trying to be heard above the din. The kids erupted into peels of laughter because I had actually answered to someone saying “camera” and in their silly states of mind, they thought it was hilarious. From that moment on I have been known only as Camera to my Grandkids. I love my nickname!
– Phylllis Burnison, Mason County
• One of the best names and comes as music to my ears is my Meme. In February 1973, she became a grandma. The elderly neighbor lady gave her a hard time about being too young to be a grandma. She proceeded to help and hint at nicknames. I am not sure why they picked the nick name Meme. But to us it is defined as a gem in the dust. I can remember being 13 years-old and cringing at calling her Meme in public. I tried to introduce her as my grandma, Barbara. Then I would feel guilty because she surpassed the simple name of Grandma! Now my generation and the next only refer to her as Meme. She is the core to our family. Meme is the one who connects us all and takes time to nurture us. From adopting a grandson Brian, taking care of her husband who was severely injured in a logging truck accident. Meme even stayed six weeks at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital with her third great-grand child in critical care. Most recently she is tending to her younger sister who has dementia. You can call her at midnight and she will help you walk through your trial. With that said, Meme is my best friend, too.
She had always taken an active part in her family. Including taking grandkids for the weekend, road trips, attending school programs, church events, car races and every holiday gathered around her amazing cooking. I did how ever tease her one day that she has been serving the same meal since the 1950s. One meal leads to left over to the next meal, to the next meal, ect. ect.
Our Meme can be found every Monday at the senior dinner in Oakville at the Lucky Eagle Senior dinner where it turns into class and a family reunion. Even a few times she has been teased about being the Mayor of Satsop.
With that said I can only hope to fill her Meme shoes someday.
My Meme is Barbara Harding, 70, of Satsop.
– Kristi Curtis, Olympia
• My granddaughter has always called me Papa since she was very young. At first we thought it was because she could not pronounce Grandpa but she has always called my wife Grandma. She is now 11 and when she was 7 or so she asked if she could call my wife Granny but she never really did.
So she goes running though the house yelling “Grandma, Grandma, Papa, Papa.”
My son when he was young however never really called me Dad or Daddy but he called me by my first name. When I asked him when he was about 5 why he didn’t call me dad, he said if he yelled dad in a grocery store, every man would turn around and look, but if he yelled Roger, there wouldn’t be that many.
– Roger and Judy Stefan, Olympia
• Several years ago I was involved in a serious car accident. I spent some of my off time from work taking care of my new grandson, Logan Crocker. He was just a year old, and was getting into everything. My first reaction to his mischievous actions was “Dude!! Don’t touch” this or that. I would always refer to him as my little dude. He had not yet learned how to say Grandma.
Shortly thereafter, little Logan started talking more. One day I was pulling up to my son, Noah Crocker’s, driveway, when Logan saw me and says, “Grandma Dude!” We were all surprised and quite amused.
Since then, I have been referred to as Grandma Dude from Logan and my two other grandchildren. That’s just what they refer to me as.
– Pam Crocker, Olympia
• I was not ready to be a grandma when my 26-year-old daughter said she was pregnant. I told my family that the baby could call me Mrs. Bertsch (Just kidding). When this precious little boy was born, my heart melted. He talked early and started to call me Nonnie. I am now Nonnie to my nephews and nieces and all four of my grandbabies and I love the name that my oldest grandson, who is now 13, chose to call me.
– Sharon Bertsch, Olympia
• Zak was our only grandchild for several years and spent a lot of time with us. At age 3, he became interested in the TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The program invaded his fantasy world with full thrust. We were soon included in his make-believe world and became part of the Duke family. Grandpa Ford became Bo. I was Daisy and Zak was Luke. The Duke world was full-time when he was with us. We were corrected if we called him Zak instead of Luke or called each other by our given names.
Grandpa Ford was Bo until he passed away at age 79.
Zak is now 33, and I often receive gifts and cards from him signed: “For Daisy from Luke.”
