Pseudonyms are most usually adopted to hide an individual's real identity, as with writers' pen names, graffiti artists' tags, resistance fighters' or terrorists'noms de guerre, and computer hackers' handles. Actors, musicians, and other performers sometimes use stage names, for example, to mask their ethnic backgrounds. Employers sometimes require employees to use assigned names to help sell products: for example, a company that does business mostly in one country but locates a call center in another country may require its employees to assume names common in the former country to try to draw a more positive or less negative reaction from customers.
A pseudonym may also be used for purely personal reasons when an individual feels the context and content of the exchange offer no reason, legal or otherwise, to provide their given or legal name.
A collective name or collective pseudonym is one shared by two or more persons, for example the co-authors of a work, such as Ellery Queen, or Nicolas Bourbaki.
The term is derived from the Greekψευδώνυμον (pseudṓnymon), literally "false name", from ψεῦδος (pseûdos), "lie, falsehood" and ὄνομα (ónoma), "name". A pseudonym is distinct from an allonym, which is the (real) name of another person, assumed by the author of a work of art. This may occur when someone is ghostwriting a book or play, or in parody, or when using a "front" name, such as by screenwritersblacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s. See also pseudepigraph, for falsely attributed authorship.
A pen name (or "nom de plume") is a pseudonym (sometimes a particular form of the real name) adopted by an author (or on the author's behalf by their publishers). Many pen names are used to conceal the author's identity. One famous example of this is Samuel Clemens' writing under the pen name Mark Twain. A pen name may be used if a writer's real name is likely to be confused with the name of another writer or notable individual, or if their real name is deemed to be unsuitable. Authors who write both fiction and non-fiction, or in different genres, may use different pen names to avoid confusing their readers, as in the case of mathematician Charles Dodgson, who wrote fantasy novels under the pen name Lewis Carroll and mathematical treatises under his own name. Some authors, such as Harold Robbins, use several literary pseudonyms.
The Brontë family used pen names for their early work, so as not to reveal their gender (see below) and so that local residents would not know that the books related to people of the neighbourhood. The Brontës used their neighbours as inspiration for characters in many of their books. Anne Brontë published The Tenant of Wildfell Hall under the name Acton Bell. Charlotte Brontë published Shirley and Jane Eyre under the name Currer Bell. Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights as Ellis Bell.
Some female authors used male pen names, in particular in the 19th century, when writing was a male-dominated profession. In contrast, some twentieth and twenty first century male romance novelists have used female pen names. A well-known example of the former is Mary Ann Evans, who wrote as George Eliot. Another example is Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, a 19th-century French writer who used the pen name George Sand. Jane Austen used the pseudonym "A Lady" as the author of her first novel Sense and Sensibility. A few examples of male authors using female pseudonyms include Brindle Chase, Peter O'Donnell (wrote as Madeline Brent) and Christopher Wood (wrote as Penny Sutton and Rosie Dixon).
Some pen names are not strictly pseudonyms, as they are simply variants of the authors' actual names. The authors C. L. Moore and S. E. Hinton were female authors who used the initialised forms of their full names in order to disguise their gender and attract various types of readers, without creating expectations about the content of their work due to some readers' gender-related stereotypes.C. L. Moore was Catherine Lucille Moore, who wrote in the 1930s male-dominated science fiction genre, and S. E. Hinton, (author of The Outsiders) is Susan Eloise Hinton. Star Trek writer D. C. Fontana (Dorothy Catherine) wrote using her abbreviated own name and also under the pen names Michael Richards and J. Michael Bingham. Author V.C. Andrews intended to publish under her given name of Virginia Andrews, but was told that, due to a production error, her first novel was being released under the name of "V.C. Andrews"; later she learned that the publisher had done this deliberately to increase her books' appeal for male readers. Joanne Kathleen Rowling published the Harry Potter series under the shortened name J. K. Rowling. Rowling also published a detective novel The Cuckoo's Calling under the pseudonym "Robert Galbraith".
