December 15th, 2008

nom du guerre, “war name”

The term “nom du plume” — a pen name or pseudonym — did not originate in France. It was used first in Britain by people who wanted a more literary phrase, and to whom the less widely understood metaphorical term “nom du guerre” (name of war) did not appeal. Then later it made its way into French!

From wikipedia:

Despite the use of French words in the name Nom de plume, the term did not originate in France. H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, in The King’s English state that the term nom de plume “evolved” in Britain, where people wanting a “literary” phrase, failed to understand the term nom de guerre, which already existed in French. Since guerre means war in French, nom de guerre did not make sense to the British, who did not understand the French metaphor. The term was later exported to France (H. W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage). See French-language expression, although amongst French speakers pseudonyme is much more common.


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