I’ve never had a Bubbe, but I was lucky enough to grow up with two Grandmas and a Leda Mommy (my Italian grandmother wasn’t ready to be a Nonna or a Grandma, so she came up with a new name for herself). Fast forward 30 years, and my own mother became a GrandmaMommy (a name bestowed upon her by her first grandson), and my mother-in-law became a Bubbe.
Choosing your grandmother name is no minor task; the name will hopefully be with you for several decades and will likely be yelled from all corners of your home. It should be a name that has positive associations for you, and feels comfortable and familiar when you try it on. You may immediately know what you would like to be called, but if not, it might help to know what some of the common choices are, and where they come from:
If you’re looking for a heartwarming term from a nearly defunct language, the Yiddish term Bubbe is an excellent choice. (If Yiddish isn’t extinct enough for you, you could always go with Nonna or Avuela from the Ladino.)
Perhaps you would prefer to go back to your routes, in which case you might choose Oma (from the German or Dutch), Grandmere (or Memere, from the French), Safta (from the Hebrew), or Baba (the Slavic term for Grandmother).
Many grandparents might choose to stick with a more traditionally American name, including Grandma, Granny, Nana, or Nanny. If you’re from the south, MeeMaw may be the way to go.
Now, if none of these names seem like the right fit, you could also branch out and choose something totally different. I particularly like the Greek name YaYa or the Hawaiian Tutu.
Some grandparents prefer to let their new names develop organically, often from their own grandchildren. My younger brother and sister got so used to our mother saying, “And now we’re going to my Mommy’s house” that they eventually called our grandmother MommyHouse. (This story may or may not inspire you to leave your moniker up to the crazy minds of toddlers.)
Ultimately, the name you choose is less important than the associations your grandchildren have with it, so pick your name, and then be sure it gets lots of use!
If you’d like to celebrate the Bubbe, Oma, or Grandma in your life, nominate her for CJP’s Bubbe Contest. Voting has already begun, and will run through May 13. (The winner will enjoy a brunch for up to 8 people by Catering by Andrew!) You can also follow the contest on Facebook (facebook.com/CJPBoston) or Twitter (@CJPBoston).
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