April 20, 2024
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April 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I find that one thing that suddenly occurs to new parents after their first child is born is that they have to think of a name. Not for the kid. You can just name him after a relative or something. And Hashem gives you ruach hakodesh for that anyway. I’m talking about picking out names for yourself. You can’t just name yourself after a dead relative.

“Well, my grandfather always called his father Granpappy, and I was named after him. So I guess I’m Granpappy.”

A lot of parents let their kids decide what to call them. They wait until their kid starts babbling, and whatever the kid’s first words are, that’s what they go with.

This is how I ended up with my kids calling me Waaah.

Ok, maybe not. You can’t really leave it up to the kid, because who is he to decide? You’re going to have plenty of kids after him, iy”h. They don’t get a say?

“Why do we call him Dada? My friends think it’s weird.”

“I don’t know. I was one. I didn’t settle on the name.”

“Who did?”


Maybe you should put it to a vote.

Chances are, the baby’s not even trying to name you—he’s just babbling. But as a first-time parent of what you can only assume is a genius, your choices are to assume that he’s making up a name, or try to find a word in the dictionary that he can possibly be referring to.

“He’s saying, ‘Dada.’”

“What’s that?”

“Apparently, it was a style of art popularized in the early 1900s.”

“Does that mean he’s a genius?”

“Probably not. According to this, ‘It’s based on deliberate irrationality and negation of traditional artistic values.’”

So maybe you should pick your own name. But you have to think carefully, because there are so many different names for fathers—Abba, Tatteh, Totty, Daddy, Dad, Father, Papa, Pops and all the variations thereof. Also, according to my Yiddish Haggadah, some kids call their father “Tatteh Leben.” Is “Leben” part of the name, or is it like a term of affection?

So I looked it up. Apparently, it’s a liquidy yogurt snack.

And all these variations make life confusing. It’s always awkward talking to other people’s kids when you’re not sure what they call their father. I always find myself tripping over variations.

“So when your… Totty? Abba? Daddy?” and the kid is standing there giving me a blank look, and I’m like, “Um, you can jump in any time here. Am I even close?”

I personally am Totty, which is Yiddish, but with an extra “ee,” and my wife is Mommy, which is…well, every language. Women have it easier here. Every language has some form of “Mama.”

But you also have to realize, as a first-time parent, that if this is your parents’ first grandchild, they’re also stressing about what they’re going to be called.

Well, actually, if it’s their first grandchild, they probably don’t even want to think about it, because it means they’re a Bubby! Or a Bobby. Or whatever. Leave them alone.

But grandparents actually have it more difficult, because not only are there variations, there are numerous ways to spell and pronounce all those variations. They can be Zaidy, Zeidy, Zighty, Zeideh… And I think, when I’m a grandfather, I want to be Ziti. Then I can move down to Miami and be Baked Ziti.

And meanwhile, my kids at some point had a Bobby, two Bubbies and a Bubbe. And that wasn’t even all their grandparents. The fact that people are living longer these days makes things even more complicated, b”H. What do you call yourself as a grandfather when your father is baruch Hashem still alive? I have a friend who told me that when his siblings started having kids, his grandmother graduated to being called “Big Bobby,” like she’s running a mafia family, and his kids have taken to calling his mother “Little Bobby.”

You also want to have some coordination with your spouse, so you could be like a set. Or not. Whatever. I think at some point, as a grandfather, you kind of get sick of people picking your name for you.

“I don’t care if you’re Savta. I’m Zaidee.”

But then you have to wonder about coordinating with your grandchild’s other grandparents. Is it worth it? Because you have to realize here that, iy”H, each of your kids is going to bring a second set of grandparents into the family, many of which will come with names already in place. How are you going to coordinate with six other sets of grandparents when you can’t even coordinate with each other? Unless you pick names that no one else will, like Ziti. Except that Ziti’s taken. You can’t have it.

Your other option, of course, is to actually go with a weird spousal combination, such as Savta and Zaidee, or Zighty and Oma, or Big Bubby and Grandfather. Hopefully no other couple will go with that weird combination, and it will give your grandkids some way to identify you. They can identify you as a group.

The other good news that you first-time fathers might not realize, when you wake up that first night, covered in sweat, realizing you haven’t picked out a name for yourself, is that you don’t have to come up with this in time for the bris.

“V’ykorey sh’mo b’Yisroel…Avraham ben…Dada.”

You have some time. Most kids don’t start talking within that first week. Even your little genius. So we’ll continue talking about this next week.

By Mordechai Schmutter

 Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].


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