A famous case in French literature was Romain Gary. Already a well-known and highly acclaimed writer, he started publishing books under the pen name Émile Ajar. He wanted to test whether his new books would be well received on their own merits and without the aid of his established reputation, and they were. Similarly, Ronnie Barker submitted comedy material under the name of Gerald Wiley.
A collective pseudonym may represent an entire publishing house, or any contributor to a long-running series, especially with juvenile literature. Examples include Watty Piper, Victor Appleton, Erin Hunter, and Kamiru M. Xhan.
Aliases, fictitious business names, and dummy corporations in criminal activity
Criminals may use aliases, fictitious business names, and dummy corporations (corporate shells) to hide their identity, or to impersonate other persons or entities in order to commit fraud. Aliases and fictitious business names used for dummy corporations may become so complex that, in the words of the Washington Post, "getting to the truth requires a walk down a bizarre labyrinth" and multiple government agencies may become involved to uncover the truth. While governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin used a private Yahoo! e-mail account to skirt government transparency laws. While director of the EPA, Lisa Jackson set up a false identity named Richard Windsor in order to use an official epa.gov email account that was not linked to her office. "Richard Windsor" was awarded certificates for completing training in ethical behaviour and e-mail management.
Noms de guerre
In Ancien Régime France, a nom de guerre (a French phrase meaning "war name") would be adopted by each new recruit (or assigned to him by the captain of his company) as he enlisted in the French army. These pseudonyms had an official character and were the predecessor of identification numbers: soldiers were identified by their first names, their family names, and their noms de guerre (e.g. Jean Amarault dit Lafidélité). These pseudonyms were usually related to the soldier's place of origin (e.g. Jean Deslandes dit Champigny, for a soldier coming from a town named Champigny), or to a particular physical or personal trait (e.g. Antoine Bonnet dit Prettaboire, for a soldier prêt à boire, ready to drink). In 1716 a nom de guerre was mandatory for every soldier; officers did not adopt noms de guerre as they considered them derogatory. In daily life, these aliases could replace the real family name.
More sophisticated cryptographic systems, such as anonymous digital credentials, enable users to communicate pseudonymously (i.e., by identifying themselves by means of pseudonyms). In well-defined abuse cases, a designated authority may be able to revoke the pseudonyms and reveal the individuals' real identity.
People of ethnic minorities in some areas of the world are sometimes told by an employer to use a pseudonym that is common or acceptable in that part of the world when conducting business, as some people might prefer a person of similar ethnic origin or similar background to people of foreign background or foreign ethnicity.
People seeking privacy often use pseudonyms to make appointments and reservations. Those writing to advice columns in newspapers and magazines may use pseudonyms.
Establishment of identity
The practice of assigning patrilineal and matrilineal names to offspring for the purpose of tracing ancestry or determining inheritance and other relationships may be giving way to a 21st-century preference for self-assigned or quality-assigned names as replacements for birth given names. A common practice of many indigenous peoples was to assign a clan or shamanic name to members in puberty and post-puberty rituals. It is becoming more common for modern authors and others to elect to take names better suited to their own tastes, characters, or other aspects of personal description or preference. "In most legal systems, a name assumed for a non-fraudulent purpose is a legal name and usable as the person's true name...". This is distinct from, though not exclusive of, employing a pseudonym for the purpose of concealment.
Members of a marginalized ethnic or religious group have often adopted stage names, typically changing their surname or entire name to mask their original background. The film-making team of Joel and Ethan Coen, for instance, share credit for editing under the alias Roderick Jaynes.
Stage names are also used to create a more marketable name, as in the case of Creighton Tull Chaney, who adopted the pseudonym Lon Chaney, Jr., a reference to his famous father Lon Chaney, Sr. Conversely, Nicolas Cage adopted this stage name instead of his real name, Nicolas Kim Coppola, in order to conceal the appearance of nepotism as the nephew of famous director Francis Ford Coppola. Chris Curtis of Deep Purple fame was christened as Christopher Crummey. In this and similar cases a stage name is adopted simply to avoid an unfortunate pun.
