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Nicknames

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 3/5/2003

Nicknames Transcript

Getting a nickname is one thing, but the way they stick around is another, as Shelley Fraser Mickle remembers. 

My friend Irene Randolph hated her name. Not the Randolph part, but the Irene part. She said it made her sound like an old woman, when in fact she was in the same third grade as I was. For a while, I couldn’t see Irene’s point. After all, her name brought her an awful lot of special attention, since I’d never seen her around a group of grown-ups when one of them didn’t start singing that song, “Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams.” If I could sing, I would, but since I can’t, I won’t. But still, you get the idea. 

By the time we were in the sixth grade, Irene, said that if she heard that song being sung one more time by anybody in her presence, she was going to tear her hair out. Now, Irene’s hair was something to behold. The second thing you noticed was the color: It was a shade similar to creamy butter. But the first thing you noticed was that it was so curly it ran over her head like… well, there’s no sense in not saying this like it really was: It ran over her head like a big pot of cooked noodles had been overturned over there. 

By the time we hit sixth grade, nicknames were so rampant in our school that if you didn’t have one, well… I guess I ought to say that if you didn’t have a nickname, it was pretty much like you’d been wiped off the planet. The boys were naming each other things like Bruiser and Ace, Buster and Pee Wee. We girls were changing each other to Missy and Sandy, Bobbie and Taffy. Someone called me Shelley Bean, and that stuck. That’s the thing about nicknames – you can’t give one to yourself, someone else has to do it. 

One day before school when a bunch of us were standing out in the hall, Bruiser, Ledbetter and Pee Wee Taylor looked at Irene Randolph and called her Noodles. By the time we hit high school, most of our nicknames had rubbed off. But Irene Randolph went all the way through college and beyond as a Noodles. In fact, whenever I hear from her now, she always writes me on her business stationary. Across the top as a letterhead it says, “Noodles, the best little restaurant this side of Paris.” Yes, it’s not often that someone can say they have lived up to their nickname. 

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