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10 Odd Stories Behind Famous Authors’ Nom de Plumes

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 lady bits. 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, so check them out after the jump, and write your own nom de plume in the comments!

After he threw a raging party, breaking Dartmouth and federal law during Prohibition, Dr. Seuss, born Theodor Geisel, was fired from his job as editor-in-chief of the college’s Jack-O-Lantern magazine. However, Theodor, that rapscallion, kept writing for the humor mag by signing his work under his middle name — Seuss. Years later, when his first book was published, Suess added the “Dr.” as a joke at the expense of his father, who always wanted him to pursue a medical career.

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