This baby just found out what name his parents decided to give him.
Our teacher, a petite nun, wrote the words, “nom de plume”, in large letters as high as she could on the classroom blackboard. Putting down the chalk, she dusted off her hands and faced the class to ask, “Who knows what these words mean.”
I raised my hand. Sister nodded at me. I proudly announced, “A nom de plume is a name.”
Sister exclaimed happily, “That’s right! But what kind of name?” That question had me stymied. As far as I knew, a name was just a name. I frowned and gave her a quizzical look. Sister explained, “A nom de plume is a pen name, or a pseudonym. It’s a fictitious name that many writers adopt, instead of their own. Does anyone in class know of a writer who has done this?”
One of my classmates tentatively raised his hand and following Sister’s nod, answered, “When I was reading the book Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain last summer, Mom told me the writer’s real name was Samuel Clemens.”
I wanted to be a writer someday, so this tidbit of information made me wonder indignantly, “Why wouldn’t a writer want people know who had really written something? If I ever write a book, I know very well that I would never use a false name for my by-line!”
Someone else in class felt the same way I did. I listened closely to Sister’s explanation. “In the past many women authors used masculine pen names to conceal their femininity. Publishers often considered books written by women a poor investment.”
Without raising his hand and waiting for Sister’s nod, someone blurted, “But Samuel Clemens was a man. Why did he use a fictitious name?”