Some stage names are used to conceal a person's identity, such as the pseudonym Alan Smithee, which is used by directors in the Directors Guild of America (DGA) to remove their name from a film they feel was edited or modified beyond their artistic satisfaction. Actors and actresses in pornographic films use "noms de porn" to conceal their identity as well as to make it more outrageous and memorable (e.g., Dick Nasty). In theatre, the pseudonyms George or Georgina Spelvin, David Agnew, and Walter Plinge are used to hide the identity of a performer, usually when he or she is "doubling" (playing more than one role in the same play).
Elton John (whose given name was Reginald Kenneth Dwight, until it was legally changed in 1972) is known for his use of aliases under various writing and production credits throughout his career. Amongst the many are: Ann Orson; Lord Choc Ice; William A. Bong (a pun on "bill-a-bong", an Australian term for "pond"); Reggae Dwight, and Frank N. Stein.
For a time, the musician Prince used an unpronounceable "Love Symbol" as a pseudonym ("Prince" is his actual first name rather than a stage name). He wrote the song "Sugar Walls" for Sheena Easton under the alias "Alexander Nevermind" and "Manic Monday" for the Bangles as "Christopher Tracy" (he also produced albums early in his career as "Jamie Starr").
In 2009, British rock band Feeder briefly changed their name to Renegades so they could play a whole show featuring a setlist in which 95 percent of the songs played were from their forthcoming new album of the same name, with none of their singles included. Frontman Grant Nicholas felt that if they played as Feeder, there would be an uproar that they did not play any of the singles, so used the pseudonym as a hint. A series of small shows were played in 2010, at 250- to 1,000-capacity venues with the plan not to say who the band really are and just announce the shows as if they are a new band, Grant later hinted it was really Feeder to the fans on their website, which caused a series of rumours that suggested the band changed their name permanently, although "Some people got it straight away", but as intended[by whom?] got people talking.
In many cases, hip-hop artist prefer to use pseudonyms that represents some variation of their name, personality, or interests. Prime examples include Ol' Dirty Bastard (who was known under at least six aliases), Diddy (previously known at various times as Puffy, P. Diddy, and Puff Daddy), Ludacris, Flo Rida (his name is a tribute to his home state, Florida), LL Cool J, and Chingy. Black metal artists also adopt pseudonyms, usually symbolizing dark values, such as Nocturno Culto, Gaahl, Abbath, and Silenoz. In punk and hardcore punk, singers and band members often replace their real names with "tougher"-sounding stage names, such as Sid Vicious (real name John Simon Ritchie) of the late 1970s band Sex Pistols and "Rat" of the early 1980s band The Varukers and the 2000s re-formation of Discharge. Sid Vicious did not take his name to seem tough but rather because he was anything but Vicious (several sources[specify] have indicated that Sid himself hated this nickname). Punk rock band The Ramones also had every member take the last name of Ramone. Rob Crow of the rock band Goblin Cock chose to go by the name "Lord Phallus" during the release of the band's albums. A similar practice occurred in hardcore with musicians taking the names of their bands, like Kevin Seconds of 7 Seconds and Ray Cappo of Youth of Today who, for a while, billed himself as Ray of Today. The Norwegian electronic duo Röyksopp's pseudonym for their Back to Mine album was Emmanuel Splice.
In many cultures, people go by several different nicknames over the course of their lives, to reflect important parts of their lives. In some cases, a rite of passage or puberty marks the transition from a "milk name" to an adult name. Enrollment in school is another occasion where a child's formal or legal name would begin to be used.
In many monarchies, the sovereign is allowed to choose a regnal name by which he or she will be known. This official name may differ from his or her first name and may not even be one of his or her given names at birth.
A sovereign may choose not to use his or her first name for many reasons. Some, such as George VI of the United Kingdom (born Albert Frederick Arthur George), may wish to make a connection between their reign and that of a previous sovereign (in his case, his father, George V). Others, such as Queen Victoria (born Alexandrina Victoria of Kent), may never have been known by their original first name.
