In my mission for proper spelling and punctuation, I asked Google, “What is the proper way to spell 'grandmother' in Portuguese?”

I expected a simple answer, but what I stumbled upon, instead, was a colorful online debate of Portuguese people from the SouthCoast, the Azores and everywhere in between.

Apparently, there are a few options, but with the help of our listeners, Michael and Maddie got to the bottom of it.

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The Facebook Post That Started It All

When I searched online for the proper spelling, a Facebook post caught my eye from The Portuguese Kids, a comedy group that takes the humor of growing up in a Portuguese household and brings it to life on stage. The group posed the same question to their audience, and it attracted hundreds of comments.

“Avó is the only correct word for Grandma and Avô for Grandpa,” said one user.

Another wrote, “I'm Portuguese and (have) lived in my country all my life. Never, ever have I heard the word ‘vavó.’ ... Please stop killing a very beautiful language.”

Michael and Gazelle were astonished by the latter comment. Even I, the Italian one of the crew, was shocked because I have heard vavó used constantly on the SouthCoast.

“No such thing as Vava or Vavo, that’s made up words that don’t exist; they don’t even say that in Portugal or Azores!” said another user.

Have we been saying it wrong on the SouthCoast this entire time?

Here’s the Correct Answer

As Michael, Gazelle and I poured through comment after comment, one caught our eye that seemingly put the pieces together.

“Grandmother = Avó. Baby talk is Vovó. Grandfather = Avô. Baby talk is Vovô,” a commenter said.

Then, a listener chimed in on the Fun 107 app which made the confusion perfectly clear.

They said, “Think of it this way. ‘Avó' is the proper word … (but) we don’t say 'Grandmother' when talking to Grandma. We say, ‘Grandma.’ Therefore, Avó = Vovó.”

Basically, Vovó and Vovô are the informal versions of Avó and Avô.

So, I learned a valuable lesson today. Whether you say, 'Vovó' or 'Avó' for 'Grandma,' it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you are calling her.

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