16 April 2018

Pound, Number sign or Hashtag

What’s the origin of the hashtag  # symbol?

Well, right off we need to note that it has be known by several names: the pound sign, the number sign, the octothorpe and the hashtag. 

Though the hashtag usage is recent, it also has an origin going back to ancient Rome.

As a hashtag, it precedes a word or phrase to clarify or categorize the accompanying text. It came into wide use in the past decade via social networks, especially on Twitter. Looking at the Twitter home page, you can see the currently trending (popular) hashtags. People can follow hashtags to see what content has been posted about the subject, such as #DonaldTrump or #ClimateChange, and follow online trends.

The first use of the pound sign on Twitter was:
How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]? 
by Chris Messina ("factoryjoe") on August 23, 2007.

The possible ancient origin is to the symbol, an abbreviation of the Roman term libra pondo, which translates as "pound weight." Ultimately, the symbol was reduced for clarity as an overlay of two horizontal strokes "=" across two slash-like strokes "//".

The symbol is described as the "number" character in an 1853 treatise on bookkeeping. It seems to have been used primarily in handwritten materials. In the printing business, the numero (№) symbol and barred-lb (℔) are used for "number" and "pounds" respectively. It appeared on the keyboard of the Remington Standard typewriter in 1886.

To confuse our international readers, the US pound sign, number sign or hash symbol "#" is often used in information technology to highlight a special meaning. But "Pound sign" in the UK means "£"  and is used for money, while "#" is called hash, gate, and occasionally octothorpe.

The symbol is also used in several ways in computer coding.

The graphically similar symbol of the sharp (♯) is used in musical nomenclature. Also similar is the the equal-and-parallel symbol (⋕) from mathematics, though both of these are distinguished by its combination of level horizontal strokes and right-tilting vertical strokes.

09 April 2018

Pseudonyms: Stage Names - Actors, Singers

We have written before about the use of pseudonyms by different groups. here are some "stage names" used by actors and directors.

Natalie Portman is a dual Israeli and American citizen who used her grandmother’s maiden name as a surname rather than her birth name, Herschlag.

Demi Moore's real name is Demetria Guynes. She must be into pseudonyms because two of her exes used them too. Bruce Willis was born as Walter Willis and Ashton was born with the name Christopher Kutcher.

Albert Brooks chose that name although I doubt that any of us would confuse him with his real name twin: Albert Einstein.

Actress Meg Ryan went for shortening her real name of Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra.

Natalie Wood, probably under pressure from a film studio, Americanized her given name: Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. Born to Russian immigration parents, the change was not unusual at the time. Another Hollywood namechanger was the Swedish Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, better known as Greta Garbo.

Woody Allen did a switch from his original Allen Konigsberg.

Comedian Louis C.K.'s real name is Louis Szekely which is really just just an easier way to say his actual last name, which is pronounced “See-kay.”

Joaquin Phoenix's real name is Joaquin Rafael Bottom.

Chevy Chase rejected his given name of Cornelius Crane Chase. Though I have read that the actor got his name from his grandmother who liked the traditional English song “The Ballad of Chevy Chase.” I always suspected that it had something to do with the city Chevy Chase in Maryland.

Rather than shorten her first name, Tina Fey shortened her middle name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey. But she did get to name her 30 Rock character Liz.

Ben Kingsley, perhaps best known for playing Gandhi, was born, like Barack Obama, to a white mother and Kenyan father of Indian Muslim descent. His birth name is Krishna Pandit Bhanji.

Actress Olivia Wilde started with the name Olivia Jane Cockburn, but dropped that tough to deal with last name that suggest to the mean kids "penis."

Actor Alan Alda seems to have gone pretty far away from his given name of Alphonso d’Abruzzo, but he came up with that surname by putting together the first two letters of his first and last name. AL + DA.

Portia De Rossi had a rather simple name, Amanda Lee Rogers, and went the other way by making it sound more exotic.

Diane Keaton's real name is Diane Hall. She grabbed the last name from the famous silent movie comedian Buster Keaton and her then-boyfriend and director Woody Allen used her real last name for her eponymous character in Annie Hall.

Michael Caine was born with Maurice Micklewhite, but opted to use as his last name Humphrey Bogart’s character in The Caine Mutiny.

Larry King was born to an Austrian father and mother from Belarus, both of whom were Orthodox Jews who named their baby Lawrence Harvey Zeigler.

Whoopi Goldberg started as Caryn Johnson but on the advice of her mother who said to take a Jewish last name believing that it would help her comedy career if people thought she was Jewish. I'm not sure that explains the Whoopi part.

Wrestler and sometime actor Hulk Hogan chose not to use his not very threatening real name: Terry Jean Bollette.

1950s/60s actor heartthrob Rock Hudson had the un-hearthrobby name Leroy Harold Scherer, Jr.

