Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Are you a Meme, Gigi, Ganne, or Just Plain Grandma?

Spring Break is this week, and we were fortunate enough to have a short visit with five of our eleven grandchildren. Making up the group of five are one girl and four boys, ranging in age from four to eleven years old. Two of our four daughters are their mothers. To all of them, we are "Meme" and "Pop." Although we always enjoy time spent with our grandchildren, I have to admit that we usually need a nap after they leave!

By age two, most grandchildren have already started referring to their grandparents by nicknames. Although a majority of nicknames are actually selected by the parents, occasionally a grandchild develops a unique name based on the grandparent's actual name.
The grandchildren of one of my friends refer to her as "Gigi," a name that she decided on when her first grandchild began calling her by her given name that starts with the letter "G."

One of the sweetest and most unique names for a grandmother that I have ever heard is the name "Ganne," a name given to Mississippi author, Anne Hughes Porter, by her grandchildren. Click here to read a poetic tribute written by Anne's granddaughters
on the occasion of her 75th birthday last year. The poem was re-printed, with permission from her granddaughters, on my old blog Attala County Memories in 2008.

While growing up, my siblings and I referred to our mother's mother as "Grandma," and to our father's mother as "Nanny." True to their mother's Southern upbringing, my own children refer to their grandparents on both sides of the family as "Mamaw" and "Papaw," followed by the appropriate surname to distinguish the correct grandparents.

I have found that grandparents' names, at least in the South, have changed little throughout the years, and now I am hearing our grandchildren use names that are identical to ones I recall growing up, Grandma, Grandpa, Mamaw, Papaw, Nana, and Granny.
When I became a grandmother, I decided early on that I did not want to be called "Grandma" or "Granny," and that I preferred "Nana" or "Meme," instead. And my children and I made a mutual decision that I would be called "Meme." Whatever name our grandchildren end up calling us, however, becomes music to our ears, and the reason for the name itself soon is irrelevant.

But where did these names for grandparents originate, and what do they mean? When I sought answers to my own questions, I found that grandparents' nicknames have long been steeped in tradition and may even offer insights into families' ethnic origins, a boon for family history researchers like me. A great reference for seeing the variety of grandparents names that exist and for some information about their ethnic origins can be found on an internet version of The New Parents Guide. Maybe you will find your nickname there, too.

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