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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hidden Identities


While serving a term in prison for embezzlement, William Sydney Porter published his first short story under the pseudonym O’Henry. With that nom de plume, he immortalized one of his guards, reportedly named Orrin Henry. This is but one of "10 Odd Stories Behind Famous Authors’ Nom de Plumes," published April 7 in the cultural news and critique blog Flavorwire.

Others include the origin of “Dr. Seuss.” When Theodor Geisel was fired from his editor-in-chief job on Dartmouth’s humor magazine, he continued to submit under the pseudonym Seuss (his middle name). The “K” in J.K. Rowling’s name doesn’t stand for Rowling’s middle name. She doesn’t have one. Her publisher thought the Harry Potter series might sell better if she disguised her gender, so Joanna Rowling added her grandmother’s name “Kathleen.”

From Benjamin Franklin to Mark Twain and Stephen King, authors have been partial to nom de plumes. Interested in the origins of well-known pseudonyms? You can visit most branches and browse a reference copy of Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 11,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins by Adrian Room (REF 929.4 R, 4th edition).


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