Same Name Syndrome–Jillions of Jens
A quick Google search will render more than 11 million results for the name Jennifer Kim, while White Pages will say there are more than 600 of us in the United States. Personally, I think there are more.
There is a Jennifer Kim who is a journalist and writer (not me) and another Jennifer Kim who is an actress (also not me). One of my best friends from childhood is also, coincidentally, named Jennifer Kim. We never really ran into problems, except for that one minor grade swap in 9th grade geometry, but really, who remembers such trivial things?
During high school, I knew four Jennifer Kims, not including myself. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of plain old Jennifers I knew. Not surprising considering Jennifer was the most popular girl’s name from 1970 to 1984.
At UCLA, I realized that I could reinvent myself–or someone else could. One day, my college sweetheart called me ‘Jen,’ and suddenly, the whole world followed. At last, I became the unique special butterfly: Jen Kim. Until that is, I met a dozen other Jens and a handful of Jen Kims who were all similarly trying to shed their common names for cooler nicknames.
In my grad school class, there were four of us Jennifer/Jens who all answered to any variation of the name: Jennifer, Jennie, Jenn, Jenny, Jen, J-dizzle. We looked at each other bashfully whenever we hear those familiar syllables. Is it your turn? No, it’s my turn.
At least I am not Justin Bieber’s name doppelganger. The older, less famous Jacksonville, Fla. resident, who happens to share the same moniker as the pop sensation, has been banned from both Facebook and Ping on grounds that he’s using a fake name. (He has since got his accounts back.) Moreover, he receives up to ten fan letters a day from love struck girls nationwide. And despite changing his number repeatedly, the older Bieber’s phone is still ringing off the hook from the younger Bieber’s tweenage following.
So are there any real effects from having the same name as someone else? To my knowledge, no scientific studies have been conducted regarding this phenomenon, but I do have my own theories.
1. As long as we don’t share the names of someone famous (i.e., me), having the same name can make us slightly more empowered. We often feel compelled to do something that sets us apart. Conversely, we might also feel braver in our actions, because we are protected (at least on the Internet). After all, I can deny and shirk responsibility, blaming that other journalist Jennifer Kim.
2. However, sharing the same name can also lead to lowered self-esteem. During adolescence, being one of many Jennifer Kims was cause for ridicule and ‘twin’ references (which doesn’t make any sense, I know). It was difficult to fit in, because classmates would inevitably label us as the “nice one” or the “mean one” and other clever descriptors. It’s not easy being the awkward kid, especially when you’re the more awkward of the Jennifer Kims.
3. Having the exact same name as someone else also robs us of name pride. Most people love hearing the sound of their name– it’s personal, makes you feel important and tells you that you have someone’s complete attention. But if you have the same name as someone else, then there is always that slight chance that you may not be the one they want– at least, that’s what I sort of convince myself.
But do names really matter?
In a recent study, scientists discovered that people find value and self worth from hearing their own names.
“The patterns of activation when hearing one’s own name relative to hearing the names of others are similar to the patterns reported when individuals make judgments about themselves and their personal qualities.”
Which makes sense. After all, more than 50,000 people change their name in the United States yearly. According to LegalZoom.com, the number one reason people do so is because they “dislike their current name.” Ranked No. 10 on the list is: “political reasons.” For example, Christopher Garnett became KentuckyFriedCruelty.com while Andrew Wilson officially changed his name to “They.”
Jen Kim may not be the most unique name in town; still, it belongs to me… and err…hundreds of other girls. My Internet identity is not one of a kind, but hey, I’m still in the top three results on Google!
That’s pretty cool for someone who has never been special.
This article appeared previously in Psychology Today.
Jen Kim is a writer, sometimes commercial actor, budding sociologist, former Psychology Today intern, and a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. She writes primarily about relationships and being lost in your twenties. Follow her on Twitter! ThisJenKim
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on October 23rd, 2013 at 12:22 am
My hubby has a common first name + common last name. He has shared his named with a classmate, the local sheriff (which helped in getting out of a ticket) and a convicted serial killer (his name was on a no fly list). Despite the funny coincidences with his name, he really doesn’t care about the duplicates. For our kids, we tired to pick less popular first names. So far, we haven’t met any duplicates for them. But, we have met another husband and wife combo with our exact names – first and last!
on October 23rd, 2013 at 1:09 am
Nope! There are plenty of people with a variant spelling of my first name-Michaila, but I’ve never met anyone who spells it exactly like mine. The closest I got was McCaila. There’s a Michaela in Germany with my last name. For me, having a more unique name makes it fun to meet other people with your name because they’re fewer and far between.
