A pseudonym (Greek: false name) is a fictitious name used by an individual as an alternative to their legal name (whereas an allonym is the name of another actual person assumed by one person in authorship of a work of art; e.g., when ghostwriting a book or play, or in parody, or when using a front such as by screenwriters blacklisted in Hollywood in the '50s, '60s, and '70s).

In some cases, the pseudonym has become the legal name of the person using it.


Pseudonyms in print

When used by an author, a pseudonym is also called a pen name (or in French nom de plume.)

Some authors use pseudonyms for a variety of reasons; for example, to experiment with a new genre without the risk of upsetting regular readers. One author may have several pseudonyms depending on the genre. This use of pseudonyms is especially common if the new genre is of a somewhat risqu nature; such was the case of Pauline Rage, the pseudonym under which an editorial secretary with a reputation of near-prudery published Histoire d'O (Story of O), an erotic novel of sadomasochism and sexual slavery.

Occasionally, a pseudonym avoids overexposure. Robert Heinlein often had two and sometimes three short stories in one issue of a magazine; the editor created several fictitious authors so that readers would not realize this.

In other cases, a pseudonym protects its user from persecution for publishing unpopular opinions.

Throne name

In many monarchies, the prince starting his reign chooses his official name to be used hence, which may differ from his (birth) name till then; sometimes he selects one of his existing christian names, sometimes even a completely different one. Even if he doesn't chose to change his name, mounting a throne implies a numeral, and in the case of a personal union this often means using different numerals in distinct states (for example, King James, who ascended to the English throne while already ruling Scotland, was King James I in England but King James IV in Scotland). The same is true of the newly elected Pope, where it fits just as well in the monastic tradition of chosing a new religious name when entering orders.

The choice of an existing name may simply be a matter of tradition or intend to honour a specific predecessor, and /or emphasize the hereditary legitimity of succession, or may actually convey a programme or intention.

Nom de guerre

Pseudonyms are adopted by resistance fighters, terrorists and guerrillas for various reasons: to make enquiries more difficult, to seek and create an aura of mystery, to protect their families from reprisal, etc. The expression nom de guerre ("name of war") is often used for such pseudonyms (though this expression is rarely, if ever, actually used in French). It is occasionally used as a stylish substitute for nom de plume.

Noms de guerre were frequently adopted by recruits in the French Foreign Legion as part of the break with their past lives. Pseudonyms used by some members of the French resistance were integrated into their last names after World War II; for instance, Jacques Delmas, alias Chaban, became Jacques Chaban-Delmas.

Within Communist parties and Trotskyist organisations nom de guerres are usually known as party names. This took hold not only because revolutionaries were often persecuted by states, but also in the case of Trotskyists, by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Some of the more famous noms de guerre include:

Some famous party names include:

Pseudonyms in entertainment

When used by an actor, performer, or model, a pseudonym is a stage name or screen name.

Actors—and others in show business—rarely use a pseudonym to disguise themselves. The new name is intended to build a distinct, visible, and improved persona, in most cases. In some, it will help to separate the public persona from the private life, but with today's ubiquitous and intrusive media (paparazzi, q.v.), a change of name will be little help, and will become an item of gossip in itself.

John Wayne, building a reputation as a tough guy, felt that his given name, Marion Morrison, did not connote the image he sought to assume. Stan Laurel, born Arthur Stanley Jefferson, was apparently happy to be known as Stan Jefferson until he realised that it had thirteen letters.

In many cases, a screen name was constructed simply because a studio executive did not like the actor's real name. Today, the most common reason for a performer to adopt a pseudonym is that someone else has already achieved fame with that name. Performing arts guilds (SAG, WGA, AFTRA, etc.) enforce rules on the use of names formerly registered for credits, generally refusing to allow an exactly similar name to be used again.

Most hip hop artists prefer to use a pseudonym that represents some variation of their name, personality, or interests. Prime examples include Ol' Dirty Bastard (who was known under at least 6 aliases), Ludacris, LL Cool J, and Chingy. See List of hip hop musicians.

Other pseudonyms

Others in public life have adopted pseudonyms for many reasons. In the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, it was established practice for political articles to be signed with pseudonyms, the most famous American example being the pen name Publius, used by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, in writing The Federalist Papers. Malcolm X, the civil rights campaigner, (born Malcolm Little), adopted the 'X' to represent his unknown African ancestral name. Many Jewish politicians re-adopted Hebrew family names on return to Israel, dropping westernized versions that may have been in the family for generations; Golda Meir, for example, was born Golda Mabovitz in Russia, and lived in USA before emigrating to Palestine; she adopted her Hebrew name on becoming a government minister in 1956.

Famous pseudonyms of people who were neither authors nor actors include:

On the internet, pseudonymous remailers utilising cryptography can be used to achieve persistent pseudonymity, so that two-way communication can be achieved, and reputations can be established without linking a physical identity to a pseudonym.

Users on Namespaces such as Wikipedia also often use a pseudonym instead of their birth names.

See also

External links

de:Pseudonym eo:Pseŭdonimo fr:Pseudonyme id:Pseudonim it:Elenco di pseudonimi nl:Pseudoniem no:Psevdonym pl:Pseudonim ro:Pseudonim ru:Псевдоним sv:Pseudonym


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