What a fun “trip” this has been!
– Jo Yehle, aka Daisy Duke, Olympia
• My maternal grandparents lived on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. My grandfather was called Bup Bup and my grandmother Bum Bum. In 1940, my grandfather had an old boat with a single cylinder inboard engine. When he would go fishing, my aunt would take his oldest but very young grandchild to the bridge over the bayou late in the day to await his return. When they would hear the “bupbupbup” of the boat engine, my cousin would excitedly yell “Bup Bup coming!!” Forever after, our grandfather was called Bup Bup. My cousin doesn’t remember how Bum Bum got her name, except that he thinks it
sounded like it fit with Bup Bup.
– George Chappell, Olympia
• My 2-year-old daughter calls her grandmother Elmo. Years ago my niece named grandma “Momo.” My daughter saw a picture of Momo wearing a red shirt while holding her and has called her “Elmo” ever since. Elmo loves her nickname and feels special to have been given such a unique name for grandma.
– Kristi Rutledge, Olympia
• My nephew Adam was the first born grandchild in our family. Like many kids who couldn’t pronouce “grandma,” or just wanted to come up with their own version, he called his grandmother “Ghia.” The name has stuck, and now the whole family calls my Mom “Ghia.” (We were never sure how it was supposed to be spelled.) Everyone who become a grandad in my father’s family was automatically dubbed “Pap.”
– Jolene Bellows, Olympia
• My son Michael, who is now 29 – and a Washington State Trooper, I may add! (as I am very proud of him) – was born in Massachusetts, a military family as we were. We moved in with my parents due to my husband’s tour of duty for one year. Michael was about nine months at the time and eventually became aware of the people surrounding him. Of course his first word was “daddy.” One day, as the story goes, he pointed to my mom and said “Dede.” That evening, my dad came home from work, and he said “Deta.” The best part of it all was that my parents names are Denise and Dieter! It stuck and we ran with it. To this day, all kids, grandkids, in-laws, out-laws, friends and neighbors call them “Dede and Deeter,” or to shorten it, “D&D.” Never Grandma and Grandpa! My dad always likes to tell people with a smile, “I never get no respect!”
– Patricia Madison, Lacey
• Seven years ago, my niece, Mackenzie, was born. At the time, I was working in a remote Alaskan village as a teacher. All permanent residents of the village were, and are, Yupik Alaskan Natives. My mom decided that since Mackenzie had 6 living grandmothers, ranging from great grandma to great-great grandma, she wanted a unique name. She chose to use Umma, the Yupik word for grandma. She now has five grandchildren who proudly call her Umma!
– Heidi Fisk, Olympia
• When my first grandson was born, I couldn’t wait to be called “Grandma” or “Gramma.” As he got older and learned his two-syllable words, he said “Mama,” “Dada,” “Papa” – and I was “WaWa.” I thought it would change, so we just went along (probably because he said it so cute – he pronounced it very clearly and looked right at me, smiling, when he said it).
“Papa” is now “PawPaw” and another Grandma and Grandpa are “Momar” and “Pappy” (or Kappa, if the 2-year-old says it). And, after three more grandchildren, I am still “WaWa.” I guess I will never be “Grandma” or “Gramma,” but now I don’t want to be anything but “WaWa.” I think it is endearing that I have such a special name. I am a very blessed WaWa. I am loved by a PawPaw and two wonderful daughters, two fantastic son-in-laws – and four little munchkins that call me “WaWa.”
– Darlene Mason, Olympia
• Our daughters call my parents “Baba” and “Mom-Mom.” When they were little, we didn’t suggest alternatives to “Grandpa” and “Grandma” and those are the names that they came up with. Baba is the word for father and/or grandfather in several languages, including Italian (“Baba Noel” is Father Christmas); and the girls’ dad and I had lived in Italy for several years up until the time that the older girl was born.
