I came across a lovely phrase today in my Gaelic class, ainm cleite; ainm (pronounced anum/anim) means name, and cleite which means feather… feather name which translates as pen name, and like the French ‘nom de plume’ it derives from the use of a quill to write with.
I’ve never been tempted to use a pen name… and I suppose I haven’t needed to, unlike the Brontë who had to disguised their gender, Charlotte, Anne and Emily with male names Currer, Acton and Ellis Bell, or the two Georges, Elliot, and Sand who were really Mary Ann Evans and Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin. I haven’t had to hide my identity for political or religious reasons, or for personal safety and security. Some writers conceal their true identity because they think they will have more success with a name from a different culture, or of a different gender, or maybe they don’t like their own given name, or maybe it has associations with something distracting from their work as writers.
But supposing I did have to find another name for myself… what would I choose and how? How about using a pin and either a telephone directory or an atlas? OK, here goes… well, directory didn’t work, I don’t think the name Gamestation Weston-super-Mare will draw many readers, or the sort of readers interested in my work! Second go… Hulse, not bad, now another name to go with it… E.M., E.M. Hulse. Well, maybe but I’ll try again… I’ll do it twice for a first name and a second name… Bradley Robert… Not very inspiring, try again… Gillham Vanlaun, no I don’t think so, it really does sound made up, even if I changed it slightly to Guillaume van Laun.
Not brilliant, so let’s try the atlas… oh I’ve landed in the sea, oops in the sea again… Shelsley Walsh (that is an actual place) Ellenbrook Withersfield, two places…. maybe should just stick to Ellen Brook. One last go with a pin twice in the atlas, first name and second name… Walland Erines – Wally E. Rines? … I give up, I think my own imagination is probably much better… and actually my own name is probably even better than that!
Summary of prospective feather names:
- Gamestation Weston-super-Mare
- E.M. Hulse
- Bradley Robert
- Gillham Vanlaun
- Guillaume van Laun
- Shelsley Walsh
- Ellenbrook Withersfield
- Ellen Brook
- Walland Erines
- Wally E. Rines