A recent Ask MetaFilter question asks “Do you call your grandfather Bumpy?”

I’ve known a couple people in my time who called their grandfathers by the title Bumpy [lastname]… I assumed that it was Southern (or maybe Texan) and that it was uncommon, but not completely unheard of. A short office conversation now has me wondering if it’s just some weird thing that a couple of the people I know have in common.
1. Do/did you call your grandfather Bumpy?
2. If so, where did you grow up?

As a grandfather myself (though one who goes by the boringly standard “Grandpa”), I am curious about this. So: are you familiar with this usage? If so, where are you from (or where is the user from)?


  1. It suggest to me the sort of toddler mispronounciation of “Grandpa” which is then taken up by the family as an affectionate term. Toddler misrpronounciation as “Grumpy”,however, would probably not be adopted.
    The only possibility that suggests itself to me is some connection to The Deerslayer or Last of the Mohicans.

  2. Well, Sid Schwab managed to turn Mildred into Moomump for whatever that’s worth.
    I’ve never used anything but ‘farmor/-far’ and ‘mormor/-far’ – never ‘bedstefar/-mor’. Oddly enough I’ve almost always been on a firstname basis with my parents which I’ve since come to realise is rather unusual.

  3. I’m from Texas and I’ve never heard Bumpy before.

  4. Well, my youngest niece calls my dad “Pocky,” which sounds like a related concept. (He wanted to be called Grandpa, but alas.)

  5. I’ll let you all know in a year or two.

  6. The only “Bumpy” I’ve ever heard of is Bumpy Kanahele, a Hawaiian nationalist who opposes the Akaka bill.

  7. My father is now known as Pumper because this was how his first grandchild rendered the word “Grandpa”.
    The grandfather of his wife (my step-mother) was known as Bumper for exactly the same reason.
    We are English, my step-mother is Scottish.
    I presume in terms of developing speech production in babies “b” and “p” sounds come before “g” sounds.
    But what about grannies? Are there any Bannies? Pannies? I’ve never heard of any. Strange.

  8. A schoolfriend of mine (south UK) called his grandfather ‘Bomper’… for similar reasons as above.

  9. Andrew Dunbar says

    But what about grannies? Are there any Bannies? Pannies? I’ve never heard of any. Strange.
    Yes my great grandmother was always known as Banny. She would’ve been 3rd generation Australian of Scottish extraction.
    I’ve always considered it to be derived from an ancient toddler mispronunciation of “Granny”.

  10. rootlesscosmo says

    The Houston Oilers’ coach in the 1970’s was “Bum” Phillips; the name was glossed as a clip of “bummer,” his baby sister’s version of “brother.”

  11. I remember reading a bit a while back on the typical development of early-childhood phonetic discrimination/production — specifically the notion that a very rudimentary initial set of sounds (one plosive for all of “p” and “b” and “g” and “t”) trees out over a period of months/years into increasingly specific individual sounds — and that got me thinking about the variants people have reported over on askme.
    Since “that’s how the kid mispronounced ‘grampa'” seems like such a common, plausible explanation, it’d be interesting to see someone put together a model of e.g. Likely Nicknames For Grandpa based on what’s known about phonetic development. (As well, perhaps, from what’s known of adult biases in lay interpretations of Cute Kid Speech.)

  12. The variation “Bompa” is also to be found at

  13. Angelique says

    My brother and I called our grandmother BamBam becaue I couldn’t say Grandma. Grandpa was just Grandpa, though, and I have no idea why. I doubt I could say it right, but no nickname stuck with him. I and my parents are from California, but BamBam was from Arkansas.

  14. My daughter calls her (very good natured) grandfather “Grumpy” which he seems to like. It stems from very early mispronunciation…. I’ve never heard “Bumpy” before.

  15. David Harmon says

    Josh Millard: There’s also another issue tangled up with the developmental issue; Given an intermediate phoneme produced by a child, how are the adults likely to interpret it?

  16. My greatgrandfather was known as Bumpa; he was a Danish immigrant. He and his grandchildren lived in the Boston area.

  17. A whole compendium of grandpa and grandma terms here:
    (And, I’m sure you’ve heard the line that goes, “If I had known how much fun grandchildren are, I would have had them first.”)

  18. Jason Gray says

    I’m from Texas and my niece and nephew call my dad “Bumpy.” It came from my niece not being able to say “Grampa.” For a while, he was called “Grumpy,” which we all thought was hilarious. Though I’m from Texas, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone else calling their grandfather “Bumpy.” Who knew?!

  19. I’ve never heard of “bumpy”–I called my grandfather Opa (they came from Germany).

  20. David: exactly, yeah. That’s part of what I was (poorly, vaguely) handwaving toward with “lay interpretations of Cute Kid Speech”.
    (Jumping tangent from naive to willful mis-understanding of phonetic output, I wonder if lhat has covered the Hatten är din thing?)

  21. My childhood friend has a young daughter (about 7 now) who refers to her grandfather as “Buppy”–like “puppy”, only with a B. Not quite “Bumpy”, but pretty close. It was explicitly described to me as “how she pronounced it when she was little”. This is in western Pennsylvania.

