Definition of Pseudonym
Pseudonym, derived from the Greek “pseudonymous” and the Latin “alias,” is a fictitious name used by individuals instead of their real identity. In literature, it’s a tool writers employ to conceal their true names, often blurring gender lines in the process. The motivations for using pseudonyms vary greatly, encompassing legal, personal, and even national factors. Beyond the realm of literature, pseudonyms find utility for legal purposes, and collective pseudonyms like Carolyn Keene, James S. A. Corey, and Eric Hunter serve as examples. Additionally, there’s the concept of the pen name, known as “nom de plume” in French, which publishers often recommend for authors. Writers are offered a cloak of anonymity through these alternative identities, allowing them the freedom to explore various literary avenues without being limited by their true names. Pseudonyms, thus, stand as a versatile and intriguing aspect of personal and professional identity in the literary world and beyond.
Strategies to Coin Pseudonym
- Using different likeable names
- Using nicknames
- Using abbreviations of nations and countries
- Using first and last letters of names as combinations
- Using relational properties of names
- Abbreviating the original name
- Using placement or status as pseudonyms
- Using just a surname or family name
- Using professional or technical terms
- Original name of Aristides was William Lloyd Garrison
- Original name of Arkan was Zeljko Raznatovic
- Original name of Billy the Kid was William Bonney
- Original Name of Pordenone was Giovanni Licinio
- Original name of Utisz is Istvan Orosz
- Original name of Ulay is Frank Uwe Leyseipen
- Original name of Aramis in Three Musketeers is Henry d’aAramitz
Examples of Pseudonym in Literature
The Federalist Papers is a famous example. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, who were Federalists, wrote these papers to share their political views. They didn’t use their real names but chose the pseudonym “Publius” to keep their identities secret and avoid blame. In reaction, Anti-Federalist Papers also emerged under different fake names, and those authors remained hidden, too, since it was unclear who wrote specific papers.
The Case of Bronte Sisters
The Bronte sisters, who lived in the 19th century, used pseudonyms because back then, men controlled the literary world, and women writers were not well-received. So, they used pen names. For instance, Anne Bronte, one of the sisters, wrote her novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” under the name Acton Bell. Charlotte Bronte used Currer Bell, and Emily chose Ellis Bell as their pen names.
The Case of Romain Gary
In the French literary scene, there’s a tale about Romain Gary. He was a famous author, but one day he decided to use the pen name Emile Ajar. Even though he had already won many awards for his books, when he published a new one under the name Emile Ajar, he won the prestigious Prix Goncourt award again. The jury couldn’t figure out if he was the same Romain Gary or not.
Case of Lewis Carroll and George Orwell
In English literature, we find two more interesting pseudonyms. Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” went by the pen name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Similarly, Eric Arthur Blair chose to be known as George Orwell when he wrote “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” These pseudonyms allowed them to create iconic works while keeping their true identities hidden. Lewis Carroll’s whimsical world of Alice and George Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future has left a lasting impact on literature, even though many may not realize the true names behind these famous pen names.
Throughout history, notable figures have taken on pseudonyms for various reasons. Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, was originally known as Gaius Octavius but assumed the name Caesar Augustus, a title that was later inherited by his successors. Likewise, the renowned dancer Mata Hari was born as Margarethe Zelle. During World War I, she transformed into a famous spy and embraced the pseudonym Mata Hari. Pseudonyms have left a mark on history by creating new identities and achieving notoriety.
Functions of Pseudonym
Pseudonyms serve several functions, primarily offering writers a shield for their true identities. Some authors prefer anonymity, wanting to keep their real names hidden. Others use pseudonyms to escape their own identity or embrace something entirely new, providing a sense of rejuvenation and creativity. Pseudonyms also provide a protective cover for those who fear persecution, torture, or unlawful disappearances. In these cases, adopting a pseudonym offers a veil of safety, allowing them to express their thoughts and beliefs without fear of retribution. Whether it’s about privacy, reinvention, or safety, pseudonyms play a vital role in allowing individuals to operate freely and express themselves under a different, albeit fictional, identity.