Bubbie – A Cultural Education

Monday night board meeting.  As Co-Chair of the Adult Education Committee I gave our report which is divided into What We’ve Done, What We Are Doing, and What is Planned.  What we are doing now is finalizing details for the next event in November.  It is when I gave that information that I got in trouble.


Mic in hand I reported that on Saturday evening, November 11, at 7 p.m., author Russel Lazega would speak about his book “Managing Bubbie”, a book about his relationship with his grandmother, and that refreshment would follow the presentation.


That’s when I got into a bit of pronunciation trouble.  I pronounced it as it looked – BOO-be.  After some immediate giggles I was corrected and told, by two members who come from the other coast, that it was pronounced BUB-e, and of course it was about his grandmother – that is what you call a grandmother.  Really?  I’ve never heard that one.  Wow, what a cultural experience.


I’d seen the word Bubbe on a jar of pickles and thought it was the name of the person who was pictured was on the jar.  I guess not.  I’d read a paragraph describing the book “Managing Bubbie” but that didn’t make it clear that it wasn’t someone’s name.  I should have read a bit further.


Where my mom comes from grandmothers are some version of MaMaw, MeMaw, MaMoo, or sometimes Big Momma (remember Cat On A Hot Tin Roof?). In San Pedro where I grew up amongst Italians, Sicilians, and Croatians, grandmothers were Nana, or Nona.  Among my friends who are grandmothers they are a version of MaMaw, or granny, or grandma. Not a Bubbie anywhere.


Help me out here.  My cultural reference is 98% American Southern. Seriously. Mom’s family settled in northern Mississippi in 1834, and my dad’s family settled in the Natchez area when they came from Sicily before and after World War I. If it is on the east coast, up north, in “yankee” territory, it is foreign to me.  As evidence, I give you how many different words and expressions my husband and mother-in-law used that left me a bit perplexed until I could ravel out the meaning from the context.  When mother-in-law Lillian asked, “were there many people on the boulevard today?” and started talking about vehicle traffic on our main street, Whittier Boulevard, she looked at me as though I was quite daffy.  Hubby then explained that she was asking whether there were a lot of people out walking in the Uptown shopping area.  Clarification – our town only has an Uptown, not a Downtown.  When Lillian wanted a new robe she asked if we could go shopping for a new kimono.  I could go on, but that is for another blog.


So, back to Bubbie.  It is a word for grandmother.  I had no idea. Learn something new every day. Right?


What do you call your grandmother?  What do your grandchildren call you?


Every Day Is A Good Day.  VJ

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