by Carol Fleming


I became a grandmother for the second time two months ago. Being a grandparent is one of the most special titles and honors a parent can have. There is nothing quite like holding and cuddling and loving on your baby’s baby! As I gaze down on my grandsons I remember each and every time what a beautiful miracle and gift they are from God.



It’s funny though how many different names there are for a grandparent. Whether a grandparent is American or from another country there are many names and subsets. For example grandmother in Arabic is “Jiddah.” In fact, many view the city of Jeddah as a holy place since Jeddah is also believed to be where Eve, the mother of all mothers, has been buried. Hence, it’s named Jeddah.



Many in my own extended Saudi family, rather than call their grandmother “Jiddah” will instead call her “mama” added by her first name, Moudy.



Mama Moudy has more than 50 grandchildren, in addition to great- and great-great-grandchildren.



In America there can be many names substituted for the formal grandmother. Many grandmothers will prefer nana because it is easy for a child to learn and say at a younger age. Others may prefer the condensed version – grandma – which I called my own grandmothers. Other versions may be simply gran, mamaw, gran-mama or perhaps gran ma mere.



Now in my case, I like the sound of granny. I know that the word may conjure an image of an old feeble white-haired lady, while many of today’s grandmothers are fit and hip. Yet for me, granny just seems to fit my personality.



Now granny is not an easy word for a grandchild to learn right away. My grandson started calling his other grandmother “nana” around 6 months old. That didn’t mean I was ignored or unknown to him. While I would always refer to myself as “granny,” until my grandson learned how to say the word he created his own way of communicating.



Whenever he wanted me or if someone asked him, “Where is granny?” he would find me with his eyes and bob his head up and down a few times. We jokingly in the family referred to me as the “head bob granny.” But on Jan. 2 my grandson, now 27 months old, gave me one of his greatest gifts. He looked directly at me and repeated over and over “gran nee, gran nee” with a big smile on his face. Granny, gran nee or head bob granny…they are the most precious words and gestures to me.



The grandfather is also given many names. In Saudi Arabia the word for grandfather in Arabic is “Jid.” Unlike Jiddah, the Saudi grandmother, with many variations, most Saudi children will refer to their grandfather as Jid.



America by comparison seems to have many more variations for grandfather than for grandmother. I grew up calling my own grandfather “grandpap.” Yet my son would call my father “grandpa” and his Dad’s father “papaw.” Other variations I’ve heard for grandfather include papa, poppy, gramps and grandad.



What names, words and gestures have others who are fortunate to be a grandparent called? How was the tradition of the name started? Was it the grandparent or the grandchild who chose the name?