The Strange Stories Behind Famous Writers' Pen Names

More

How authors came up with pseudonyms like Dr. Seuss, O. Henry, and more

flavor_Benjamin_Franklin_1767_post.jpg

Wikimedia Commons

Pen names speckle literary history and our modern bookshelves. If you own anything by George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, or George Eliot, you own a piece of the epic chronicle of pseudonyms. Authors change their names for many reasons, but historically, one of the strongest reasons to use a pen name was to hide your gender. Back in the day, women writers were forced to use male pseudonyms. Despite much more equality between the sexes in present day, the tradition remains in the use of initials instead of first names, which immediately alert the male reader to "cooties"—something boys avoid at all costs. But gender isn't the only guiding force when picking your pen name. We've collected ten strange stories behind famous writers' nom de plumes for your consideration.

This post also appears on Flavorpill, an Atlantic partner site.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Kim Parker is a writer at Flavorpill.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

What makes a story great? The storytellers behind House of CardsThis American LifeThe Moth, and more reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In