Post # 1
I have a friend who is having her first baby in December,first grandchild as well.
Her mom has decided that her grandma name should be “Mammy”. Now, we are all whiter than wonder bread and from the American South. I don’t know if they actually realize the potential connotations of the Mammy name. If you don’t know, it was most frequently used as a term for black nannies of white children-not just during the period of American Slavery but well into the 20th century in some places in the south. Think Aunt Jemiman or Gone with the Wind. It was definitely a stereotype of the large jolly black woman with her kerchief taking care of the masters children.
I don’t think they are trying to mean anything like that by it, but if you google “Mammy” the stuff that comes up makes it pretty clear it’s not really a term of endearment. It’s all minstrel show black face or the Gone with the Wind character. But do I say something to them or not?? They aren’t stupid or ignorant people by any means but I can’t believe if they knew the history they would choose THAT name for the grandmother…
What would you do??
Post # 2
I have no poker face so if I were in your situation this post wouldn’t even exist because I probably would have just blurted out how inappropriate that is.
So yeah, I would say something to my friend and hope that she tells her mother to choose something else.
Post # 3
hannahshope : First of all it’s not your grandmother so it’s not your business. I suppose you could point it out, but how do you know that’s not what her own great grandma went by once upon a time? What about taking back the word to mean grandma? You know, like taking back slut and bossy and whatever people keep going on and on about. It’s just a name, most people will never even hear it.
Slightly similar sidenote: Someone posted on facebook that the “do your ears hang low” ice cream truck song was actually a very racist song. I was curious and looked it up because how is that possible? And hell yeah it was, with different lyrics and a cartoon to boot. But guess what? If he hadn’t gone on about it, no one would ever know that or know what the ‘original’ words were. That crap gets perpetuated when people won’t just freaking let it go. So let it go.
Post # 4
- Wedding: September 2012 - Southern California
I would say something. It’s embarrassing for the grandmother, but also the child, even though all parties are likely saying it in innocence.
Post # 5
skunktastic : Taking back the word doesn’t really work if you’re not part of the marginalized group the word was used against. i.e. you don’t see (straight) men “taking back” the word slut, you know what I mean?
To the OP, yeah I would definitely be “yikes” about this, but since it’s not your grandmother, I don’t know that you can do much about it. Is your friend uncomfortable as well? If so, surely she can explain to her mother. After all, it may be the grandma’s “name” but it’s her child using it. My parents didn’t choose a name to be called when my niece was born.
Post # 6
There’s probably more responses chewing me out at the moment, I haven’t refreshed but I did look more into it. Honestly I figured it was a name like “mommy” that had gotten bastardized by the south and then became a stereotype after that. It appears that it was always for black women, though not actually a negative stereotype (from the people giving the name, at least). While I am still on the side of “for heaven’s sake stop dredging up the past to ruin the future” I can see that it’s really not a great choice. I’d still stay out of it though, unless it was my own parent. They are from the south. Surely they know already.
ETA: I don’t see “sluts” taking back the word slut either, for what it’s worth. I see typical women who look to be offended and for some reason want to bare themselves in public in order to take it back. But I do get what you’re saying all the same.
Post # 7
hannahshope : I say let your friend know, without judgement. At least then you’ll know they are making an informed decision.
I am australian so not very familiar with historical american racial slurs and stuff. One of my dear friends I used to call “Niglet” which was a progression of being called piglet from winnie the pooh and then devolved into funny variations and this one was the one that stuck. A friend heard me call him that and pulled me aside and calmly let me know that this was once a known term used for a baby/child as a slur to young POC I was horrified! I had never heard that and it just didn’t occur to me. Of course I never used it again, and I appreciated the calm heads up, as clearly it was just a coincidence, especially since my friend is white.
Post # 8
My fiance’s grandmother is called Mammy… I had never heard of it before and honestly thought it was something they made up. Seriously! Until I heard the original term and it’s meaning on television. I was quite shocked. I brought it up to my fiance and he had no idea either. So it’s possible they may not know. Can you bring it up casually or drop the facts the next time it’s mentioned?
Post # 9
Agree youngbrokebride : they may just not know about this, and it’s probably better if they do, especially if you live in the South. I wasn’t aware of stereotype/archetype either until I googled it (yikes) and I would definitely want to know that if I were her.
Post # 10
PP have the racial side covered and like most, I agree that I’d mention it to your friend.
I’d like to add that I personally would not be happy with a grandparent wanting a name that is so close to being mommy. Obviously that’s up to your friend to be okay with or not.
Post # 11
skunktastic : I actually have, such as “slut walks” as part of Take Back the Night etc. as a part of fighting against rape culture. But the word was also your example so…? Anyway, I certainly wasn’t trying to chew you out, just explain a misconception about taking back words to clarify that it wouldn’t apply to OP’s situation.
Post # 12
Perfectionist : I’m in Australia so not aware of the racial connotations, but definitely raised an eyebrow at choosing a name so close to “mummy”. Especially since it will probably be years before you can really hear the difference between mummy/mammy from a child. If she hasn’t got a problem with it, obviously it’s fine, but my mum would get a huge eye roll from me if she suggested that 😜
Post # 13
Maybe its regional? Mammy is a very common “grandma” name where I live (prodominately amish and mennonite communities). I can literally think of 7 different mammies in my life. They typically go hand in hand with Pappi. I personally would have had no clue that this was a taboo subject without reading this thread.
I don’t think it would hurt to educate your friend on the apparent origin of the word but ultimately it is up to her and her mother.
Post # 14
Mammy is what several women in my family are called as grandmothers, in Ireland it’s very normal for grandmothers to be Mammies.
I have never heard of the origin before, and now after looking it up, I will forever cringe when my family gets called that. I’m 99% certain none of the women in my family know the connotation, as I didn’t, so I wouldn’t assume the grandmother in your scenario knows either. I would certainly mention it with kindness before the baby is born, as after hearing the origin of that word I would most certainly not think it is appropriate to use.
Post # 15
I’m seriously side eying those who live in the American South NOT knowing what the word Mammy actually refers to. Really?