"Grandmother" in Different Languages
August 21, 2018
I grew up living with my maternal grandmother, Yim Ai-sung. In Korean, we refer to grannies as “halmoni.” Mine immigrated to the United States from Pyongyang, Korea in the early 1900s. In 1916, she met my grandfather, the Rev. Yim Chung-koo, who died in his 50s in 1939. So I only knew my halmoni as a widow. She lived with my family in Los Angeles. If anyone were to ask me how I learned about Korea history and Korean culture, it was certainly through her. She not only cooked Korean food, but spoke and taught us how to read Korean. Halmoni also took us to the Korean Methodist Church every Sunday, and told us stories about our ancestral homeland.
The only time my halmoni didn’t live with us was during my high school years. I would visit her nearby apartment and watch soap operas and TV dramas together. In particular, she liked to watch “As the World Turns” and “Dr. Kildare.” Actor Richard Chamberlain made her swoon while she smoked her cigarettes. She was an expert seamstress, and sewed most of my Halloween costumes over the years, including an angel’s gold satin dress.
I think of her frequently, even though she passed away in the mid-60s. In fact, I still use the same brass Korean ladle that she used to serve mandoo, a Korean dumpling soup. If ever I had to flee from the house in emergency, it’s the first item I would grab. As the late Anthony Bourdain says: “When someone serves you their food, they are sharing their story, their history.”
To view a list of the word “grandmother” in different languages, go to: