First Things First

I Call Dibs on MeMaw

By Lora Felger

When did we all start deciding that the term “grandma” or “grandpa” was not sufficient and building our own hybrids of the term? Personally, I’m going to blame the Baby Boomers who continue to redefine all things “elder” to better fit their Aging-Out-Loud approach to getting older.

I’m a Gen X person myself, and I called my grandparents Grandma and Grandpa and then their last names. It seems so formal in today’s world of Nanas and PopPops. As an aside, Gen Xers are going to blame the Baby Boomers for just about everything simply because there are so darned many of them and so few of us.

This Gen Xer is going to be a grand-whatever in March. Once I got over the initial shock that I am actually old enough to be a grand-whatever, I felt tremendous pressure to decide what my name will be. Good grief, the other grand-whatever on my daughter-in-law’s side of the family had already claimed MiMi. My best friend (and dastardly Baby Boomer) is YaYa. My aunt is a GiGi.

This is a lot of pressure to put on someone as young as I. What in the world will this little person call me?  I am also the first in my generation of family cousins to head down this path. So, I do get first dibs, mwa ha ha!

I have lived in North Carolina long enough to consider myself a Southerner. In the South, we have MeMaws. Where, oh, where did this term come from? I need to know its history before I can claim MeMaw status for myself.

I’m sure a Baby Boomer will take credit for this, but Google really does solve everything. MeMaw, is derived from memere (may-MARE) or Cajun French for granny or grandma. OK, I studied French in both high school and college. I have visited Paris. Even better, I have behaved extremely ungrandmotherly like in New Orleans. This works for me.

Further reading tells me that the term MeMaw spread throughout the South as children who called their mothers “Maw” heard their Maw introducing her own mother as “my Maw.” Losing me a bit here with that second part, but OK. If you‘ve ever watched old reruns of “The Big Bang Theory,” you know that Texas-born Sheldon Cooper is very fond of his MeMaw. In the spin-off of that show called “Young Sheldon,” actress Annie Potts plays a younger version of Sheldon’s MeMaw. She is a hoot on that show, and Ms. Potts was in the movie “Ghostbusters,” so she must be cool. For the sake of this article and your own self-esteem, I warn all other MeMaws out there not to read the Urban Dictionary definition.

So MeMaw it will be. Unless, of course, my grandbabies develop their own terms for me – something like Really Fun Lady Who Takes Us to the Beach and Lets Us Eat Ice Cream for Supper.

Have your own children reproduced? It might be fun to collect the various names our readers have taken on in their venture into grandparenthood. Email us at and let us know your moniker. Just stay away from the Urban Dictionary if you want to delve deeper into the root of the name. I cannot even blame a Baby Boomer for that nonsense.