The birth of the grandchild triggers the automatic question: “What will be the name?” A less-thought-about question, but one important for the grandparent’s future, is: “What is the little bundle of joy going to call you?”
In the screwball comedy Mr. Hobbes Takes a Vacation, Mr. Hobbes (Jimmy Stewart) is not thrilled that his grandson has decided to call him Boom-Pa. I have a feeling that Mr. Hobbes was not the first or the last victim of regrettable grandparent-naming. After all, if even adults can make sub-ideal naming decisions and send their sons to the Darwinian jungle of the playground with names like Hippolytus, how much more can we expect social entropy to surge in like a flood in when the reins are handed over to a toddler?
At one point, I was wondering if I should propose Grand-Keith. I am normally a fan of the creative approach, but here I paused. Couldn’t Grand-Keith be ground down pretty quickly to Granky, which rhymes with cranky, and there we are: the fulfillment of every grandfather’s nightmare. My grandson and I scarcely know each other and already he is trained to view me as the family ogre.
I think I’d rather dial back on innovation and be Grampa Something.
Oh, and speaking of crankiness, this brings up one of my linguistic crotchets: the proper pronunciation of grampa. Now this word actually rhymes with jaw. I would prefer to escape that other pronunciation, the one that rhymes with Tampa. See, if you rob that last syllable of its full dignity, now you’re a short step away from gramps. And aren’t most book and video uses of that word a bit lacking in respect? (The senior who accelerates slowly at the green light is Gramps, right?) Well, in a word, before you know it, decency is hanging by a thread and American culture is sliding toward Tampa in a handbasket.
It seems that what the adults in my grandson’s world are going to support is for him to call me Grampa Keith. Now back when I was the grandson, it was “Title + Surname,” Grampa McCune and Grampa Michalko, analogous with Pastor Spurgeon or Dr. Abernathy. But the world has flattened, and many of the results of that change are delightful. So away we go, casting off and sailing into the new world with Grampa Keith.
Proper title and name are essential for social moments like these! (Male models: L. Martin & F. McCune)
Just imagine the wonderful little man calling me by that chosen title! Fantasy newsreel: “May I introduce the man handing me the glistening chew-toy and grinning like he’s overmedicated? His name is Grampa Keith.”
So the clan has made its choice, and the grandson’s parents will be gentle but firm. However, the problem with even such well-laid plans is this: The Beloved Object is so utterly charming, and you (the victim) are so euphoric to be addressed by him at all, that your guard is down at that crucial moment when he grins adorably and says, “Boom-Pa!”