10 April 2008

Invasion of the Googlegängers

Do you know the term Googlegängers?

Individuals who have the same names are known as Google twins or Googlegängers. The American Dialect Society named it the most creative word last year, according to a story in the New York Times.

To learn more about multiple digital same-namers, why people look for them and the reasons they feel a connection to them, read the story.

Have you ever Googled your own name and if so, what have you discovered?

From time to time Sam Blackman, a pediatric oncologist in Philadelphia, checks up on people other than patients. Namely, other Sam Blackmans.

No stethoscope is needed to take the pulse of his namesakes, though — just a Google search. And while he has never met the men he refers to as Sam 2.0 and Sam 3.0, when one of those other Sam Blackmans posted a photograph of his wife on the Internet, Dr. Blackman, 39, couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pleasure.

“I’m like ‘Oh! Sam Blackman got married,’ ” he said. “I felt like I should send a card or check his registry on Amazon.”

The story mentions how a writer named Angela Shelton met 40 others of the same name. There are a few websites for name-tallys. One group is for people named Ritz and their logo is a cracker box

(NOTE: a Ritz cracker, for those who don't get the reference, is a small round orange-yellow cracker that tastes really good with a dab of peanut butter or even used to scoop up tuna salad. It is a US product, but may be found occasionally in international supermarkets)

The writer also asks why so many people feel a connection with strangers because they share a name?

Social science, it turns out, has an answer. It is because human beings are unconsciously drawn to people and things that remind us of ourselves.

A psychological theory called the name-letter effect maintains that people like the letters in their own names (particularly their initials) better than other letters of the alphabet.

And in a strange six-year study with online phone directors, SSDI records and experiments, a social psychologist and his team discovered that "Johnsons are more likely to wed Johnsons, women named Virginia are more likely to live in (and move to) Virginia, and people whose surname is Lane tend to have addresses that include the word 'lane,' not 'street.'"

The psychologist says this is called "implicit egotism;" people feel an affinity to people, places and things that resemble their own names. And, says another researcher, “When someone is similar to you, you give them special privileges.”

Read the complete story here.

Read the story comments also. Some writers tell parents to get their children yourname.com or firstname@lastname.com domains when their kids are born, and advise them to choose another name for the child if the domain isn't available Another mentions Alan Berliner's film "The Sweetest Sound;" he tracked down all the Alan Berliners he could find and invited them over. Some readers reported that they already own their name's domain name, gmail account, AOL IM screen name, myspace and Facebook URLs, and more.

I am the only one with my name. What about you?


  1. Anonymous9:13 AM


    As I read your article, I was going to comment that neither you nor I have to worry about finding a Google Twin, but then you say that in your final sentence (about yourself). Yes, the only way there will ever be someone with my name is if my brother marries a Donna (but he's already happily married) or names a daughter after me! That's what you get when your grandfather sort of makes up a name... Hey, you and I are like my favorite Winnie the Pooh character, Tigger. We're the ONLY ONE!


  2. An interesting post! I have a "Google Alert" for my name through which I've discovered numerous "twins" worldwide. One effect of this is just the opposite of "implicit egotism": it helps me to remember that maybe I'm not as special as I sometimes think I am!

  3. Hi, Craig and Donna,

    Thank you both for chiming in on this!

    For more fun: babynamesworld.com ranks any given name against the top 1,000 US names since 1880! (Caveat: If the name being searched is among those names!) Click "more info" for the name searched and then hit tabs on top. Hitting "popularity" will provide nice graphs showing ranking, number of births and percentages for each year. Some stats go back to 1880, courtesy of the SSA!


  4. Hi Schelly!

    I always called the practice of searching on Google for one's own name an "ego search."

    Like Craig, I too have a Google Alert set for my name. I know there are several other Thomas MacEntee's out there but they don't seem to have a web presence like I do.

  5. Hi, Thomas,

    Some people have mentioned Alan Berliner's film in which he located as many of his twins as possible and invited them to a gathering.

    At least you and Craig would have someone to invite. Donna and I will just have dinner together by ourselves!

    While I have alerts set for my name, it's not to find non-existent twins but to discover where my articles show up (in case I didn't know about a certain publication!) and keep track.