My dad, however, has a name twin. He’s Michael Allan and has a cousin with the same first, middle, and last name because his cousin’s mother stole it from my grandma. Instead of changing her mind, my grandma stayed with it. Apparently, the other Michael Allan has gotten into all sorts of unsavory shenanigans and was once married to a woman named Beth…which, you guessed it- is my mother’s name. He has since divorced her and my dad has gotten calls for him from people looking for money and such…it makes life interesting, that’s for sure.
on October 23rd, 2013 at 6:05 am
I do have a commonly shared name — the plain and boring Emily Marie. I hate having a popular name. My personality is one of a kind, so it’s kinda unfair that I have to share a name with millions of other girls. Two of my best friends are named Emily, and I have countless acquaintances with the name Emily. It irks me, to be honest.
on October 23rd, 2013 at 6:49 am
I once wrote an article about going to meet all the other women named Pamela Redmond — http://business.highbeam.com/3825/article-1G1-62214926/am-pam-redmond — and it was a bizarre experience. I expected we’d share some link but I didn’t really feel that. Some of them I liked, some of them not so much, but our shared name didn’t have the power I expected to make me feel some commonality with them. Disappointing!
on October 23rd, 2013 at 8:38 am
I became fb friends with another girl by my name back when fb was newer, before there were fifty of us. Still am fb friends with this veritable stranger, and now that she’s married there’s really not much of a reason to keep her on the friends list- we have nothing in common!
There was a silent film actress by my name as well, which is kinda funny.
My boyfriend has a more common last name than myself, and even though it’s not THAT generic (like Jones or smith), I still feel compelled to have more unusual names on my baby name lists than I would if the last name was very unique/unusual.
on October 23rd, 2013 at 9:07 am
My last name is very uncommon, so I’ve never met a stranger who shares that. However, my first name is Anne, and in my close friend group there’s another Anne, Anna, Anna (pronounced Ana), and several Hannahs. Teachers are constantly mixing up our names, and sometimes I wish I had a more unusual name so I would never have to look around to see who the teacher is referring to. But the situation also brings a lot of fun and a special comradery among us Anne-variants.
on October 23rd, 2013 at 10:20 am
I always found it very frustrating to be one of many Rachels. Call me Raychie, Rachel-Rachel, or Wolfi, and I will know you are probably talking to me, but it’s still not a guarantee. My first nickname, Raych, is too common (kind of like Jen), and nobody I meet since being married would be likely to call me Wolf, which would make all of my brothers turn their heads when called out as well. No really popular names for my kids!
on October 23rd, 2013 at 10:53 am
There are thousands of Lauren Johnsons on Facebook. I remember back when there were only 17 of us, but now I am practically impossible to find unless we have a mutual friend.
I have a unique double middle name, which I have always appreciated, and I really haven’t minded having a common name. A new girl came to my (tiny) high school junior year also named Lauren, and we kinda liked being “the Laurens” – both tall and blonde and loud. We’re still good friends 12 years later, and it hasn’t bothered me at all in those years. I liked being who I was (maybe that was a timing issue), and if that meant that I was the Lauren on the front row with her hand in the air all the time, so be it.
It’s not that I particularly love my name, although I do think knowing the mythology surrounding the laurel tree makes it more interesting. And for whatever reason, people mishear and think my name is Warren or Ryan occasionally (which is weird – my voice isn’t manly-low). But, well, it’s my name. And I guess I own that.
While I’m not likely to shy away from “common” names, I do love me some more obscure ones – and more obscure connections. I have thought for awhile if that if my (future) husband and I ever decide to name a daughter sorta after me, we might go with Wren. I have been keeping favorite baby name lists since I was about 16, and really enjoy Nameberry. I anticipate giving my children at least as many names as I have, and that those names will range from William and Elizabeth to Myles and Rosamund. (It helps that I want a lot of kids!)
on October 23rd, 2013 at 8:32 pm
I have a very uncommon first name, and fairly uncommon last name. I am the only Jemima ______ that comes up on Facebook. I actually really love having my very own name – I have met one or two Jemimas in my life, but never anyone with the exact same name. I love being the only one in the school with my name. I definitely lean towards unusual/uncommon names.
on October 23rd, 2013 at 8:46 pm
There was recently a tv show with the main character featuring my name – Emily Owens, MD. It was very odd watching it!
on October 24th, 2013 at 1:11 am
I have a very common last name. I have just searched my name on google, a sportsman and a Dutch woman (?!) have appeared, not including random girls. I shared my name-last name combo with a girl in a camp, but I have never met another name twin. On Facebook, there are 8 more Valerias Khudyakovas. At school, I share my last name with a boy in parallel class, a 5th grader, a teacher, boy’s brother and a 3rd grade boy. That sucks. Another last name twin appeared in Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” (this guy owned a house)!
About my name, I share a name with one of my friends, and we like it 🙂 There are few more girls with my name, thankfully it’s not very popular.
on October 24th, 2013 at 2:46 pm
My first name is common and I have met many Victoria’s but it’s never bothered me instead I felt like I was connected to others because I share the same first name. However there has never been any confusion as I live in England and my surname is incredibly unusual. It’s relatively common in Scotland, but in England (south east) I have never come across another person with my surname.
on October 24th, 2013 at 6:04 pm
This web comic gets at one of the funnier side-effects of having a fairly common name: http://www.xkcd.com/1279/
Because my last name is uncommon, I’ve never experienced this, but apparently my more commonly-named friends have accidentally received all sorts of personal, legal and medical information about same-named strangers!
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