One of Hollywood’s classic leading men from the 1930s-1963 was Cary Grant. An interviewer once told him, “Everyone would like to be Cary Grant,” to which Cary replied, “So would I.” He was actually born Archibald Alexander Leach in Horfield, Bristol, England.
In addition to choosing a writing pseudonym, entering the Witness Protection Program or taking on a more appealing stage name, there are many reasons people change their names. Although Shakespeare wrote that a rose by any other name would be as sweet, I agree with L.M. Montgomery’s character, Anne, who said this in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. “…I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
My mother grew up being called Mary Ibbeth when other children had trouble pronouncing Elizabeth. My brother called me Mayno until he could say Marylin. Mary Ann Evans wrote under the name George Eliot to be taken more seriously than women writers of her time. And Mark Sinclair changed his acting name to Vin Diesel. I assume it’s for VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and DIESEL (a type of gas used in a diesel engine) which fits with FAST AND FURIOUS.
When I was growing up, almost all my friends hated their names at some time or another, and we’d talk about the names we’d rather have. All of us ended up sticking to our given name, or shortening it to a nickname. One of my favorite examples of choosing a significant name is by Patricia Briggs in RIVER MARKED. “Mercy is not a proper Indian name.”… “Rash Coyote Who Runs with Wolf … We could shorten it to Dinner Woman.”
I once thought that if I had to change my name for some reason, I’d use my first nickname, Mayno, and add my mother’s (and my daughter’s) middle name, Elizabeth. It just didn’t feel right. You know what they say about a rose—or a thistle—by any other name.