Question about aliases

Lots of people in hollywood seem to do it, and you see it now and then in other places. Musicians are a good example.

So what is the straight dope on aliases and stage names? Whats the legality of honestly identifying yourself that way, particularly in my country of choice, Canada?

The reason I ask is that I am a programmer and my last name is just slightly ridiculous in the sense that it seems like a screen name. So I am interested in adopting an alias, but I dont want to do a formal name change.

You can use any name you want as long as you aren’t trying to defraud anyone. (Assuming you don’t live in a country where they won’t allow a man to be named ‘Leslie’ or something. (Some countries really do have naming laws.))

You can even change your name that way, with no paperwork, if you use the new name consistently over a long enough period. You’ll likely have to deal with your employer if you want to check in company code under an assumed name, or get your paycheck under a new name, but as far as your social life goes, well, anything goes.

I’ve worked mostly in hotels and I know a lot of the sales managers would shorten their names.

Especially if it was long and complicated last name.

It was always a bit confusing if I did payroll, because the paycheck is issued to the real name. I knew one guy with a Palestinian name, Ziad XXXX and he was Ray Jones to everyone in the hotel.

If you notice on a lot of job applications it asks for aliases and you can put them there.

What Derleth says is generally applicable only to common law jurisdictions. In most civil law jurisdictions, personal names (including titles) are relatively highly regulated. Canada is mostly common law, except for Quebec, which uses common law for criminal matters and civil law for civil matters. So if you’re in Quebec, quite possibly you can’t use whatever name you want; check your local laws or consult with a lawyer qualified to practice law in Quebec.

Doesn’t Canada also have the whole legal name thing where you ahve to file to get your name officially changed? I could have sworn that’s come up in the debate about a wife taking her husband’s name.

Even in common law jurisdictions there will usually be a procedure to get your name “officially” changed (i.e., on government-issued ID). This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to use other names at your whim (provided it’s not for fraudulently deceptive purposes). In practice, however, many businesses will want to see government ID to verify someone’s identity before they deal with them.

For example, if the name that appears on my birth certificate is Johann Schmidt, but I launch a successful acting career under the name John Smith, then that’s fine. It’s not fraudulent or illegal to call myself that, to insist that I’m credited as such in my movies, etc. I can even sign contracts, check into hotels, and maybe even open bank accounts with that name. But in these cases, the contractor, hotel, and bank are perfectly within their rights to refuse to do business with me if I don’t give further evidence that I am who I say I am. Possibly they will be satisfied only with a birth certificate, passport, driver’s licence, or other government-issued ID – if so, then I’ll need to either conduct business with them under the name on said ID, or apply to the government to change the name on my ID.

It’s a matter of how far the individual wants to take it. Many actors have a stage name purely for professional purposes and in their private business dealings they use their birth names, so there’s no need for them to take any particular legal steps. I believe that the Actors Guild polices only the names that actors use for purposes of giving credit.

I heard an interview once with Stan Lee, who said that this is how he originally operated, using Stanley Lieber in his legal and business dealings. But then he found that businesses were much more willing to offer credit to Stan Lee, the magnate of Marvel Comics, than they were willing to offer to Stanley Lieber, some shmuck off the street, so he went through the official name changing process.

Strangest alias I ever heard of was a guy from Italy who worked in radio in the US. His stage name was just his first and last names reversed.

When Star Wars I came out in 99 a local radio station paid someone $1000 if they would legally change their name to Obi Wan Kenobi. A woman did it and got the cash. Don’t know if she kept the name.

That wasn’t me. :slight_smile:

My maternal grandmother changed her name. My mother had to get a copy of her birth certificate for social security purposes and found out then. Her mother apparently just started going by the new name because she had the same first name as her husband. Neither my mother or her siblings knew this until long after grandma died.

It’s quite common for someone to use a name other than their legal name.

First names are often shortened - and sometimes in ways that aren’t entirely obvious. That’s a kind of alias. Few people use their middle names most of the time.

