Definition of Pseudonym

A pseudonym is a fictitious name or an alias used by a person instead of his or her real name. Pseudonym is a derivative of a Grecian term, pseudonymous that means false names, while the Latin term alias is also used for the same purpose that means “another time or elsewhere.” In literary devices, however, it means a name that literary people often use to write on their works instead of their real or original names. It mostly differs and sometimes even shows a man as a woman or a woman as a man. The reasons could be different; legal, personal, or even national.

Other than literature, some people may also use a pseudonym for some legal reason instead of using their original names. Another interesting phenomenon is using collective pseudonym names such as Carolyn Keene or James S. A. Corey and Eric Hunter. Yet another pseudonym is a pen name that is called nom de plume in the French language. Mostly, publishers advise their authors to use pen names instead of their real names.

Strategies to Coin Pseudonym

  1. Using different likeable names
  2. Using nicknames
  3. Using abbreviations of nations and countries
  4. Using first and last letters of names as combinations
  5. Using relational properties of names
  6. Abbreviating the original name
  7. Using placement or status as pseudonyms
  8. Using just a surname or family name
  9. Using professional or technical terms

Famous Pseudonyms

  1. Original name of Aristides was William Lloyd Garrison
  2. Original name of Arkan was Zeljko Raznatovic
  3. Original name of Billy the Kid was William Bonney
  4. Original Name of Pordenone was Giovanni Licinio
  5. Original name of Utisz is Istvan Orosz
  6. Original name of Ulay is Frank Uwe Leyseipen
  7. Original name of Aramis in Three Musketeers is Henry d’aAramitz

Examples of Pseudonym in Literature

Example #1

Federalist Papers

The common example given in the literature is that of The Federalist Papers. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, the Federalists, wrote and published this paper to propagate their ideas and political opinions. However, instead of publishing their names, they just published them under Publius, a pseudonym, giving them anonymity as well as exoneration from the responsibility. In response, Anti-Federalist Papers also appeared under several pseudonyms, while these papers, too, stayed anonymous as none of them seemed to be the definite authors of some papers.

Example #2

The Case of Bronte Sisters

Some female authors such as the Bronte sisters also used pseudonyms. They happened to live in the 19th century. They took pseudonym names because the patriarchy of those times dominated the literary scenes, and the female or femininity intrusion into the literary world was spurned. Therefore, The Bronte sisters used pen names. For example, Anne Bronte, a Bronte sister, used Acton Bell, a pen name, to publish her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Similarly, Charlotte Bronte adopted the name of Currer Bell, while Emily became another Bell, Ellis Bell.

Example #3

The Case of Romain Gary

This happened in the French literary world. Romain Gary was a very popular and well author. However, it suddenly occurred to him to adopt some other pseudonym and he used Emile Ajar as his pen name for books. He has already won prestigious awards for writing books. However, when he published a new book under the new name, Emile Ajar, he again won Prix Goncourt award and the jury could not differentiate whether he is the same Romain Gary.

Example #4

Case of Lewis Carroll and George Orwell

Two other great pseudonyms or pen names replacing original names appeared in the world of English Literature. Lewis Carroll used Charles Lutwidge Dodgson as her pen name when writing the famous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The same happened with Eric Arthur Blair, who is still popular with his pen name, George Orwell after he published, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Example #5

Historical Cases

Some historical figures, too, adopted different pseudonyms. For example, Caesar Augustus, who was a Roman emperor, was actually Gaius Octavius. However, he adopted the name of Caesar Augustus, and Caesar was later adopted by his successors. Similarly, Mata Hari, a dancer, adopted this name though she was actually Margarethe Zelle. She became a popular spy agent during WWI and adopted this name.

Functions of Pseudonym

Pseudonym functions as a substitute for the writers as some writers do not want to expose their real names. It also works for those who want to hide their identity while some want to change their names and try something new. It also gives writers a sense of having a fresh start. It especially helps the people when they feel persecuted or fear that they would be subjected to torture and illegal disappearances. Therefore, pseudonym gives them a false identity under which they can work freely and express their opinions.

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