  22. The only “Bumpy” I’ve ever heard of is Bumpy Kanahele, a Hawaiian nationalist who opposes the Akaka bill.
    There’s also Bumpy Johnson, Harlem mobster and cameo character in “American Gangster” – so called, though, because of a bump on the back of his head.

  23. My little brother as a child called our grandfather “bee-pah”. That was an invention of his, as far as we’re aware. It persists in the family as an affectionate term here and there, but he mostly abandoned it as he got older.
    He also rendered “Luke” as “Doo”. I guess it was the best he could do at such a young age 🙂

  24. Yes! Me and all my cousins called our grandpa Bumpy! We are from southeastern Mass.

  25. Thanks for providing confirmation of this delightful usage!

  26. As promised, I report: I am Grampa and my wife is Gramma. I decline to use an etymological spelling of grand- in these words, and so does my grandson, though he needs help to render the final /ɑ/ as “A” rather than “I”. Although he uses /aɪ/ himself, or something close to that, for “long I”, there are lots of people around him who use /a/, and most likely the distinction between /a/ and /ɑ/ is not apparent to him.

  27. As promised, I report

    A few years late, but we’ll let it go this time.

  28. I call my Grandad ‘Bumpy’ – I’m from the UK and my Grandad is a lovely, sweet man with a gruff exterior. As a toddler, I tried to call him Grumpy but couldn’t pronounce it and Bumpy stuck.

  29. John Cowan says

    A few years late

    I reported when he was six and writing “GRAMMI”. Writing final /ɑ/ as “I” was general, not specific to these words, hence my phonological explanation.

  30. GRAMMI

    Maybe Ta-Nehisi Coates’s father had the same issue.

  31. David Eddyshaw says

    Bampi is common for “grandad” in South Wales. I don’t think it’s anything to do with Welsh, though.

    (Though it does have the same vowels as tad-cu, now I think of it.)

  32. Trond Engen says

    Wierdly, that would make it the only thing that doesn’t have anything to do with Welsh.

  33. David Eddyshaw says

    True …
    Evidently the matter needs further thought.

  34. The prayer from Jonah, chapter 2 was originally in Welsh and only translated to Hebrew in the post-exilic period. Because, of course, people speak Welsh when they are in…

  35. Which brings me to English Mum and Dad. Of course these are nursery words etc., but even nursery words have some intergenerational persistence, and so are not entirely out of the reach of historical linguistics. As far as I can tell (and I haven’t checked really recently), the only modern European languages where Mama/Papa words do not have a final vowel are the Celtic languages, and English. So, yes, actually a Welsh source? Late Medieval, perhaps?

  36. Brett: Oh no you don’t.

  37. Because, of course, people speak Welsh when they are in…

    Ow! Ow ow ow ow…

  38. David Eddyshaw says


  39. David Eddyshaw says

    I recall from when I was a primary-school child in Scotland being solemnly informed by an English boy that ice cream is made out of blood plasma from Wales. It was only decades later that, in a moment of satori, I suddenly realised what he had been trying to say. (I’m not altogether convinced that he was correct, at that.)

  40. How do you say “…and then I was enlightened” in Welsh?

  41. David Eddyshaw says


  42. John Cowan says

    The English case is more complex, but mam, tad are
    ‘mother, father’; they have gone around Jespersen’s Other Cycle twice, are no longer baby talk, and consequently are subject to normal sound-change, in this case specifically the loss of final vowels in the 6C or thereabouts.

  43. Indeed; but is there an Early Modern English equivalent for the loss of final /a/?

  44. John Cowan says

    Dad < dadd < dadde, normal loss of -e. Mum/mam/mom may reflect Welsh influence or a similar chain < mamə < mama.

  45. dadde < *?

  46. very late to the party, and sidestepping the celts entirely, but for what it’s worth:

    my mother’s father was “grump”, but to his kids as well as grandchildren (and a lot of his circle of friends had family-only names as well as state names).

    and my grandmothers agreed that one would be “gramma” and the other “grammie”.

    but my honorary grandparents and my (late ex commonlaw) step-grandfather were always just called by their names.

  47. As far as I can tell (and I haven’t checked really recently), the only modern European languages where Mama/Papa words do not have a final vowel are the Celtic languages, and English
    Well, if you don’t look at the nominative, but at the form people use to address their parents, then colloquial Russian has mam and pap, with that specific endingless vocative that familiar names and name-like nouns ending in -a get in colloquial Russian.

  48. PlasticPaddy says

    I think daddy and mummy are more common, especially with the very young, also nana for granny. My family never would have been able to separate grammie and gramma reliably, so it was “Grandma X” and “Grandma Y” when necessary to avoid ambiguity.

  49. Rodger C says

    colloquial Russian has mam and pap

    I had to blink after reading that as “tat and rar.”

  50. Lars Mathiesen says

    Well, Danish doesn’t really have mama/papa words right now, though I’m sure you can find families that use them. We make do with mor [mo.ɐ] and far [fa.a] in the kids-to-parents register — teenagers emphasize the inherent glottal stops when parents are being obnoxious. The wheel will turn… but in this case it’s been sort of retrograde.

  51. Our grandson calls my hubby Bumpy, as he couldn’t pronounce hubby’s chosen name of Grumpy (stemming from Gr-Uncie, ie great-uncle) – and now Bumpy has stuck. We’re in Australia.

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