From Beep to Glama, why grandparents are choosing unique nicknames: 'I am way too cute and hip to be a grandma'

Granny? No thanks. Why many grandparents are choosing unique nicknames. (Photo: Getty Creative)
Granny? No thanks. Why many grandparents are choosing unique nicknames. (Photo: Getty Creative)

A few months ago my toddler looked up from his cartoon, which had centered around the main character's grandparents. "I don't have a grandma," he told me in a regretful tone, a solemn expression forming on his little face. Strictly speaking, he's right. He doesn't have a "grandma." He has a Noni, a GoGo, a Pop-Pop and one plain ol' Grandpa.

While my siblings and I stiffly addressed our grandparents as "Grandma" and "Grandpa," adding their respective last names to distinguish one set from the other, those traditional terms seem to have fallen out of favor. Granny and Nana are out, Gammy (see: Adrienne Banfield Norris, mother of Jada Pinkett Smith and grandmother to Jaden and Willow) and GoGo (Goldie Hawn's "glam-ma" moniker of choice) are in. And why be "Grandfather" when you can be "Granddude," Lester Holt's preferred nickname?

"I like it because it acknowledges that I'm a senior — that I'm the 'grand' — but 'dude' is kind of about the fact that hopefully I've still got a little gas in the tank," the NBC Nightly News host explained to Yahoo Life of his decision to go against the grampy grain in an interview last year.

Indeed, many of the grandparents Yahoo Life spoke to cited age as an excuse to create a fun alternative; they simply didn't see themselves as being old enough to answer to Grandpa or Gran. Gigi, Lolly or Pop, on the other hand ...

"I was never one for following tradition, so when I became a grandmother at the age of 45, I knew that I didn't want to be called Grandma," says Jill Taylor, a homesteader based in Tulsa, Okla., who is now a 50-year-old grandmother of two. "It just felt too old for me. Instead, I decided to go with a more modern name: Glam."

Taylor says her family pushed back at first, thinking Glam was "weird." But the nickname caught on, and it's what her grandchildren now call her, much to her delight.

"I have to say, I quite enjoy it!" she says. "It makes me feel young and hip, which is exactly how I want to feel as a grandmother."

After Shelley Mason's first picks — Aunty, Aunty-ma and Mamma2 — were vetoed by her daughter, the Greensboro, N.C., native settled on Yaya.

"I was a cool, cute, sexy 40-year-old when I was blessed with a grandchild," Mason, now 47, tells Yahoo Life. "I am way too cute and hip to be a grandma."

"There was no way I was going to be called Grandma," agrees Los Angeles public relations pro Marla White. "That just brought to mind white hair, nylons and flat shoes. So not me."

Instead, she's Glama, a name she's even had immortalized on her car's vanity plate. Her three grandchildren ("glam babes") are all for it.

"I will never forget when my 5-year-old glamdaughter Avery tried to correct her little friend, who asked her if I was her 'grandma,'" White says. "She very politely said, 'No, this is my ‘GA-LAMMMMMA!'"

But there are other more practical considerations at play too, given today's modern family. Blended families may have more than the standard two sets of grandparents, requiring a little creativity and wordplay to give each person a unique moniker.

And then there are the sentimental backstories behind names like Bubba or Mimi — a grandchild's affectionate babble, a tribute to a loved one. Karen Dennis, a healthcare publicist based in Hollywood, Fla., had always planned to go by Grandma, but when her own mother died eight months before Dennis welcomed her first grandchild, it felt too "sad" to share the name. Instead, Dennis took inspiration from a beloved book series by children's author Tomie dePaola.

"My mom was a children's librarian and loved the book Strega Nonawhich means 'grandma witch' in Italian, with 'grandma' being 'nona,'" the 66-year-old grandmother of three says. "So I opted to be called Nona, which gives me happy memories of my mom and highlights my joy of being a grandparent."

And Carson Krislov Quinn's first pregnancy four years ago paved the way for her dad's unique nickname.

"When I was pregnant with my first, my father would 'correspond' with the baby via Morse code," the Austin-based Zindsey Media founder tells Yahoo Life. "He'd either say 'Beep beep beep' to my belly or send me text messages with code that I'd have to decipher via an app I downloaded. The name stuck, and now the kids call him Beep — it's easy to say and cheerfully squeal."

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