Earlier in the year, when intern Charlotte Stockdale was with us, we asked her to look into the culture of Pseudonyms. She came back with some interesting local history. Ed
Pseudonyms are used a lot online, especially on sites like On The Wight, but they are nothing new.
Diana from the Ryde Heritage Centre explains that pseudonyms have been used on the Isle of Wight since the mid-1800s.
The Island was quite late getting newspapers, but in 1852 The Observer started publishing.
Platform for opinions
It became a platform for disgruntled Islanders to voice their opinions, but, Diana says, they used pseudonyms more often than their real names.
As yet she has not read any letters to the paper complaining about people using a false name.
Attempt to uncover identities
One story, however, caught her eye; the spider and the fly is a series of letters to the Observer dated 1878.
It is the story of a woman complaining about a shop owner, only for him to recognise himself in her letters and name her.
This spawned poems which can be read, along with the letters on the Ryde Heritage Centre website.
One particularly interesting letter from AN INHABITANT OF RYDE complains about a woman ‘of no moderate bulk’ taking up the pavement with her bath chair. You can read the full letter here.
Dates back to Ancient Greece
It is thought that the use of pseudonyms dates back to Ancient Greece, as it comes from the Greek word pseudṓnymon.
We believe it is important that our readers should be allowed to comment, whether that is using their real name or a pseudonym and it’s a subject which readers have previously debated at length.
What do you think?