In Japan, the Emperor's personal name is never used as a regnal name: he is referred to by the name of his regnal era, and after his death his name is officially changed to that of the era. It is a severe breach of etiquette in Japan to refer to the current Emperor's personal name either in speech or in writing unless absolutely required by law. This does not apply to those outside Japan, which explains why Japanese and non-Japanese use different names for the Emperor. For instance, Emperor Hirohito was known within Japan as Emperor Shōwa.
In Eastern Orthodoxy, a monk or a nun is given a saint's name by their bishop or abbot at the time of their tonsure as the new monk's or nun's first act of monastic obedience. In addition, Orthodox monks and nuns never use their last names, except for legal reasons or for disambiguation. This may also have changed to indicate their brotherhood e.g. a monk at Kykkos Monastery in Cyprus may be known as Κυκκότης.
It is a long standing tradition in the Western Occult tradition to assume a pseudonym or motto. For instance Alphonse Louis Constant wrote under the name Eliphas Levi, William Wynn Westcott wrote under Frater Sapere Aude, and Aleister Crowley wrote under the name Frater Perdurabo.
Some practitioners of Wicca adopt a "craft name" or "witch name" upon initiation for use within their community. This may be to create a name of their own choosing as opposed to their given name, or to provide anonymity to those who are in the "broom closet." Often a craft name will reflect their personality, interests or feelings.
Members of sexual minority groups have often assumed different names to protect their identity, or to represent a different persona. "Scene names" are still common within the BDSM community, and the use of the Internet for social networking and information exchange among kinky and polyamorous people means that many are often known more by their computer "handles" than their legal names.
Within Communist parties and Trotskyist organisations, noms de guerre are usually known as "party names" or "cadre names". While the practice originated during the revolutionary years after World War I, to conceal the identity of leaders, by the 1950s and 1960s, the practice was more of a tradition than an identity-concealment strategy. Some famous Communist Party names include Lenin (Vladimir Il'ich Ulyanov); Stalin (Yosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili); Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronshtein); Max (Yakov Sverdlov); Nahuel Moreno (Hugo Miguel Bressano) and Hua Guofeng (Su Zhu).
Pseudonyms are also adopted for other reasons. Criminals often took on (or were given) pseudonyms, such as famed con man Jefferson R. Smith, who was known as Soapy Smith.
Comedians and others performing hoaxes often adopt aliases for their performance role. A notable instance is provided by the comedian and hoaxer Rodney Marks, who in public performances as a corporate comedian has used over one hundred different aliases indicative of the hoax features.
Mervyn's founder Mervin G. Morris was advised by an architect to spell the name of his store chain with a Y instead of an I because the signs would be more pleasing to the eye.
It is not uncommon for a pseudonym to be adopted by a racing car driver. Reasons for this may include keeping their parents or family unaware of their participation in such activities, so members of royalty (who may be otherwise prohibited from such a dangerous activity as racing) can participate, or as a way to remain in relative anonymity. Three-time F1 champion Jackie Stewart's son Paul used a pseudonym when he joined a British racing school for just this reason. Of the many instances of racing drivers assuming false names, two more are Louis Krages, who raced under the name "John Winter" to keep his mother from finding out about his "habit", and former F1 driver Jean Alesi. Alesi, born in France but of Italian descent, went by his real given name of Giovanni until teasing from classmates led him to adopting a more French first name.
Pseudonyms should not be confused with new names that replace old ones. Some Jewish politicians adopted Hebrew family names upon making aliyah to Israel, dropping Westernized surnames that may have been in the family for generations. David Ben-Gurion, for example, was born David Grün in Poland. He adopted his Hebrew name in 1910, when he published his first article in a Zionist journal in Jerusalem. In the 1960s, black civil rights campaigner Malcolm X (né Malcolm Little) took the "X" to represent his unknown African ancestral name that was lost when his ancestors were brought to North America as slaves, and then changed his name again to Malik El-Shabazz when he converted to Islam.
ψεῦδος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus project
ὄνομα, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus project
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