Onomastic Variation. By Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Acronyms, Initialisms and Numbers. O. J. Simpson ( was known as the juice and was a spokesman for Orange Juice). Tony Dorset had the initials T.D. meaning “touchdown.”
By Don L. F. Nilsen and
Alleen Pace Nilsen
O. J. Simpson ( was known as the juice and was a spokesman for Orange Juice).
Tony Dorset had the initials T.D. meaning “touchdown.”
Note that Siddhartha Gautama and Jesus of Nazareth are known by their roles—Buddha and Christ or Savior.
In Peanuts there are characters named 3, 4, and 5.
Barry Humphreys, Bruce Banner, Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Wolverine
Dame Edna, The Hulk, Batman, Superman, Spiderman; Wolverine’s aliases depend on the situation
Note that Superman has to become Clark Kent to keep from being a superhero, while Bruce Wayne hides his identity by becoming Batman.
Prince the artist formerly known as Prince. He is also known as “The Love Symbol.”
There are also code names like
POTUS for Barack Obama
FLOTUS for Michelle Obama
Sawhorse for Al Gore
Angler for Dick Cheney
Evergreen for Hillary Clinton
Phoenix for John McCain.
In the Lemony Snicket books, Count Olaf is an anagram of
and Dr. O. Lucafont.
In the Harry Potter books,
Tom Marvolo Riddle is an anagram of
“I am Lord Voldemort.”
Allerest allergy medicine
Mylanta antacid medicine
Evenflo baby bottles
Klos kids’ clothing
Mop & Glo cleaner
Sew n’ Vac repairs
Ford Ranger XLT
James Bond, Karl Malone
007, The Mailman (because of his number 32, the cost of a stamp at that time, and because “he delivers!”)
In Get Smart Maxwell Smart was Agent 86 and his sidekick was Agent 99.
Authors like S. E. Hinton and J. K. Rowling use initials.
And Mary Evans George Eliot.
Cassius Clay, Daniel Michaeli, David Cornwell, Jerry Rivers, Lesane Parish Crooks, Lew Alcindor, Susan Weaver
Muhammad Ali, Danny DeVito, John Le Carré, Geraldo Rivera, Tupac Amaru Shakur, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Sigourney Weaver
Aaron Chwatt, Avram Chomsky, Bernard Schwartz, Carlos Estevez, Carlos Ray, David Kaminsky, Dino Crocetti, Doris von Kappelhoff, Enrique Martin Morales, Frederick Austerlitz, Gerald Silberman
Red Buttons, Noam Chomsky, Tony Curtis, Charlie Sheen, Chuck Norris, Danny Kaye, Dean Martin, Doris Day, Ricky Martin, Fred Astaire, Gene Wilder
Rodney Dangerfield, Jennifer Aniston, Joan Rivers, Jon Stewart, Jerry Lewis, Larry King, Madonna, Rita Hayworth, Mel Brooks, Pee-Wee Herman, Raquel Welch, Sonny Bono, Winona Ryder
Andre Young, Dana Owens, Frances Gumm, Gary Keillor, James Bumbarner
Dr. Dre, Queen Latifah, Judy Garland, Garrison Keillor, James Garner
NOTE: We don’t normally go in this direction. We would prefer to be thought of as informal and maybe a bit off beat.
Aaron Chwatt, Allen Konigsberg, Caryn Johnson, Clerow Wilson, Cordazer Broadus, Dante Smith, David Atkins, Gordon Sumner, James Osterberg, James Smith, John Sanford, Joseph Keaton
Red Buttons, Woody Allen, Whoopi Goldberg, Flip Wilson, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Mos Def, Sinbad, Sting, Iggy Pop, LL Cool J, Redd Foxx, Buster Keaton
The rapper Christopher Wallace Notorious B.I.G. and then “Biggie Smalls.”
