How to Pick an Alias for Cowboy Action Shooting
You can use any alias you want, as long as it is printable for a wide audience and no one else is using it.
There are several places to start to look for an alias. Your character's profession is one. If your character is a doctor--"Doc" is one of the starting points. So is "Sawbones." Physical characteristics are another starting point. "Stretch," "Tubby," "Squint," "Three-fingered"--you get the drift. The Old West was not a time for political correctness, so your alias may be something that you wouldn't normally use. Don't be obscene, or deliberately offensive, by any means.
Your character's general disposition would be a starting point--"Smiley," "Flash," "Happy," "Dopey," "Sneezy," any of the seven dwarves.
Some participants paraphrase the name of a famous person. One of the staff of SASS has chosen the name "Lotta Dinero," which is a take-off on the gambler "Lotte Deno." Female participants can take Spanish phrases and make them into an alias "ĦQue lastima!" (what a pity!) becomes "Kay Lastima." Other similar ones could be Kay Pobrecita or Kay Pasa. (Look them up). This opens many possibilities.
Foreign publications and characters can be a good source, too.
The "Two Towns" Method
This is a really clever way of selecting an alias. It has been used for years, especially in the entertainment business. In the 1920's and 1930's there was a country singer who was very popular, and for good reason--he had a magnificent voice. He was, in fact, an opera singer, but it was difficult in those days to compete with fellows like Enrico Caruso and John Charles Thomas. His name was Marion Slaughter. You probably never heard of him. He became famous, and fairly well-heeed when he adopted a new name which consisted of the names of two Texas towns, Vernon and Dalhart. Vernon Dalhart made many records. He was quite popular.
Another two town singer was named after two towns, one in Arkansas, the other in Texas--Conway Twitty.
This method has almost unlimited possibilities. "Toadsuck Texarkana" "Dallas Abilene" "Jasper Beaumont"--remember the stranger the town name sounds, the more memorable the alias, and the less likely someone else is to have already used it.
However, if you still haven't figured out an alias--don't despair--there's always
The Alias Generator
A few years ago, a friend of mine sent me a method of making up an authentic-sounding name for a traditional blues singer. You take an affliction or physical characteristic, add the name of a fruit, animal or object, and then add a normal surname. A genuine example of this kind of name would be "Blind Lemon Jefferson." Using the name generation principle, you could come up with names like "Old Blackjack Robinson"--which sounds like a real blues singer. Of course, you can come up with some really strange ones like "Obsessive-compulsive Banana Feinstein," which is funny, but doesn't sound very bluesy.
But the same principles can be used to generate an alias. Historically, Old West names fall into several categories. The first is the "double first name" alias--John Wesley Hardin, would be an example of that. To construct that kind of a name, make a list of first names, some simple, others complex, and choose one of each from it. A strange sounding last name can round the whole thing off. "James Orville Dillenbeck," "Thomas Oliver Quackenbush," a glance through a major metropolitan telephone book will give you much material. You can also abbreviate the first name. "J. Orville Dillenbeck," "T. Oliver Quackenbush," etc.
You can also use the "physical characteristic" + "name" method. "Three Fingered Jake," "One Eared Morris," "Three Eyed Willy," "Stretch Limousine." Of course, with names like this, the alias should fit you, lest others be offended.
And of course, the "city or state," "nickname," "lastname" formula works well, too. "Texas Jack Elliott" "Nevada Red McGee," "Chicago Ned Frammistat." Or you can use the old blues singer's formula I mentioned above.
Don't overlook your own ancestors, of course, or fictional characters.
Old comedy routines from the radio or television can also provide inspiration. The late Mel Blanc had a routine in which there was a character named Herman E. Verdexidflsjk, whose father had invented the eyechart. This would be a good alias for an optometrist from the Old West
One final hint. When you get ready to join SASS, and you register--do it over the phone. They can check up on your alias right on the spot, and you will know your membership number and alias before you hang up!
Well pards, I hope this little page has given you some ideas to help you select an alias. Good luck, keep your powder dry, and maybe I'll see you at a shoot somewhere!
© 1999 Bill Palmer. To reproduce this page contact Bill Palmer.