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10 Interesting Things to Know About Author’s Pseudonyms

A pseudonym is defined as a fictitious name used by an author to conceal his or her identity. Another term for this is a “pen name”. People have been using pseudonyms for many years. The current rage of “screen names” is a modern version of pseudonyms. How many real names do you know for the screen names that you communicate with daily? Pen names have been used for various purposes over the years. Some of these include:

1. A pseudonym may be used by two authors writing together like Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee writing as Ellery Queen.

2. Male romance writers may use pseudonyms in order to get female readers.

3. Some authors use a pseudonym to write a different sort of literature. The mathematician Charles Dodgeson wrote fiction as Lewis Carroll. One of my favorite romance authors, Nora Roberts, writes her futuristic murder mysteries as J.D. Robb. I read them both, but not all her fans do.

4. Some female writers used male pseudonyms to get their writings published, especially in the Victorian era. Mary Ann Evans wrote as George Eliot. Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin wrote as George Sand. The Bronte sisters originally used pseudonyms partially to hide their identities from their neighbors, who were characters in their books. Charlotte was Currer Bell. Emily was Ellis Bell. Anne was Acton Bell.

5. Another way to hide the gender of the author is to use a name that is neither male nor female, like S.E. Hinton or J.K. Rowling.

6. Some authors just want to hide their identity. Does anyone know who Lemony Snicket is?

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7. A publishing house may use one pseudonym for several authors writing the same series. Examples include Watty Piper, Victor Appleton and Franklin W. Dixon. The series “The Saint” continued under the author Leslie Charteris long after the original author had stopped writing the books.

8. There are “authors” who’s names suggest that the books themselves are autobiographical, like the Nick Carter novels of the 1960’s.

9. And who can forget the great Dr. Seuss, who was born as Theodor Seuss Geisel.

10. Pseudonyms are also used by actors (stage names), soldiers (nom de guerre), radio DJ’s, musicians, nuns and monks (devotional name) and even Popes.

Many of the people who know the real me know that Maryellen Smith is not my real name. When I started writing on Associated Content, I was concerned about using my real name. Or, as I put it to my friends, I am a chicken. I thought about the names that I had used over the years when I answered the phone at my office. I chose Maryellen Smith because “she” has been with me the longest.

When I first opened my office in the current town I live in, I had a receptionist who used to work with the hunt people. They had a fictional person named Maryellen Susan Smith (MESS) who was always responsible for anything that went wrong. She was never available at the moment, but it was convenient to blame things on her.

Being a female physician, I learned that, if I answered my own phone and the patient on the other end of the phone knew it was me, I would end up giving out lots of free advice. I would also end up stuck on the phone for a long time. I needed to be someone else. Thus, Maryellen was born.

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This has proved somewhat difficult for people who come to the office looking for her. She’s always off or on an errand. She has started getting mail. I tried to retire her several years ago and replace her with Ginger Snapp. Snapp is a last name around here that I thought was amusing with the first name Ginger – like the cookies. However, Ginger never stuck as well as Maryellen. She left after a few years and Maryellen returned.

Of course, you could say, just don’t answer your own phone. And I really try not to do so. But my mother taught me manners, and one of them was that a ringing phone needs to be answered. Sometimes there just isn’t anyone else around to answer it. It could be important. (OK, I am a bit obsessive compulsive. I’ll admit it.) It could be my kids or my Mom.

Now if someone could just explain to me where the kids in the band and on the sports teams get their names for each other, I would be happy.