I use my legal name for tax and financial stuff, but a shortened version for almost everything else, including business. My bank account doesn’t have my full name because there wasn’t quite enough room on the form.

Recent experience in Canada: my partner had his name changed in the UK by deed poll, but hadn’t gotten around to updating his British passport. Canadian authorities (bank, driver’s licence, immigration documents) refused to accept the deed poll or the name as written on his British-government-issued driving licence, insisting on matching the name on the passport only. The difference is something like:

John Smith (old)
Jon Jacob Smith (new)

He was willing to compromise on “Jon Smith” but they would have none of it.

In less formal situations, there has been no problem.

My father just started using a shorter name. Right after I was born. So the longer name is on my original birth certificate. But when I emigrated to Canada, I gave them the name I used all my life and they accepted it. When I became a citizen, that became, to all intents and purposes, my legal name. It is also the name on my US passport. And when I asked the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a birth certificate about 15 years ago, I got back a letter from the Vital Stats office, saying they noted that I was using a different name from that on my birth certificate and if I could demonstrate that I had used that name for at least 10 years, they would issue a certificate in that name. I did and they did and now it is really my legal name. I never told Quebec that, since they would have a fit. I have filled out many forms that ask: Nom (a la naissance) and lied like a trooper. None of their effing business!

I have a relative who changed only her first name, from Rachel to Rachyl. Seemed like a waste of time to me.

Bijou, newscasters and other public figures sometimes do that. Or someone with a common name might change to a variant so as to stand out on job applications.

Pretty much the opposite of what I want.

Thanks for the info everyone.

Amusing name change story, when my brother was in college in Chicago, they had some sort of treasure hunt, and one of the items on the list was to obtain something (I forget what) from Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune. One of the people on one of the teams had his name legally changed to “Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune”, contributed the item in question, then legally got his name changed back. They got the points for the item, and won the treasure hunt. It wasn’t my brother’s team. :frowning:

“Legally” changed and changed back? I don’t believe it. Generally a legal name change in the United States means petitioning a court to issue a certificate of name change. It’s not goo involved, but you go before a judge and tell him why you want ho change. Generally the judge eill just confirm that there’s no funny budiness going on. For ghd oat part the judge will go along, but if it’s for some shady reason like ghat, I just don’t see it happening so easily.

In English law your “legal name” is whatever you choose to call yourself.

It’s commonly assumed that the name on your birth certificate is your “official” name, but it has no greater legal status than any other name you may be known by; indeed, if you’ve never been known by the name on your birth certificate, then it’s never been your legal name.

Also, there’s nothing in English law to prevent someone (other than with the intention to deceive or defraud) from having more than one legal name in use at the same time. So an actor could quite legally use their “stage name” for “real life” activities.

A deed poll doesn’t change a person’s name; it formally records that the person has changed their name. A subtle but substantive difference. In contrast, obtaining a royal warrant for a change of name would (I guess) mean that your legal name was formally changed by that instrument itself. I think there have even been odd occasions when changes of name have been done via an Act of Parliament. Obviously those sorts of changes are only ever going to happen when large sums of money are involved, presumably via inheritance.

Having said all the above, what the law says is one thing; convincing government departments, immigration officials, banks, etc. etc. is quite another! :slight_smile:
By “those sorts of changes”, I wasn’t including deed polls.

The word “legal”'is ambiguous in these kinds of discussions, so it’s not worth getting too pedantic over terminology here. Any name change is “legal” under the common law in the sense that absent intent to comit fraud it doesn’t violate the law. However, when a layperson uses the phrase “legally changed his name,” it is implied that the name change was officially recognized by a governmental body of some kind. (Theee’s no such thing a a name change by deed poll in the United States.)

At my previous job I frequently dealt with an outside consultant of Middle Eastern descent who’s first name was Fayoud. Oddly, one day when I spoke to him (September 12, 2001, I believe) he requested that from then on I call him “Fred”.