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Oct 19, 2005
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Words about words

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with Anu Garg


(AL-uh-nim) Pronunciation RealAudio

noun: The name of a person, usually historical, taken by an author as a pen name (as opposed to using a fictional pseudonym).

From French allonyme, from Greek allo- (other) + -onym (name).

"She knew me under the alias Robert F. Conrad, a Pan Am first officer, an allonym I used on occasion. I was forced to maintain the nom de plume." Frank W. Abagnale; Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake; Putnam; 1980.

When one borrows the content of another's book, it's called plagiarism. But when merely an author's name is lifted, the term is allonym. Sometimes it's done for parody. When hired by someone to do so, it's known as ghostwriting.

An example of a work written under an allonym is The Federalist, also known as Federalist Papers. This collection of 85 essays about the US Constitution was written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison during 1787-1788. They chose to write under the name Publius in honor of this Roman official for his role in setting up the Roman Republic.

Some people believe that Shakespeare's works were written by various authors who used his allonym.

Writing a great novel might be a breeze but choosing what to call your pseudonym, that's not easy! You could simply call it your pen name or byname. If you wish to appear sophisticated, you might say it is your nom de plume or nom de guerre. If you reversed your own name to coin a nickname, it would be an ananym. But why not take a walk in the library, browse the spines, and select an allonym?


Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. -Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)

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