Nicknames: Rean-Bean? Chick? What Was Yours?

Did you have a childhood nickname? Mine was Buzz, given to me by my dad. I dropped it in college and am sorry I did. I’m working a bit to recreate it, so this post from writer Doreen Frick hit the spot.

Take it away, Doreen!

I never really liked my nickname, but it never occurred to me to ask Mom to call me something different, something more sophisticated, something grown-up. I paid no mind, chalking it up to being part of a family of seven where nicknames were part of the territory.

My name was Doreen which became Reen-Bean, which was part of the fabric of the household just like the familiar clackety-clack of the typewriters in the den and basement, the do-re-mi- notes faithfully practiced and plunked along with that horrible piano teacher (whom we now know wasn’t so horrible– he was just depressed, and Mom thought letting him teach her kids how to play would cheer him up), the garlic and lamb wafting from the kitchen, and the groans from the sister I shared a room with when I turned on the light and woke Sleeping Beauty. Family life begets familiarity. . . and familiarity breeds nicknames.

Sleeping Beauty, aka Twinkle-toes, aka my sister Diane, never minded her nickname. Diane had movie star sunglasses and struck a killer pose for photographs that stuns me even now. She was destined for the camera.

My brother Duane was called Jack Benny (do any of us even know why?), but he probably didn’t mind, or if he did, had no idea who Jack Benny was. Dead-pan humor wasn’t really Duane’s calling, imitating President Nixon later on in life was.

Dennis, my older (and apparently mischievous brother), was Dennis the Menace (minus the suspenders and cowlick), and my sister Dawn, the youngest (and loudest), was “The Screamer.”

Poor Dawn. I guess she did scream a lot when she was upstairs in her crib, but then maybe she hated being up there all by her lonesome. I understand, but back then I wasn’t sympathetic. We older kids were threatened that if we so much as woke that sleeper from her early bedtime slumber, there would be a spanking. Or worse, we’d have to go up and get her to go back to sleep and goodness knows we wouldn’t want to do that. We’d rather be outside playing with the neighbor kids.

Well Dawn, aka the Screamer, eventually outgrew her screaming and then Mom decided to nickname her “Marilyn,” which isn’t really a nickname, it’s Dawn’s middle name. Dawn, the Screamer, was named after Marilyn Monroe. I’m not sure Dawn realized that, but alas, the reasoning behind the choosing of a middle name is not known except that Marilyn was a superstar and still alive and well when Dawn was born, and Mom gave us all middle names with either an “M” or an “S.” Maybe Mom figured Marilyn was a pretty name for a girl born at the crack of dawn during the era of the beauty of the silver screen. It is a pretty name. I’m still not sure Dawn is crazy about it though.

My husband’s name is Charles Wesley, but his dad always called him “Chick,” which I just hated. It was so, I don’t even know what, it was just so not Wes. When you have such a handsome name why would someone butcher it like that? Wes tries to explain that Chick was a common name on his street. There was a “Chicky” Bell, and a Chick somewhere else down the line. Chick was a common nickname for “Charles,” but for me it denotes a fella with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his shirtsleeve, a pair of loafers and a slicked-back greasy head of black hair and droopy eyelids, leaning against a jalopy, killing time. I could almost draw a “Chick” right here:

Or not.

Mom never gave Wes a nickname. She called him “Charles.” Like in the Little House on the Prairie TV show, when Mrs. Ingalls would look at Michael Landon and say, “Oh Charles,” my mom would tease my husband and say, “Oh Chaaaarles.” And it was super cute. She clearly loved Wes, and he her.

But I remained her Reen-Bean until one day many long years later when I tucked her in for the night. Mom couldn’t quite put her finger on my name. She quietly called out as I left the room, “Good night first-born daughter.” And I tell you right then and there I felt my heart break in two. I wanted to whisper, “Reen-Bean.”

Thanks, Doreen.

Now onto our readers! What was your nickname? Do you miss it? Does anyone still use it?

Photos: Doreen and her two sisters do a lot of reminiscing, and once in a while, call one another by the nicknames their folks used. In the middle photo, Dawn is on the ground looking up. Doreen, with darker hair, is the oldest. Diane is next to Dawn. Their creative mom, Mary Kirban, is dressed for church in the photo at the top.

Here’s Doreen now:

She’s all grown up and lives in Nebraska with her husband. Follow these links to read more of her work:


10 thoughts on “Nicknames: Rean-Bean? Chick? What Was Yours?”

  1. I didn’t really have a nickname but when I was in elementary school my Dad used to call me Twinkle Toes because I couldn’t keep my feet still. I took tap lessons and was always tapping which drove my family crazy–especially at the dinner table!

  2. My parents both had nicknames and felt their children should not have any. Of course giving me such an unusual name a nickname was forever suggested. To family and friends I am Har said Boston style, almost silent r. I knew several Chick (Charles) from my youth!

    1. Hi Haralee, Well having previously lived in the Boston area for more than 10 years, I got a chuckle out of the Boston pronunciation of “Har”!!

  3. I got Cinderella from my mom. My dad called me Leelee, which I still despise. As I grew older, I got stuck with the likes of Stretch and Too Tall; oh the trauma of being six feet tall and a girl! I tolerated Cinderella until the day that my mom decided to call my daughter that, too. I immediately took offense. Not really sure why, though.

  4. I never shortened Janet to Jan, but there were several people along the way (including my husband) who just shortened it automatically, and that was okay. My sisters (We were 3 girls, Rosemary, Janet and Sarah) and I tended to call each other Rosie, Jannie, and Sarie–That seems very special now that “Jannie” is the sole survivor.
    Janet T.

  5. How we see our siblings as we age, and as they “leave us” is so very special. My husband’s mom was the “sole survivor” of all her siblings, and yes I could hear from her lips and heart the way she missed them. Our siblings hold our earliest memories. . .

  6. Doreen, the ending to your post is so moving. She did stop calling you by your nickname, the one you had not really liked. But, instead referred to you by who you were in her lifetime’s memory and perhaps remembrance of who you were over time, and “her first born daughter.” It may not have been a memory lapse, but instead a tribute to you. Thanks for a very interesting and beautifully written post.

  7. Nostalgic article, Rean-Bean, Reenie…………….ah memories. I still call you those names and always will 😉
    Love your cousin, FCV xo

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