Monday, February 1, 2010

A post by any other name would be received as sweet(ly)

Moving right along with musings on identity, I’ve decided to take a nom de plume. Or pseudonym. Or pen-name. I think it depends on how pretentious I’m feeling. I’m not entirely sure why. I think I kind of just like the idea. Or perhaps I have delusions of grandeur that people will stumble upon my blog and it will become the next new exciting thing. And then, of course, I wouldn’t be able to reveal my real name. I’m really just staying a step ahead.

Or maybe it’s because I never get to have fun names. I never really had any nicknames that stuck. My family has strange near-bastardizations of my name with which they affectionately call me on occasion, but I’m not sure that really counts.

And a pen-name feels so literary. Especially as a woman, there’s a history to it. By using a nom de plume am I forging a connection with the great female writers who came before me? Probably not. I’m not so sure George Eliot would find my blog particularly enlightening. There’s no societal reason for me to feel the need to hide my “true” identity. Unless of course this is it and the identity associated with my name is false. How’s that for turning things around? At BMC one of the favorite sayings is “sexuality is fluid,” but maybe identity is where the real fluidity comes in.

As previously mentioned, I am quite possibly the most indecisive person to traipse across this earth. So I made up my mind to have a pen-name. Great. Now what’s it going to be? And there’s the dilemma. Turns out though, I didn’t have to resort to baby-naming books. The internet is an amazing thing. Not only are there pseudonym generators, there are “preposterous pen-name generators.” As previously mentioned, names have a lot of sway over me. In addition to finding a combination that I feel suits my pseudonym needs, I found some of the most preposterous pen-names ever. I don’t know where they came from, I don’t know if people use them in earnest, but I spent a great deal of time examining these pen-names and I must say: some of them are truly preposterous.

But could you really take a person with this name seriously? And would your perception of them (through their writing, of course) be different depending on your knowledge of the name’s status as a nom de plume? Do you gain or lose respect for Citronella Ellis Trystmaker if you know that she chose that name and not that her parents were really just unfortunately cruel? If Tansy Luxotica Bixworth just got stuck with great aunt Tansy and dear old cousin Luxotica’s name-related legacy, will we give her the benefit of the doubt?

Names can have a great impact upon perception, both of ourselves and others, but that generally isn’t very fair, is it? I mean, we don’t get to pick them, and yet whether or not a name “suits” someone is kind of a big deal. I just searched “baby names” in Amazon and got back 23,413 book results. 23, 413! Objectively speaking, how different can each of those results be? There are only so many names out there. Of course, with the latest celebrity craze of giving children ridiculous names, the number is going up.

And names do cycle in and out of popularity. There will always be Lauras and Bens, but it might be a while before we have a bunch of little kindergarten-aged Ingrids and Harolds running around.

At some point I really was going to expound upon the use of pen-names by women writing during times in which it was not socially acceptable, but I somehow seem to have lost my way. I have stumbled about the township of names for long enough to end up still within the city limits, but quite far on the opposite side of the tracks from whence I started.

I don’t know how this pseudonym thing will work out, but I’ll try some things once.

In conclusion I think it only fitting to leave you with some other preposterous pen-names generated by my newly discovered procrastination tool:

Our Lady Bonbons, Princess Breathless Croissant, Bruschetta Catalonia Pantysmock, Breme Buttress Rowling, Bird Dragondeer le Monde, Helena Barbarella Papier, Petulance Butterworth Brantonworth, Beatrice Mimi Breastwhistle, Ondine T. Bordello, Priscilla Velour Madhattington, the list goes on and on.

One day I will contrive of a farewell suitable enough to precede my new nom de plume. Until that day, farewell my friends, and remember to “always have a fabulous rabbit.”

~Ellery Baxendale

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