New LIfe? New Name!

Imagine my surprise when I learned recently that Reese Witherspoon– she of the plucky and quirky and perfect name– was not born with that moniker.  She was born Laura Jean Witherspoon.   That started me thinking about what’s in a name and what kind of name I’d have if I could choose it freely.  Or if it were based on some summation of  my character and/or achievements and bestowed by some heavenly band of all-knowing elders.

I started researching and found that a surprisingly large number of people use pseudonyms: artists, musicians of all kinds, politicians, sports figures, writers, and now even bloggers and internet wonks.   And of course I couldn’t help delving into the secrets of the famous and nearly-so.

This name. . . . . . . . . . . . . somehow became . . . . . . . . . . . . . THIS NAME

Jennifer Anastassakis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jennifer Aniston

Tim Allen Dick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tim Allen

Gladys Leeman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kirstie Alley

Maurice Micklewhite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Caine

Thomas Cruise Mapother IV . . . . . . . . . Tom Cruise

Ed Bishop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jamie Fox

Caryn Johnson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Whoopi Goldberg

Edda Van Heemstra Hepburn . . . . . . .  Audry Hepburn

Sally Mahoney . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Sally Fields

Demetria Gene Guyner . . . . . . . . . . . . . Demi Moore

Natalie Hershlag. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Natalie Portman

Margaret Mary Hyra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Meg Ryan

Walter Willison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bruce Willis

Susan Abigail Tomalin . . . . . . . . . . . . . Susan Sarandon

Mary Louise Streep . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Meryl Streep

Susan Alexandria Weaver . . . . . . . . . . . Sigourney Weaver

Sheldon Lee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Spike Lee

Robert Allen Zimmerman . . . . . . . . . . . Bob Dylan

Abraham Stoker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Bram Stoker

Francoise Marie Arouet . . . . . . . . . . . .  Voltaire

Robert Leroy Parker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Butch Cassidy

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson . . . . . . . . . Lewis Carroll

Leslie Lynch King Jr.  . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gerald Ford

Malcolm Little . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Malcolm X

James George Janos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jesse “The Body” Ventura

Eldrick Woods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tiger Woods

Lawrence Peter Bera . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Yogi Bera

Samuel Langhorne Clemens . . . . . . . . Mark Twain

Eric Arthur Blair . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . George Orwell

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhin . . . . . . . . . . . Mother Teresa  (OK, she more earned than chose this one.)

So, I started thinking. . .  if I could choose my name today, start over. . . what would I choose?  If I were to publish under a pseudonymn, what would it be?  Which may be different from any name I’d choose for myself otherwise. . . since it would have to project an image of a sort.

The first trend you notice in the above names is drastic shortening.   Winona Laura Horowitz becomes Winona Ryder.  Chopping down the syllables.  Check.

Another trend is Anglicizing.  Making a name sound less ethnic.   Horowitz to Ryder.   Zimmerman to Dylan.   Check.

Another trend is to take the name of something you want to emulate and substitute it for a first name.   Spike Lee.  Tiger Woods.  Jesse THE BODY Ventura.  Snoop Dog.   Okay, that last one baffles me a bit, but it sure works.  Nobody forgets the Snoopster.

Then there is the taking of a name that’s already famous, like Liv Lundgren becoming Liv Tyler.  Yes, there was a family connection there, but it WAS a famous father, after all.  And what about Gerald FORD.   That was a pretty famous and popular name.

Then there are trends in names. . . like short, one syllable( Liz, Eve, Jon, Ari), or long and old fashioned sounding (Beatrice, Victor, Alexandria, Graham, etc.). . .  or inanimate objects or fruit. . .  biblical characters. . . colors. . .  Apple.  Moses.  Yes, Gwyneth, I’m talkin’ about you.  Elijah Blue, Cher’s son.   I can’t help but wonder if he’s changed it.  I never hear anything about him.  And for every rule there’s an exception. . . like William Neeson becoming LIAM NEESON. . .  going MORE ethnic, if Irish is an ethnicity these days.  Interesting.

So while I’m pondering the name thing, help me out here.  What other pseudonyms do you know that are interesting or surprising?  I started to list writers, but figured I’d get into trouble fast.   What are your favorite and most successful writer pseudonyms?  Amanda Quick has always been one of my favorites.  JR Ward certainly caught on.  Nora Roberts is world-famous, and how many of her adoring millions know “Ellie’s” real name?  (Yikes, have I even spelled it right?)

So, what name would you choose for yourself if you had to be re-named as a person?  Would that be different from a name you would choose as a writer?  If you were writing differently (you writers) what would sound perfect to you?

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10 Responses to New LIfe? New Name!

  1. Leanne Banks says:

    What a cool blog, Betina! I’ve toyed with the idea of a pen name, but haven’t needed one yet….As we all know that could change!:) It sounds fun sometimes. I would pick a last name at the beginning of the alphabet because I would hope that would put my name near the beginning of where readers are looking for books. From your list, I LOVE the switch from Gladys to Kirstie Alley!lol Getting a kick out of that!:)

    • bkrahn007 says:

      Leanne, I think your name is great for a writer of women’s fiction and romance!

      I agree that picking a name at the beginning of the alphabet would be desirable. Keep those books up at eye level! “C” names have always appealed to me. Carr, Crown, Cartier. . . hmmm. I’ll keep thinking.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Love the blog.. I knew about a couple of those people.. the Mark Twain and Malxom X names, but a few really surprised me… I have aways like the name Courtney… but now that it is assosiated with a Kardashian… I’ve changed my mind…

    • bkrahn007 says:

      Kathleen, I really love Courtney, too. And that OTHER Courtney spells hers with a “K” doesn’t she? that puts a whole different slant on it.

  3. Michele says:

    I already have my pen name in mind. Someday I may use it.

    Let’s see, for Betina… how about B-Kra? (sorry, the rapper name just popped into my head, but it has a certain ring)

  4. cindy gerard says:

    If I could change my pen name? Hum … let’s see. How about Betina or Christie or Leanne or Helen or Kylie or maybe Michele or Debra, or Kathleen, or Lois? Anything but Cindy. It seems that a lot of people name their dogs Cindy. There’s a Brady named Cindy, And Cynthia (My given name) sounds so stuffy – or is that me.
    Anyway, I’d swap with any one of your!!

  5. Cait London says:

    Lois Kleinsasser was not a name any publisher wanted, when I started writing. So I got to choose a whole new perky name at the time, Cait Logan, now London. After spelling my real last name thousands of time on the telephone, etc., I headed for simple and in the middle of the racks. I’m heading for a new one now, out of that brand, so more fun. L.E. Kleinsasser to Ellie Klein. But Reese’s name, Laura Jean, is typical south, which she definitely is, so when writing southern based characters, the double name sometimes comes into play.

  6. PatriciaW says:

    Great post. I probably should consider a pen name. Way too many syllables in mine, and I’m at the end of the alphabet. (Although I never start in the A’s myself, always somewhere in the middle.) I think shorter names have more punch and therefore are also seen as more powerful, more confident.

  7. I’m late to the party, but I believe Nora was something like Ellie Aufdembrink (sp?) when she started, but Ellie was short for Elenora. (Romance trivia is my specialty.)
    I love naming characters. You can use all the names you’ve ever thought might be cool–the names you chose when you were playing dolls or some other let’s-pretend. I remember going through a Jessica period. “My real name is Jessica, but everyone calls me Jesse.”

  8. Marta says:

    Great subject! I am sure in the bunch who is seeking a pseudo name. Some authors write under a different name according to genre.

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