The new Allusionist live show, No Title, is on tour in New Zealand and Australia! We just added extra shows in Christchurch and Wellington; Melbourne just sold out; so hurry and get your tickets for Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin from theallusionist.org/events.
Today: three pieces about alter egos, when your name - the words by which the world knows you - is replaced by another for particular purposes.
Part 1: Doe, a deer, a female deer; and also an unidentified corpse
How did John Doe come to be the name for a man, alive or dead, identity unknown or concealed in a legal matter? Strap in for a whirlwind ride into some frankly batshit centuries-old English law.
Part 2: My Wheel Self
At their first bout of the 2019 season, the London Roller Girls talk about how they chose their roller derby names - or why they chose to get rid of one. We also hear from Queersplaining’s Callie Wright, AKA Ursa Maim-Her.
Part 3: Cover Story
The 1930s and 40s were a golden age for detective fiction, which was also very popular and lucrative. (And good for your health!) Yet writing it was disreputable enough for authors to hide behind pseudonyms. Caroline Crampton of Shedunnit podcast explains why.
FYI: there is one swear in this episode.
And, on the topic of book genres that are popular but often not respected, revisit this terrific episode featuring The Ripped Bodice romance bookstore.
“Jane Doe fought 11 years to prove that police had used her as rape bait.” Fascinating, enraging interview (CN: rape).
If you don’t want a deer-based name, try this placeholder name generator. I will be appearing in court as Lurch Schpellchek.
‘Airport security grills him every time he flies. “I have to sit in the office,” he said. “Every time.” Landlords and election inspectors view him quizzically, and prospective dates need more than a little assurance that he’s not hiding a dark past.’ The difficulty of really being named John Doe.
J.K. Rowling’s* unusual John Doe injunction - the first in British law for some 150 years? - and how forensic linguistics confirmed that she was writing as Robert Galbraith after a friend of JKR’s lawyer blabbed the secret.
It hasn’t been updated for a few years, but here’s the Two Evils database of roller derby names.
Stephen King’s alter ego Richard Bachman died suddenly of ‘cancer of the pseudonym’.
Jeanette Winterson: “Elena Ferrante’s desire to remain hidden in plain sight needed only one response: respect.”
“Since the days of the classics, some writers have concealed their identities for reasons as varied as politics and whimsy. In the 16th and 17th centuries, they took noms de plume at the drop of a chapeau. In the 18th century, Voltaire used at least 137 names. Women like George Eliot and George Sand took masculine names because the 19th century looked askance at writers of their sex.”
The Pseudonyms episode of Caroline’s podcast Shedunnit goes deeper into crime authors’ pseudonyms, in particular Josephine Tey/Gordon Daviot, and Helen Fields/H.S. Chandler.
The transcript of this episode is at theallusionist.org/transcripts/alter-ego.
The Allusionist’s 100th episode impends! If you’d like to celebrate this landmark with me, use phone voice memo or something record yourself saying the best thing you’ve learned about language from the Allusionist. Then email the recording to email@example.com. Thanks!
*Speaking of J.K. Rowling: I’m on the latest episode of Potterless podcast, examining chapter 23 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in detail. DETAILED detail. This episode is, somehow, only suitable for adults.
YOUR RANDOMLY SELECTED WORD FROM THE DICTIONARY:
London Roller Girls was the first roller derby league to be established in the UK. Visit londonrollergirls.com to find out about upcoming events - the match I saw against Oxford was thrilling, and I was surprised to find myself feeling so emotional. Thanks to Christina Dixon, AKA Brat, as well as Basher Fierce, Katie Hellvetica Black, Kate Russell and HumpMe.
Callie Wright, AKA Ursa Maim-Her, makes the podcast Queersplaining when not roller derby-ing in the USA.
Caroline Crampton makes the podcast Shedunnit, unravelling the mysteries of classic detective stories. If you’re a fan of the genre, join the new Shedunnit book club. Caroline also writes the daily podcast recommendation newsletter The Listener, thanks to which I’ve discovered lots of shows; and she also writes for Hot Pod, the podcast industry newsletter.
Thanks to Eleanor McDowall and Matilda Zaltzman for their production help.
The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX.
In April 2019, the Allusionist is sponsored by:
• Squarespace, your one-stop shop for creating and running a good-looking and well-working website. Go to squarespace.com/allusion for a free trial, and use the code ALLUSION to get 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.
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• Babbel, the app that teaches you a new language with confidence. If you’re in the USA, text ALLUSIONIST to 484848 to try a Babbel lesson for free. Elsewhere? Check out the courses at babbel.com and on the Babbel app.