By Any Other Name

The sidebar of Naomi Chana’s blog has led me into strange, airy and meta-intellectual realms of blogging. I’m not sure I would want to blog that way myself - and I’m not sure I’m not already too meta for my own tastes. I’ve seen the warblogs, but I don’t think I could bring myself to opinionate on politics here - it’s just not interesting enough, and if speaking truth to ignorance doesn’t interest me, it’s unlikely to interest ignorance, either.

In her latest entry the ever-meta Naomi gets involved in a thread of the Higher Blogging about pseudonymity, in which she explains the origin of her own real-name pseudonym. Here I go and do likewise:

When I started writing fanfic, I was also forced by circumstances into pseudonymity - I was looking for a job and otherwise trying to be respectable, and this hobby (which frightens us, I dare say, far more than it frightens the real world) wasn’t one I wanted traced back to the legal me. Fortunately, I had a pseudonym ready at hand.

That’s not to say it isn’t my name, though. I’m holding a one-woman revival of Portuguese naming practices here in the New-But-Aging-Fast World, and why shouldn’t I? My own mother had no idea what her grandmother’s legal name was until I told her - all her life she knew her by a different given name and surname. She’s almost got me disbelieving what I know very well to have been her uncle and great-uncle’s (they were the same person) legal name. Yes, it’s difficult to believe that anyone could be named Alphonse in the twentieth century, but technically, it was the nineteenth century when first her great-grandfather gave out that monstrosity (along with an otherwise unused surname) to an official of the U.S. government. That was the last anyone but census-takers heard of Alphonse S—-.

So if I give an otherwise unused surname to my readers to protect myself, I’m far from the first Pereira to change names. In fact, I chose Pereira over several other family names because it was also the foremost of the classical Portuguese pseudonyms. I’m a hopeless romantic that way, and the alliteration didn’t hurt, either.

A name is not just a label, it’s also fame and reputation. If I give a biblical first name that doesn’t otherwise appear in my paper trail, and if people call me by it, who’s to say it isn’t “real”? Was the name by which my mother still remembers her grandmother her real name, or was it the forgotten name I found in a dusty old tome at the Massachusetts Bureau of Vital Statistics? Isn’t Marilyn Monroe still Marilyn, whatever her born name?

The right to pseudonymity is ancient and inviolable, and for some of us, it’s even ancestral and natural.

4 Responses to “By Any Other Name”

  1. Lori Says:

    Your link to Liz is actually a mangled Jintian link. Think you lost a widget in the code when you moved it.

  2. Jemima Says:

    That one wasn’t my fault - it’s the usual browser-blogger corruption thing that seems to afflict all browsers and all bloggers (but especially Christine on diaryland).

  3. Gemma Says:

    I disagree with your article. A name is something significant. History–classical, biblical, political–shows us that a change in name represents a vital shift in one’s life. Oftentimes a name-change represents the conferral of responsibility upon one whose role is of new importance, particularly of societal influence. Although in Marilyn Monroe’s case this name-change was self-appointed, she certainly did have an impact on society, both in our nation and across Europe. I think it would be a mistake to over-look the significance of her name change because it was “Marilyn the person” who changed, who impacted history when she took on the new name “Marilyn.”

  4. Jemima Says:

    I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with in my entry.