Hi Duana!

I always thought I would be writing you about naming my baby but that sort of worked itself out. She was born in April and we named her Georgiana (pronounced Georgie- ahna) Kay. My FIL is George and Kay was my mom's middle name.

My husband’s parents are Greek and so they are automatically called "Yia-yia" and "Papou". The tricky part is my parents. They both have passed, my mom 9 years ago and my dad has been gone 25 years. I know that my mom would have HATED being called "Grandma" so I am trying to come up with some unique ideas for her that I think she would have liked. It makes me very emotional to think about but I think it’s so important.

Some ideas that I like... Mimi, Nana, Oma.

Nothing seems to fit. I think with her being gone it makes it even harder because I will never really know what she wanted. It is very important to me that my daughter and future kids grow up "knowing" my parents as much as they can.

Some ideas for my dad are PawPaw, Gee-pa, Opa.

My mom cannot be called Gigi, since it’s a sometimes nickname we use for my daughter. We always called my dad, Papa. So it would be weird to me to call him Papa meaning Grandpa.

I know you are bombarded with letters and emails but it would mean so much to me to hear your opinion on this!


I have never had this question before, and reading over your beautiful letter, I realize that’s kind of unusual – because you’re right, there are so many people who are going through this and maybe never came up with an answer. 

What I love most is how clearly I understood how and why you need these names.  I love what your letter imparts: that you’re going to talk about your parents using names, just as you would if they were in the next room or an hour away – not just in the ‘well my mother, your other grandmother’ kind of way. I think this is lovely. 

Moreover, as someone whose grandparents all passed when I was very young, it helped me to picture them when I heard my mum or her siblings refer to “Mammy and Daddy”. Like they were real people to her, which helped them be real people to me, and as a result, yes, made me think of them as people I had a relationship with. 

So first and foremost, choose a name that you feel comfortable saying. Grandma’s out – so what do you picture yourself saying? Try it out? Walk around saying, “Oh, Nana gave this to me when I was your age” or “You wrinkle your nose just like Mimi did!” 

I apologize if you mist up a little while trying this exercise – I did, just writing it – but that’s actually part of why I’m having you undertake this. It might help to choose something that is a little ‘new’ to you, so that you feel like it’s something she would have wanted, but also one that indicates the new relationship she and your dad would have had (and will, albeit posthumously) with your children. 

So, maybe think about choices you wouldn’t have considered, including names you didn’t use for your own grandparents. Nanny? Poppy? Grandad? Not only are there cultural influences in choices like Oma & Opa or Bubbe & Zaide, but of course, every third person calls their grandparents something ridiculous and incomprehensible because of a toddlers’ adorable mispronunciation – some in my circle include grandmothers named “Nini” and “Doma”, for example. 

Is it ‘Nana M’ or whatever your Mom’s first initial was? ‘Grandy’? (A conjunction of Granddaddy that I think I would want if I were a 70-odd year old man). ‘Mama’? ‘Nan Lastname’? 

Then of course, if there’s cultural heritage you want to get into, there are all kinds of cute-as-hell grandparents’ names – I just learned that Bomma and Bonpa are Flemish/used in Belgium, or there’s Mormor and Morfar, which are Swedish, and literally mean ‘mother’s mother’ and ‘mother’s father’. 

Your mileage on which ones you want to use will vary, obviously, but you don’t have to feel restricted to anything except what you’d like to say, and what you’d like to hear coming out of your daughter’s mouth. If that’s as simple as “Nana Lynn and Grandpa James”, no problem, and if it winds up being “Mama and Pomma” because she gets confused, all the cuter. 

I really love this question and hope there’s an answer here that feels right for you. I know your parents would (and your children will) love how much you thought about this. Creating names for your parents that are exclusively for your daughter to say will help her see them as real people who had a real influence on her life – and who she’ll be eager to learn more about. 

Let us know!