Curtis Jackson, Leonard Hackett, Louis Armstrong, Marshall Mathers, Marvin Aday, Milton Superman, Oshea Jackson, Otha Bates, Phyllis Driver, Robert Van Winckle, Salvatore Bono, Scott Thompson, Shelton Lee, Stanley Burrell, Tracy Morrow
50 Cent, Buddy Hacket, Satchmo, Eminem, Meat Loaf, Soupy Sales, Ice Cube, Bo Diddley, Phyllis Diller (note assonance), Vanilla Ice, Sonny Bono, Carrott Top, Spike Lee, M. C. Hammer, Ice-T
Herbert Gleason, Goldie Studlendgehawn, Malcolm Little, Marion Michael Morrison (also away from gender ambiguity)
Jackie Gleason, Goldie Hawn, Malcolm X, John Wayne
Donald, Edward, Elizabeth, Francis, Gerald, Harold, Jacqueline, John, Joseph, Josephine, Judith, Leonard, Lucille, Margaret, Marjorie, Melvin, Nicholas, Patrick, Richard, Robert, Salvatore, Samuel, Susan, Theodore, Thomas, William
Don, Ed, Lizzy/Lisa/Beth/Betsy/Elsbeth, Frank, Jerry, Harry/Hal, Jackie, Johnny/Jack, Joe, Jo (in Little Women), Judy, Leo, Lucy, Maj/Margo/Maggie/Meg/ Marge/Peggy/Peg, Mel, Nick (this is his “nick-name,” Pat, Dick, Bob, Sal, Sam, Sue/Suzie/Suzie Que, Ted, Tom, Will/Bill/Billie
Brian, Casey, Connor, Donald, Gerald, Jack, John, Murry, Neil, Owen, Patrick, Reilly, Ryan, Will
O’Brian, O’Casey, O’Connor, McDonald/O’Donald, Fitzgerald, Jackson, Johnson, McMurry, Neilsen/McNeil/O’Neil, Bowen (Ap Owen), Fitzpatrick, O’Reilly, O’Ryan, Wilson
Charles Dodgson, Daniel Handler, Richard Bachman, Samuel Clemens
Lewis Carroll, Lemony Snicket, Stephen King, Mark Twain
And Theodore Seuss Geisel Dr. Seuss, Theo Le Seig, and Rosetta Stone
In the early 1800s, Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson, changed their family name.
When Ernest Hemingway was in high school (1916-1917) he used all of the following pen names:
These names tend to be mild insults. Please tell us the pet names of people you know. For example:
I have a cat that I call “Dipper Hips.”
That’s my cat’s “pet name.”
My own name is Don Lee Fred Nilsen, so people used to call me Dolphin (DLFN). When people call me Donald, I correct them by saying, “No, Donald is the duck.” In the army I went to German operas, so my buddies called me “Fledermaus.”
Mary Maria Marianne
“Ave Maria,” marionnette
Note that in the music industry most of the Pseudonyms are quite dark or playful, like the following:
Alien, Buck Satan, Hypo Luxa, Jello Biafra
David Copperfield (Dickens Character), Dolly Parton (Country Singer), & Englebert Humperdink (Opera Composer), Yogi Berra (baseball catcher)
David Copperfield (magician, né David Kotkin), Dolly (sheep cloned from a mammary gland), & Englebert Humperdink (singer, né Arnold Dorsey), Yogi Bear (cartoon character)
On Lost, the con-man James Ford takes on the alias of “Sawyer” from another con-man who goes by the name of “Tom Sawyer.” He is part capitalist (Ford) and part con-man “Sawyer.”
In France, the non-aristocrats were called “La Jacquerie.” Originally this referred to any peasant or non-aristocrat, but later it referred to the “peasant uprising” that marched from Marseille to Paris and stormed the Bastille.
In Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, three of the characters are named Jacques 1, Jacques 2 and Jacques 3.
In his first movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger went by the name of Arnold Strong.
Casanova, Don Juan, Sam, St. Patrick
a casanova, Byron’s Don Juan, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, *Uncle Sam, St. Patrick’s Day
*Note “Uncle Sam” “United States.”
Cody, Montana, Tex, The Virginian
Chevy Chase, Dakota Fanning, Indiana Jones, Minnesota Fats, Rock Hudson & Tennessee Williams
Cornelius Chase, Henry Deutschendorf, Janet Rasmussen, River Bottom
Chevy Chase, John Denver, Janet Reno, River Phoenix
American Name Society:
Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Names and Naming in Young Adult Literature. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2007.