A friend suggested that lots of babies say “baba” for bottle, but this baby was strictly breast-fed, and there were no bottles around the house. We think that “Mom-Mom” came from the fact that my mother is quite hard of hearing, and we often have to repeat; so they may have misunderstood my saying “Mom! Mom?” or something like that. Both grandparents have enjoyed their nicknames.
The funny post-script is that while the girls’ paternal grandfather had died before they were born, their paternal grandmother was dubbed “Hooker Jean Mom-Mom.” Her given name is Jean Hooker, and we have no idea how they came up with that structure (to go along with that most unusual last name, no less), but it stuck.
– Jean Powell, Olympia
• My granddaughter, Lucy, unable to pronounce Grandmother Ruth, called me “Foofie.” The name stuck and now everyone calls me “Foofie.”
– Ruth Jordan, Olympia
• We are McPapa and McNana to three of our grandchildren. It probably came about for two reasons: 1) to differentiate the McKown grandparents (us) from their other grandparents who are known as Papa and Nana, and 2) our daughter’s penchant for Grey’s Anatomy. We love our names! We’re pretty sure that if McDreamy were to have children, their grandparents would be called, “McNana and McPapa.”
– Dennis & Anita McKown, Olympia
• My son-in-law taught my grandson Tucker to call me Grandma Coo Coo as a joke when he was just a baby. It stuck. When Sapphire came along five years later, she called me Grandma Coo Coo also. I didn’t mind most of the time because it was so cute in their little baby talk. However, as they became older and their speech became clearer, it was embarrassing at times when they called me that in public. The expressions on people’s faces were just priceless. Even more embarrassing was when my grandchildren would drop the Grandma portion of my pet name and just called me Coo Coo.
Proud to be Grandma Coo Coo.
– Linda Rowe, Lacey
• Always one to plan ahead, I chose our nicknames even BEFORE our grandson Timmy was born: I’m Nonna (Italian for grandma, although we’re not Italian) and my husband is Ito (short for abuelito – Spanish for little grandpa). We recently welcomed Timmy’s baby brother Joey – or Giuseppe, as I like to call him.
– Mary Mendoza, Centralia
• There are a few interesting nicknames for the grandparents in my family.
I think my favorite is probably what my nephews call my mom, Mee-Maw. Before my first nephew, Cameron, was born, my mom kept coming up with these weird names she wanted to be called instead of grandma. One day we were listening to a song by Carrie Underwood called “Don’t Forget to Remember Me” and heard her call her grandma mee-maw and after that it just kind of stuck.
Another funny one is what us grandkids call my grandfather: Boppa. When my oldest sister (and my grandparents’ first grandchild) was born, she couldn’t say grandpa no matter how hard she tried, and she always ended up saying boppa. As more grandkids were born, we all kind of adopted that name and to this day all of our family calls him Boppa.
My best friend also calls her grandmother Ja-Ja. She told me this was because her grandma refused to let any of her grandkids call her grandma because it made her feel old. I guess somewhere along the line she just got used to being called Ja-Ja and if I remember correctly, it’s her initials? I am not positive, but I always found it rather amusing.
– Hanna Moody, Lacey
• I was a young grandmother who did not want to be called grandma. Therefore, I gave myself a name; Grandcie. (My first name begins with a C).
My husband is known to some of the grandchildren as Boppa; to others, Grandpa; and still others, Grandpa Tom. (He thinks he should be referred to as “Grumpa.”)
My mother, Mileta, having several generations of grandchildren, adopted the name of Grandmileta. My grandparents were known to my children as Great Mom and Great Dad on my mother’s side, and Little Grandma and Little Grandpa on my Dad’s.
– Carleta Rawlings, Olympia
• When my folks found out they were going to be grandparents – after the initial excitement wore off – they finally got down to “what will we be called?” Gramma and grampa sounded so old and who wants to sleep with an old grampa? Mom’s good friend Sister Claire Gagnon, administrator of St. Peter Hospital at the time, being French, decided M’Mere and P’pere would be much more suitable. Mom, personnel director at the time, readily agreed and they were M’mere and P’pere for the last 40-plus years by granddaughter Yvonne, all her friends, and all OUR friends, including a few crusty longshoreman. You know I was never absolutely sure I was spelling them correctly. Oh well, too late now. It’s on their headstones! P.S. I’m Tutu, Hawaiian gramma.
