Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

Mommy-Anne and Daddy-Dave: What’s in some grandparents’ names?

When David Goldberg of Little Rock, Arkansas died at the age of 93 in 2018, his local obituary noted that “Dave” — as he was called by everyone who knew him — was called ”Daddy Dave” by his two grandchildren Emma and Maya when they were kids.

This naming tradition reminded me of my own childhood in the 1950s and 60s when we Bloom children had a ”Daddy Dave” in our family, too. For reasons I never understood, and still don’t, Dave Silverman, who became my father’s stepfather after his own father Joseph Bloom of Brooklyn died of a heart attack at the age of 39 and Grandma Tillie remarried Mr. Silverman.

While we had four grandparents, two on both sides of family, who we visited often on holidays and summer vacations, who we called Grandpa Max and Grandma Bella on the Epstein side of the family tree and Grandma Tillie and Daddy Dave on the Silverman side. But I never knew exactly why we called Daddy Dave “Daddy Dave” and I never asked anyone because it just seemed to be natural that that was his name. When you are a kid, many things seem natural. Even though he wasn’t my biological grandfather, he was one of the nicest adults I ever knew in my childhood and I loved calling him Daddy Dave. Now I’m 70 and I wonder why were were told to call him that, rather than Grandpa Dave.

So the other day, after I came across Dave Goldberg’s obituary in his hometown newspaper, and noticing that his grandchildren called him Daddy Dave, I began to wonder there this naming tradition came from, substituting ”Daddy” for ”Grandpa” and if this naming tradition was a particular Jewish family thing or whether other ethnic groups in America and Canada and other english-speaking countries also followed this naming style at times. I came across a YouTube video in my research about all this and discovered a Filipino family in California where one set of the grandparents were called ”Mommy-Anna” and ”Daddy-Ray.” So there’s that.

So then I began to wonder: who invented this naming style for grandparents and when? Was it part of American culture or did families in other English-speaking countries such as as Australia or Britain or New Zealand or Canada also follow a similar pattern? Were these names for grandparents who were not a child’s biological grandparents but were step-fathers and step-mothers in the families or what it just a whim of some children to call their grandparents by such nicknames? Or did the parents teach the grandchildren to use terms such as Mommy-Anna and Daddy-Ray or Daddy Dave (as my parents taught me)?

So I am putting out this feeler here on this international blog so see if any of my readers here might have some other interesting grandparents names stories to tell me in the comments section below (or in a personal email). Tell me. I am all ears.

Does that comic strip character of ”Daddy Warbucks” play any part in all of this?

About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report at www.cli-fi.net. Danny graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Yiddish Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan, he has lived and worked in 14 countries and speaks French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live until 2032, when his tombstone will read "I came, I saw, I ate cho-dofu."