In the golden days of the Hollywood studio system it was pretty standard to change actor's names.

Joan Crawford started as Lucille LeSueur.

Kirk Douglas wisely was renamed from Issur Danielovitch Demsky.

Cary Grant wouldn't have been Cary Grant if he had stayed with Archibald Alexander Leach.

Fred Astaire was Frederick Austerlitz and his dance partner, Ginger Rogers, was born Virginia Katherine McMath.

Marilyn Monroe was considered a gawky kid when she was Norma Jean Mortensen.

Martin Sheen was Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez. His son Charlie Sheen was Carlos Estevez, but his brother Emilio Estevez stuck to the original.

Audrey Hepburn was Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston. That was a wise change.

Judy Garland began as Frances Gumm.

And name changing is still pretty common.

You didn't think Carmen Electra was born with that name, did you? She was the less exciting Tara Patrick.

Madam Secretary star Tea Leoni is a version of her given name of Elizabeth Tea Pantaleoni.

Helen Mirren wisely opted out from Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov.

The normal-sounding Julianne Moore had the perhaps-too-normal-sounding Julie Anne Smith at birth.

Michael Keaton went with a new surname because his real name, Michael Douglas, was already in use in movies.

Director Spike Lee added some spike to his given name,  Shelton Lee.

06 April 2018

Pseudonyms: Noms de Plume and Noms de Guerre

Pseudonyms are used by many celebrities. One version is the "pen name" (nom de plume) which is a variant form of a real name adopted by an author and printed on the title page or by-line of his or her works in place of their "real" name.

Why use a pseudonym? Actors and other often change their names to make them sound more "normal," less ethnic or even to sound more exotic. Authors might do it for those reasons too, but they also have other reasons.

The French phrase nom de plume is occasionally used as a synonym for the English term "pen name." This known as "back-translation." The term nom de plume "evolved" in Britain, but there was already the term nom de guerre used in French. The British didn't understand that particular usage as guerre means "war" in French and for authors this made no sense, so they created (not borrowed) their own "French" phrase.

Lemony Snicket is the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler, and Lemony is also the narrator of many of his novels. He used the name while doing research for his first book when he needed to give a name in order to obtain materials that were "offensive" because he didn't want to use his real name.

Some authors, mostly women, have used pseudonyms to disguise gender and ensure that their works were accepted by publishers and/or the public.

Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen name George Eliot.

Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, Baronne Dudevant, used the much more common pseudonym George Sand.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë had published under the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell respectively.

Karen Blixen's book Out of Africa was originally published under the pen name Isak Dinesen.

I used to teach the popular young adult novel The Outsiders  which is listed on the cover as being written by S.E. Hinton. And that is the author's name and initials, but S.E. is Susan Eloise Hinton. The male-oriented novel might not have had many male readers if it carried a female name.

Other women using initials include Harry Potter creator J. K. (Joanne) Rowling, K. A. Applegate, P. N. Elrod, D. C. Fontana, G. A. Riplinger and J. D. Robb.

Initials can also be used to avoid confusion with another author or notable individual. The very famous British politician Winston Churchill wrote under the name Winston S. Churchill to distinguish his work from the then better known American novelist of the same name.

Mathematician and fantasy writer Charles Dodgson, also wrote his Alice and Wonderland fiction as Lewis Carroll.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens used the aliases Mark Twain and less often Sieur Louis de Conte for different works.

Joseph Conrad was the Anglicized choice made by Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, the 20th-century Polish-British author.

American author of short stories and novels, O. Henry, was really William Sydney Porter.

Stephen King published four novels under the name Richard Bachman because publishers didn't feel the public would buy more than one novel per year from a single author.

Anne Rice (Howard Allen Frances O'Brien) also used two other aliases: Anne Rampling and A.N. Roquelaure.

Japanese poets who write haiku often the follow the tradition of using a pen name (haigō).

The haiku master Matsuo Bashō had used two other haigō before he became fond of a banana plant (bashō) that had been given to him by a disciple and started using it as his pen name starting at age 36.

At one time in France, a nom de guerre was a "war name" adopted or assigned to new recruits as he enlisted in the French army. These pseudonyms were official and a kind of predecessor of identification numbers.

Soldiers were identified by their first names, their family names, and theirnoms de guerre. These pseudonyms were usually related to the soldier's place of origin. Jean Paul dit Champigny might be used for a soldier coming from a town Champigny. In 1716, a nom de guerre was mandatory for every enlisted soldier. Some of these noms de guerre eventually replaced the real family name.

Revolutionaries and resistance leaders that came later and outside of France, such as Lenin, Trotsky, Golda Meir, Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, and Josip Broz Tito, sometimes adopted their noms de guerre as their proper names.