– Michelle McKillip, Olympia
• Once she started talking, our granddaughter Riley (now almost 4) called me Mema (still does) when she couldn’t pronounce Grandma. I love it. Grandpa goes by Papa. It also differentiates the two sets of grandparents. Her other set goes by Grandma/Grandpa.
– Marcia Benn, Grand Mound/Rochester
• Before our first grandchild was born, our daughter-in-law Heather asked her parents and my wife and I what we would like the new baby to call us. Her parents opted for Nana and Papa, and my wife chose Mimi. (Not that it’s a competition, but Sally felt the baby might be apt to say Mimi well before Grandma, or any of the other names.)
Then all eyes were upon me. “Just have the baby call me my name. Just have her call me Dave!”
Well, little Avery Marie came into this world and captured my heart, as well as the hearts of Nana, Papa, and Mimi. First-born grandchild for us, first girl grandchild for them, and besides, her beauty and charm and personality are supreme. As she approached her first birthday, she hadn’t said ANY of the grandparents’ nicknames out loud. The day of her birthday, she was dressed in a pink dress, seated on a little table (think Miss Muffet on her tuffet), holding a toy cell phone in her hand. She picked up the phone, and she yelled into it, “ ‘Ave! ‘Ave!” We all stopped. We had all heard it!
And yes, the first of the grandparents’ names she ever said was mine! Dave!! (She may have heard Mimi giving me instructions, “Dave! Make sure the car is locked!” “Dave! Get the diaper bag out of the car!”) However it happened, it made the sun rise in this grandpa’s heart!
Then, sometime in her second year, Avery gave me my own nickname: Monka. It was probably Grandpa in Avery-speak. However it came to be, I proudly bear the nickname of Monka Dave. I like it because Avery named me that. I don’t even mind that she calls her other grandpa Monka Rick. And Avery’s little brother Kincaid calls me that now. I can’t wait till her little sister Harper Jo is old enough to call me Monka, too!
– David C. Sund, Hoodsport
• When I was very, very young (back in the day), I could not pronounce grandpa. The best I could manage (according to family) was Beepa. My grandfather, Charles Hamacek, was so enamored of the name that everyone in the family had to call him that, including the five siblings that came after me. Being first-born had its privileges. The name extended outside the family as well, as Beepa insisted that his co-workers and friends call him that as well. So Beepa is the only name by which my grandfather was known for the rest of his life, including a mention in his obituary.
– Lu Hamacek, Tumwater
• My daughter Whitney calls her grampa “Gumpa.” She is 6 now, and even though she knows better, the name has stuck.– Dave Sederberg, Olympia
• My mother tells me that I couldn’t say Grandma and called my Grandmother Gogo and my Grandfather Pop. Those names stuck with my younger brother and sister and my parents called them those names also.
When my granddaughter was born, I was with her a lot. My son asked me what I would like her to call me and I said whatever she comes up with. As she started to verbalize, she was calling her mother and me Mama. One day, she came to be calling me Mama, and I said to her “Can you say Gogo?” And she did. My name became Gogo by her and her parents and all her friends. My brother and sister get a kick out of hearing her call me Gogo, and remembering the first Gogo.
– Jean Garwood, Olympia
• My mother’s nickname is O.G. This came about when my son Jeff was just learning to talk. His main technique was to mimic anything that pleased him. One morning, our family was on the way to go clam digging at Ocean Shores. As we approached the beach and saw a huge crowd of people, Mom exclaimed, “Oh J@#%&$! Look at all the people!” Jeff got a big grin on his face, and clearly repeated the expletive. We decided that it was time to clean up our language and substitute “Oh, gee!” That worked just as well for Jeff, who began calling his grandmother by that name. When sister Alissa came along, the nickname worked for her, as well as for playmates and their mothers. Friends still ask how O.G. is doing. My Mom is Tinker Miller and she lives in Tenino.
