SpecGram Vol CLXXXVI, No 1 Contents Letters to the Editor

A Name by Any Other Name

A Letter from Executive Editor Keith Slater

Astute students of the SpecGram author indices are aware that some of our material is published in nom de plume fashion.* Even the most perceptive may have failed to notice, though, that some superficially straightforward attributions are in fact pseudonymous. In the spirit of elevating the educational level of our readership, we offer this guide to the question of when and, more importantly, how to use a proper pen name.

Barbara Landau, 1994, “Where’s what and what’s where: The language of objects in space,” Lingua, 92, pp. 259–296.

Chiasmus of the Month
November 2019

Leaving aside the question of the thematic and obvious false names (such as my own Sven Slater, Robert F. Scott, and Edgar Allan Slater), minor orthographic variants such as Keith W. Slater and Thik Trals, and trivially explicable alter egos such as editor or LingNerds, there is an additional large category of pen names which are superficially identical to one’s own real name.

Indeed, Editor-in-Chief Trey Jones has published articles in SpecGram under no fewer than the following five identical names: Trey Jones, Trey Jones, Trey Jones, Trey Jones, and Trey Jones. Similarly, I myself have (with abject humility) used four identical copies of my familiar name: Keith Slater, Keith Slater, Keith Slater, and Keith Slater. Similar catalogs can be given for most of our regular contributors (especially Mikael Thompson), though I will not belabor the point with corresponding exhaustive enumerations.

There are many reasons for using identical pseudonyms; primary among these is that our readers tell us they enjoy seeing pieces by so many different authors of the same name. “It’s so great,” one long-term subscriber wrote, “when Trey Jones the computational linguist and Trey Jones the poet both ‘happen’ to have articles in the same issue. I love to compare their stylesthose two are my favorites!”

This is really the key to our decisions about pseudonyms. We want our readers to be happy, and they are happiest when multiple Keith Slater authors (including the one writing this column) entertain them with a variety of areas of expertise, a variety of writing styles, and a variety of approaches to linguistic satire.

We recommend that you rely upon similar principles in your academic work. Multiply your (identical!) pen names, and let each specialize in an area that will garner the interest of a different set of readers. Your overall impact upon the field will grow, and yet no one will accuse you of overproduction or of belonging to that lowest class of linguists, the “serial novelist” of linguistic paper writers.

* The SpecGram Satirical Authors Guild is butting in here with this footnote to take issue with this claim. Significantly fewer than 95% of our authors use their real name in the pages of SpecGram, and to claim otherwise is an insult!

Letters to the Editor
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVI, No 1 Contents