Expert Insights on Choosing Grandparent Names

Lin Wellford
Author Lin Wellford

LoveToKnow recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lin Wellford, author of the fun new book The New Grandparents Name Book, about her ideas and experiences with choosing and using grandparent names. Featuring more than 700 innovative names for grandmothers and grandfathers, Wellford's book is a practical resource as well as a fun reading experience.

Choosing Grandparent Names

LoveToKnow (LTK): What do your grandchildren call you?

Lin Wellford (LW): My two grandchildren call me Mimi. My mother goes by Mutti (even to her great grandchildren and the friends of her grandchildren). She loves her grandparenting name. I was looking for something easy to say and that didn't sound 'stodgy.'

LTK: Where did you find all the (700+) names that went into your book? What did you learn during the research process?

LW: In the course of choosing my name, I talked to a lot of various people, asking what their grand kids called them. There were so many variations of grandparent names that I began collecting them. My daughter would pass on names she heard, sort of like a game, but eventually we realized that we'd gathered quite a list and we started to get more serious. I found a lot of names in the obituary columns. People are frequently referred to by their grandparenting names there. We combed through foreign dictionaries and kept asking people for input as well. It was kind of a scavenger hunt.

Original Grandparent Names

LTK: What kinds of sources for names are most popular? (e.g. cultural/ethnic, descriptions like "Glammy", or traditional names like "Grandmom")

LW: Mostly, people becoming grandparents today seem to want to use names that reflect how they see themselves. And most of my Boomer generation friends see themselves as youthful, so they are picking names that reflect that; Pop-pop, G-Ma, Nona, Bubba. Some are deliberately choosing more old-fashioned names like Granny, or Granpap. It's really a personal choice and if there is any trend, it's towards being different, like the couple who chose Rocky and Kitty.

LTK: Is it important to choose a name where the paternal and maternal grandparents have similar (but not identical) names, or is it actually ideal to have completely different names for the two sets of grandparents?

LW: It seems to be easier for children if the names are quite different. When there are several step-grandparents in the picture, it can get even more confusing, so I'd advocate coordinating with the other 'grands' to ensure that the names are distinct.

Changing Names

LTK: What about names for new generations, e.g. for grandparents when they become great-grandparents?

LW: Your grandparent name can easily serve as your great-grandparent name. That has worked in our family.

LTK: Who chooses the grandparents' names? Parents, grandparents, or grandchildren? How do you 'make it official', or does it need to be made official?

grandparent with her grandchildren
Lin Wellford with grandchildren Cameron and Catelin

LW: In my opinion, the wearers of the names should have final say. Some 'momzillas' may want to have input, and if that's the case, it's wise to have several name options you like and ask for help choosing among them. Of course, many grandparent names are created by babies learning to speak. You may find yourself falling in love with the baby's version of your name, and opt to keep it. Once you have a name you like, trot it out and see how your family responds. If they all hate it, you might have to keep looking.

LTK: Should grandparents have just one name that all of their grandchildren call them? Or is it the case that different children using different names just makes them all the more special?

LW: Perhaps this happens, but I'm not aware of any cases. In my experience, one name works for all grandchildren. If the other set of 'grands' already have established grandparent names that are similar to yours, you can customize by adding a name or initial, to become, for instance, Mimi Lin, or Popi Tom.

LTK: Is it ever possible to switch names if you've had a name for years and years? What advice would you give a grandparent who wants a hip new name, but has been called 'Granny' for five years already?

LW: I think if you are persistent, you can make a change. I grew up being called 'Linda' but managed to retrain my family and friends to call me 'Lin', so I know it can be done. Names are so personal. People should feel good about the name they are called.

The New Grandparents Name Book

(LTK): From where did the inspiration to write The New Grandparents Name Book stem?

(LW): It grew out of my own need to find a name for myself when I found out that I was about to become a grandparent. I wanted to choose a name that felt right for me, one that helped me see myself in this new role.

The New Grandparents Name Book

LTK: Your book is a gift book. For whom is the book an ideal gift?

LW: We conceived of it as a great way to break the news that a baby is on the way. One of the quotes we collected for the grandparent names book says 'Every time a baby is born, so is a grandmother.' But it turns out that a lot of expectant grandparents are also buying the book for themselves.

LTK: What do you suppose the reader's experience is when reading your book?

LW: We subtitled it 'a lighthearted guide to picking the perfect grandparent name' because we wanted people to have fun trying on names, even really silly or far out ones. How often do you get a chance to choose the name people will call you for the rest of your life? It should be fun.

LTK: After completing the process of writing the book, what names appeal to you the most?

LW: Only after the book came out did my mother note that she had called her favorite grandmother Mima (Mee-ma) and when I heard that, I wished I'd known because I love the idea of using my great-grandmother's name. But it was too much trouble at that point to change it.

LTK: What do you think is the most important piece of information provided in your book?

LW: That there is no right or wrong when it comes to what your grandchildren call you. Pick a name that makes you smile, because being a grandparent is a joyful experience!

Reading or Giving the Book

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the book for yourself or to give as a gift to a (new) grandparent, you can find the book at major retailers or purchase it online from Amazon.

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Expert Insights on Choosing Grandparent Names