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What is in a Name?
by Dr. T. S. Chandra Mouli Bookmark and Share
An author may use a pen name if his or her real name is likely to be confused with that of another author or notable individual. Some authors who regularly write in more than one genre use different pen names for each. Similarly, an author who writes both fiction and non-fiction (such as the mathematician and fantasy writer Charles Dodgson, who wrote as Lewis Carroll ) may use a pseudonym for fiction writing. Sometimes a pen name is used because an author believes that his name does not suit the genre he is writing in. Occasionally a pen name is employed to avoid over exposure. 
By adopting a pseudonym a writer knows well that his own identity is at stake, for which he/she feels no remorse. Losing identity willingly by adopting a pseudonym is the greatest sacrifice one can think of.
A lot of information as discussed is available on Wikipedia, which is incorporated here. Essayist and poet Eric Blair adopted the pseudonym George Orwell for most of his books, including Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four. This was done because he felt himself to be insufficiently established in his writing career to publish under his real name. Voltaire, Mark Twain, Pablo Neruda, Saki, O.Henry, C.S. Forester J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, Annie Rice, Ayn Rand, Kamala Markandaya are some of the writers known better by their adopted names.

Who can forget the contribution of Alpha of the Plough? We all know 'Dinkar' and ‘Firaq Gorakhpuri’ are pen names of two well known Hindi writers. Gulzar and Munshi Premchand join their ranks. The reputed Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi was born as Akhtar Hussain Rizvi. Mirza Ghalib is a name that is synonymous with Urdu poetry. Born Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, Ghalib was a pen name he adopted.

It is like a pseudonym that most poets and writers adopt in the literary world, e.g. Amir Khusro. Works of C.S. Lakshmi, a famous Tamil feminist, carry her pseudonym Ambai. Nakulan is the pseudonym of T.K Dorai Swamy. Bama’s Karukku is quite famous work that throws light on the travails and tribulations of Tamil Dalit Christians. Maria Rose writes children’s fiction in Malayalam. Sanjayan, Mali, Nandanar are other alluring names. Kusumagraj embellished Marathi literature with his creative works. These are all pseudonyms chosen by the writers only.

Like wise Nagnamuni, Sowbhagya are some pen names of Telugu writers. Amarendra [late Dr C.N. Sastry] Arudra, Sri Sri, Chakrapani, Beena Devi, Manjusri, Ushasri, K.Sabha, Butchibabu, Jwalamukhi are never mentioned with their real names in print or electronic media and in literary events or meetings. Devipriya, Sugambabu, Volga also are recognized by their pseudonyms. Bapu the inimitable cartoonist, artist and famous film director carries his name with élan. Sanku, Bali belong to the group of artistes who have forsaken their own names.

Film viewers are well aware of the fact that Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, ‘Rajesh’ Khanna are chosen for the artistes for various reasons. Ashok Kumar is better known as ‘Dada Moni’ in film circles. Chintoo, Dabbu, Tabu too belong to the same category. Magazines like ‘Star Dust’ took delight in coining names like ‘Shotgun’ sinha among others in their write ups. Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Yul Brynner, Michael Caine, Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Burt Lancaster, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Geena Davis, Brigritte Bardot, Ava Gardiner, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Natalie Wood, Bo Derek are some of the pseudonyms movie lovers across the continents are familiar with.

By adopting a pseudonym a writer knows well that his own identity is at stake, for which he/she feels no remorse. Losing identity willingly by adopting a pseudonym is the greatest sacrifice one can think of. It is an act of supreme self abnegation. Some people who are enthusiastic of earning a name for themselves as writers, perhaps never seem to understand the value of self-effacement implied in a pseudonym. In their anxiety to display information at their disposal, they try to expose writers with a pseudonym which is akin to the attempt of disrobing Draupadi. Though it may sound harsh, subtle nuances of writing are not understood by such friends.

What kind of name or fame creative writers aspire for? ‘Fame’ is a shallow word and is as transient as a radiant soap bubble. Adopting a pseudonym may be considered a constant endeavour in re-defining one self. At times it suits a public servant avoid pinpricks for his/her frank exposures in the functioning of the system. We all know how whistle blowers are targeted in recent times. So, a writer chooses to put across his ideas gently, unobtrusively, at times anonymously by selecting a pseudonym. It enables one get feedback without coming into the open.
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Comments on this Article

Comment This article is indeed very informative and encouraging. I stand to gain a lot of information on several popular personalities who are more popular in their pseudonyms. In Tamil, there was a writer Ra.Ki.Rangarajan with popular weekly Kumudam who wrote different types of stories in different names like Krishna Kumar, Mohini, T Duraisami and also as Ra.Ki Rangarajan.

G Swaminathan
07/04/2019 08:21 AM

Comment I am beholden to you for your kind words,sir.Best regards.

T.S.Chandra Mouli
10/21/2012 14:20 PM

Comment Nicely written with explanations using logics.

10/21/2012 13:39 PM

Comment Thanks,Sunil ji.

T.S.Chandra Mouli
09/09/2012 09:22 AM

Comment As usual very interesting and scholarly---the vintage Mouli Sir.
Enjoyed every bit of it.
---Sunil Sharma

09/08/2012 23:53 PM

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