Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday #113 "Pseudonyms"

Pseudonyms have always been something I worried about, since I have one of those unfortunately impossible to pronounce names.  I'll always remember the first day of senior year in High School, where I was taking 9 classes, and in every single one, the teacher started out by reading role, and would always get about 1/4 of the way down the list and start something like "kei-ruh dee..." and then give up, and I would raise my hand.  "That's me."  They'd ask me how to say it.  "Car-a (the low back 'a,' like in "Car") Dee-juh-ral-uh-moe."  Then they would blink at me in astonishment.  By the time the ninth class rolled around I as so exhausted and tired of this farce that when my last teacher looked at my name and looked pale, I started in on giving the pronunciation, and messed it up.  I had forgotten how to pronounce my own name, after so many people butchered it.

(Why don't we effing teach IPA in school?  We are a mixed society!  We have names from all over the place!  Make everyone learn IPA and this won't HAPPEN.)

So the problem with taking a pseudonym is two-fold.  1) it seems like it's capitulating to the lack of education in this country, and 2) it's an identity thing.  It's like when I went vegetarian and still ate fish, because I come from a family of fishermen, and not eating their catch would be violating my own family's identity.

I mean, I'm probably going to be publishing academic papers and such under my real name, (since it doesn't matter if you can pronounce an academic's name, and my entire field knows IPA), so if I'm writing books about princesses and such as well, (well, actually I'd really enjoy it if they were connected, since I'm not ashamed of either thing), it might be better for my professional standing if I had a pseudonym.  I could use my mother's maiden name, my middle name, (where the M. comes from), but it's a very... Anglo-Dutch name, and the fact is, Mediterranean genes are stronger than Northern European ones, and Mediterranean culture is too.  So the truth is, I don't want a pseudonym.

But the question wasn't whether you wanted one or not.  It was what would it be.  So, my choice?

C. Digger (suggested by cousin)

It sucks pants, but it's still my name, sort of.  And that's important to me, because I want to be able to eventually give some people in my family a book with my name on it, not anyone else's.  After that, changing genres, or other issues, sure, I'll think about it again.  But I want that first one to be mine.

EDIT:  Okay, everyone else is having a lot more fun with this!  Colin Smith used an anagram, which is really awesome.  I've decided that if I need one, I should have the pseudonym

Marid Alicoroga - "the jinni who asks for garlic"

This does not improve pronounceability though.


  1. So, you've told us how your last name is pronounced--how is it actually spelled? I'm curious to see if I would join the blinking-bewildered crowd. :)

    I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and I have rarely come across as good a reason as yours for a vegetarian to eat fish. I don't eat fish, and didn't even in my pre-veggie days--I just don't like the taste (or the smell). But I completely understand and respect your reason.

  2. Become so famous that you force the world to learn how to pronounce your name correctly.

  3. I'm new to your blog, so forgive me if these questions have been answered earlier. What area[s] of linguistics do you specialize in? How did you choose? I'm considering graduate study in linguistics myself and wondering what academic choices other linguists have made and where those tracks of study lead.

  4. When it came to choosing a surname I only toyed with family names (Coleman, Mulrennan, Moran) because I didn't want to have a name that's 100% made-up. I wanted either the forname or surname to be connected with family.

  5. Having a long, complicated, hard to pronounce last name might seem like a detriment to some people in the book world. If people can't say your name, how will they tell their friends about your book. And how will they find you and your books on electronic searches if they don't know how to sepll your name.

    While I get the reason behind simplifying last names, I've always managed to find Maggie Stiefvater's books. If your writing is great, people will simply knowing you as Cara D-something that writes really great stories.

  6. @ Colin - Once I sell a book, I'll let you know.

    @ KO - That's the plan!

    @ Robin - Ooh, Mulrennan, I like that one. But long and complicated has always been attractive for me.

    @ Kate Scott - Totally! I just remembered St-something, and found it no problem.

    @bookechoes - I'm in a formal linguistics PhD program, focusing mainly on the Syntax-Semantics interface as well as Historical Syntax. (Though right now, for some reason, I'm writing an OT-morphology paper). I picked my program half on accident, but mainly because it had Historical Linguistics, since I have a deep affection for dead languages. I might have liked somewhere with a little more Socio, and right now I'm delving into Discourse Analysis, which is underrepresented in my department, but in general I'm happy where I am.

    Unless you're really lucky or awesome at programming, grad study in linguistics means writing articles, publishing them, and teaching. Just make sure that there are a couple of people you think you'd be happy working with in the department. Odds are, one will be crazy, one will be in Japan on sabbatical for three years, and one will crush your soul. Make the 4th person your chair.

    1. Ha-ha! I'll keep that in mind about picking a chair. Thanks so much for the info and advice.

  7. I love unique-sounding names and I love people who keep their own names despite the pressure. I agree with Katharine above (KO), become so famous that they'll all have to learn it=)

    Ioan Gruffudd (hot Welsh actor) said this: "I'm determined not to lose my name. It's who I am. It has neither aided my progress nor hampered it. It's just who I am. My character. My make-up. My culture and heritage is a very rich one. So what if it's difficult for people to pronounce? We all learned how to say Schwarzenegger." I agree.

  8. The more unique and unpronounceable, the better (in my opinion). I'm sure I mispronounce tons of author's names, but it doesn't matter--so long as the writing is good enough that I want to remember their names.

  9. I like my name too. It's not even that distinctive, it's just mine! But I tried anyways on the blog. And put up a poll because I really didn't try that hard...

  10. I like Marid Alicoroga--it sounds like an exotic sorceress. Who apparently likes garlic, but then so do I.

  11. I like Marid too, and I'm wondering what she asks for garlic on. Spaghetti? Pizza? Some sort of pasta, no doubt.

    But anyway, I agree with you. I want a book with my name on it so that I can say it's mine and wave it around in - er... sign it for people. C. Digger makes me curious and makes me want to know that author.

    Needless to say, I haven't come up with a cool pseudonym (or any at all, for that matter) because I've decided to use my real name when I publish. I even asked an agent about it once and she said I shouldn't use a pseudonym because my real name works just fine for writing Victorian YA fantasy. So, that makes me happy.