– Carol Olin, Thurston County
• In November 1981, a new generation began in our family: My niece Jenny was born. My mother, Mary Beerbower of Porter, began wondering what name she would go by since to her “Grandma Beerbower” was her mother-in-law. Jenny solved the issue when she started making vocalizations and verbalizations and instead of saying grandma, it came out “Ba” – pronounced like the sound of a little lamb. Before we knew it, the rest of our family, and other close friends and relatives had started referring to my mother as Ba. As each additional grandchild was born, she ended up with six, they continued to use the nickname. Neighborhood children and school friends of her grandchildren also called her Ba. Of course, after signing her cards and letters with XOXO, she would write “Ba.” It was a nickname that she not only used to refer to herself, but one of which she seemed to be very proud. For 25 years, this loving adult was called Ba. We lost our precious Ba in 2006 after a gallant fight with leukemia. We still use her name each year as we participate in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Our memorial team is called, “Ba’s Brigade.” I too think of her as I typically sign my name DEB – Daughter of the Enduring Ba!
– Debbie Hill, Mason County
• My wife was born in Germany to an American G.I. and a German woman. Her name is Karin, but our kids called her Oma. My wife’s father overheard Oma telling the kids to stop doing something and said to them, “Oh, don’t listen to Oma. She’s just like an old rusty oven! Warm at the heart but makes a lot of noise all the time!” So since then, she’s been known as the Old Rusty Oven. Everyone should have a loving, caring, dependable old rusty oven.
– Tom Trujillo, Olympia
• When my nephew was very young, he could not say Aunt Suzanne and it came out as Auntie Zanny. I adapted that name when I became a grandmother and asked my grandchildren to call me Granny Zanny to differentiate me from the other grandmothers, and they do.
– Suzanne Locking, Tumwater
• GranJan is my name, spoilin’ my game. When my oldest son, Gordon, called me in Texas to announce he and my daughter-in-law, Cary, were expecting twins, I told him I had already picked out a name for myself: GranJan. Since that time, we moved to Washington and there have been six grandchildren, four boys and two girls: Devin (deceased), Dylan (deceased), Angelo (10), Olivia (7), Faith (7), and Vance (4). Angelo, Faith and Vance live in Fort Worth, Texas and Olivia lives here in Olympia. GranJan loves them all.
– Janis Stevenson, Tumwater
• When one of my granddaughters was first learning to talk, she turned Grandma into Popper, and to her and her family, I am still Popper.
– Elaine McCloud, Oakville
• When my oldest grandchild was about 9 months old, I began to often carry her around the house in a bouncy, lively way while saying, “Let’s go galloping!” A few months later, she began to call me Gogo. The family assumes the name came from the trips around the house. Several years later at the library, she checked out a book titled Gogo Votes, or something similar, about a grandmother in Africa who casts her first vote. It turns out gogo means grandmother in Swahili!
All of my younger grandchildren call me Gogo as well. My second oldest grandchild was 7 before she figured out that I was her grandmother. It came as a bit of a surprise for her.
– Nancy L. Nelson, Olympia
• Before my granddaughter was born nearly 21 years ago, I decided to research what differing cultures called “grandmother,” and discovered YaYa (spelled YiaYia in Greek -- even though I’m not Greek!) fit me to a “T,” long before The YaYa Sisterhood was even published!
When my granddaughter started speaking, she learned to call me Yaya. Soon, all her little friends were calling me YaYa, and a couple of my daughter’s friends started calling me YaYa also. After awhile, people just found it easier and much cuter to call me YaYa, and now many of my friends and neighbors now also know me as YaYa.
– Barbara Barclay, Olympia