Going pseudonymous or pseudonymouse?

Opinion  |  Dean Johns
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | A young woman in the community college creative writing class I’m currently tutoring has asked my opinion on whether she should use her real name to identify herself as the author of the blog she’s considering starting, or a pseudonym.

My initial response to her, in light of the fact that she sometimes writes stuff that is so risqué as to be socially or professionally risky, is that she should consider going pseudonymous, or, in light of the fact that she’s an unmarried female, pseudonymiss or ms.

Or, even better, to go what I suppose could be called binonymous/miss/ms by starting two blogs. One under her real name for her more conventional or ‘respectable’ writing, and the other under a pseudonym, pen name, or perhaps even more appropriately considering its purpose would be to keep her identity as the author of her raunchier stuff safely under wraps, porn name.

But she responded that, though she could see some sense in this suggestion, she was far from willing to write and publish under a pen, porn or any other name but her genuine or given one, as nobody would know who she was if she had the good fortune to get famous.

At this point I not to persist any further in giving her the advice she’d asked for, keeping to myself the obvious observation that this early in her career it might be a mite premature to worry too much about fame.

And not bothering to argue that Eric Blair didn’t fare too badly fame-wise as the pseudonymous ‘George Orwell’, or Samuel Clemens as ‘Mark Twain’, or Mary-Ann Evans as ‘George Eliot’, to name just a few of virtually countless examples of writers who achieved fame in the past under fictitious names, and their many successors who continue the practice today.

I also drew the line at making the obvious point that, however many writers have achieved fame despite adopting pseudonyms, they are they are probably a small minority compared with their real-name peers, and an even smaller minority compared with, say, actors and other performing artists.

For example, it’s hard to imagine that a girl with as homely moniker as Frances Gumm would have become a star of stage and screen if she hadn’t been pseudonymed Judy Garland. Or Marion Morison making it big without a change to John Wayne, Alan Konigsberg to Woody Allen, Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan, and Issur Danielovitch to Kirk Douglas.

Politicians, too, have been known to get in on the act too, with Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, for instance, having opted for the much racier ‘Stalin’.

And the ancient Greek philosopher named Aristocles at birth has for over 2,000 years been known to the world by the nick-name possibly given him by one of his teachers in childhood, ‘Plato’...

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