Tag Archives: pseudonyms

A THISTLE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Wikipedia picture of Archibald Leach.

Wikipedia picture of Archibald Leach.

 

 

Ben Franklin wrote as Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, Busy Body and other names.

Ben Franklin wrote as Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, Busy Body and other names.

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.

Mom's dementia has her remembering being a child on the farm. During this visit I called her Mary Ibbeth as I read a poem about farms.  She just smiled.

Mom’s dementia has her remembering being a child on the farm. During this visit I called her Mary Ibbeth as I read a poem about farms. She kept her eyes closed, but she smiled.

Child carrying stack of books ~ statue at main library in Colorado Springs.  If you got books by Deanna Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, or David Axton, who wrote them? (Dean Koontz)

Child carrying stack of books ~ statue at main library in downtown Colorado Springs. If you got books by Deanna Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, or David Axton, who wrote them? (Dean Koontz)

The doll of Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ.  The movie role was played by Frances Ethel Gumm (aka Judy Garland)

The doll of Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ. The movie role was played by Frances Ethel Gumm (aka Judy Garland)

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WHAT’S IN A NAME?

A rose by another name...would still have thorns. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A rose by another name…would still have thorns. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

pseudonymsMG_2255

Dear Mom,

I read in the DENVER POST that the first baby born in Colorado in 2013 is named Lyrik, for his mother’s love of music. Other 2013 baby names around the country so far include Daffon, Mobley, and Sayge. In Hawaii, this year’s first baby is Quetzalli; in Kansas, it’s Xiomara Tatiana. Mark Twain was probably right: “Names are not always what they seem.”

How many times did I whine because I didn’t like my name, Mom? All around me in grade school were cute names like Kathy, Mickey, Cindy and Karen. But I was Marylin, and the confusing spelling of my name reversed the y and the i of the traditional Marilyn. Even today, if someone calls and asks to speak to “Mary Lin,” I know they don’t know me because my name is pronounced in the typical mare-lin or mɛrələn.

The majority of us go through at least one period in life when we wish we had a different name. It’s very common for children to go by nicknames or their middle names for awhile, and many writers have pseudonyms. Author Dean Koontz has had 11 pen names, including “Deanna Dwyer.” Harlan Ellison had 25 pen names, and Ray Bradbury had 17, including Hollerbochen and Omega. Politicians have succeeded (or not) with names like Frank Schmuck, Jay Walker, Krystal Ball, and Rodney Assman. Maybe it’s true what W.C. Fields said: “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

When I used to complain, once you gave me a piece of paper and a pencil and said, “What’s the name you’d rather have?” I remember coming up with some doozies that even I didn’t take seriously. You smiled and went on to other things, reminding me that it’s not just our name that makes a difference, but what we do to make a difference…that’s what counts.

You were in line with the Dakota Proverb: “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” Thanks, Mom, aka Mary Elizabeth. (I’ve always loved your name, Mom, and your nickname, too…Mary Ibbith)                                                                                                               tracks in mud

"We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." ~Dakota Proverb (with thanks to St. Joseph"s Indian School calendar

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” ~Dakota Proverb (with thanks to St. Joseph”s Indian School calendar)

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, names