A Common Name

My surname is the tenth most common name in Britain, according to available information. Johnson is a simple enough name, but I have spent my life having to spell it to people. Because there are other spellings, such as Jonson, or Johnston and Johnstone, both very popular in Scotland, I always have to say “No ‘T’, no ‘E’ “. But my first name, Peter, is now actually quite rare. It is very much of its time, and to anyone who knows about such things, gives a good indication of when I was born. You would be hard-pressed to find many boys called Peter these days. I suspect most of us with that name are at least fifty, or much older. Times have changed, and now the most popular names for boys are Oliver, Jacob, Freddie, Henry, Leo, and Muhammad.
So at least my dog has the number one name.

When I was at school, one of my best friends was also called Peter. Many of the teachers, all around ten years older than us then, also had that name. Years later, I started working at a small ambulance station that had only fourteen staff. Five of us were called Peter. But despite eventually meeting a huge number of colleagues over the years, I only met one other Johnson. A long time after that, I received a letter in the post. It was on headed notepaper, from The Peter Johnson Gallery, with an address in fashionable Sloane Street, London. It was an invitation to attend a ‘Peter Johnson Party’, arranged to promote the launch of this new art gallery and sale room. I was in the phone book at the time, so easily found. My first reaction was that it was a joke. Perhaps a carefully-contrived prank by some friends, to lure me into something that would embarrass me.

I decided to phone the number anyway, and play along. A serious young lady assured me that it was genuine. They had come up with the promotional idea to launch both the gallery, and the new collection it was featuring. Newspapers and local TV stations had been informed, and the guest list only contained men named Peter Johnson, (plus one partner) which was also the genuine name of the gallery owner. There would be some light food served, and drinks, all free. We could peruse the art on display, without any need to feel pressured into buying anything. She was adamant that this was all for the benefit of publicity, and added that it might be very interesting for me to meet many other men with the same name. It was quirky enough to attract me, so we went on the evening shown on the invitation. On arrival, a young lady asked our occupations, then drew a design on a large white sticker we had to wear. As I was an EMT, she drew a big red cross, and stuck it to my jacket. With everyone having exactly the same name, we would have no need of introductions. It was a pleasant enough couple of hours, but we all learned that just having the same name doesn’t mean you have anything else in common. And it didn’t make the TV news.

When I was diagnosed with Glaucoma, I had to attend the eye clinic at the huge University College Hospital, in London. As this was only a short walk from where I lived in Camden Town, I was on time for the afternoon appointment. The waiting room was huge, and full to the brim, with no free seats. When an elderly lady was called in, I slipped in to her vacant seat, and waited. After a wait of almost thirty minutes, a nurse appeared in a doorway, holding a file. In a loud voice, she called out, “Peter Johnson please. Peter Johnson”. I stood up, and was surprised to see that three other men had stood up too. We looked at each other. All around the same age, and all white men. The nurse checked the file again. “OK, born in 1952 please”. We all remained standing. By now, a couple of us were smiling too. She looked again, her expression one of exasperation. “March 1952 please”. Only one man sat down. Shaking her head, she looked at us as if we were teasing her. “Just the one born on the 16th of March then”. She turned back into the room as she said that. But only one other man had sat down. Moments later, she came back out, her arms folded. “Do either of you have any middle names?” We both shook our heads. She pointed at the taller man to my left, and said, “OK then, you first”.

In that one clinic, on one afternoon, I encountered four men with the same name. They were the same age exactly, having been born in the same year. And one of them was born on the same day.

Ever since, I have been very careful to make sure they are talking to the right person.

73 thoughts on “A Common Name

  1. My brother’s name is Peter. He is 34. Little O’s middle name is Peter too. My friend was married to a Peter. He is 40. I am the only Abigail Osbiston that I am aware of in the world but then I think there are less than 100 living Osbistons in the world. Mr O being a Paul has a couple of counterparts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I imagined that Osbiston would be rare. Your example is the only time I have seen it before. I thought it might come from the north, so looked it up. It has some roots in Lancashire, and was originally Osbaldeston, named after a place near Preston. It means ‘Osbald’s Settlement’, and dates back to the 7th century. Here’s the link.
      http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Osbiston
      All those ‘Peters’ may have some Dutch origin in SA, perhaps?
      Best wishes, Pete. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

      1. Mr O has given me the same history lesson ๐Ÿ˜Š.

        My dad is Dutch and his middle name is also Peter. He was born in July in Amsterdam during some celebration of Queen Juliana and so he was named Julian.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My first name is rare and I’ve almost never met another one. Then Pete tells me he has a friend called Roland- and then there’s the character. Clarke however is lot more common but some of us have the ‘e’. I feel sorry for all the John Clarke members of my family. Very imaginative.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Her father originally came from Slough, where she was born. Then moved to Watford, when his first wife died.
          His name was Francis Clarke, known as Frank, and he worked for the Post Office after leaving the army. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so funny, Pete. My dad’s name is Peter Dean but he uses Dean. My son, Michael told me this week he is going to name his son Peter. It always reminds me of Peter the Rock in Enid Blyton’s The Land of FAr Beyond. I have yet to meet another female Robbie let alone a Robbie Cheadle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is it just Robbie, or an abbreviation of Roberta? Robbie is generally a boy’s name here, a shortened version of Robert, particularly in Scotland. Cheadle is not a common surname here, but I have met a few people with that name over the years.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Here are some more for you. ๐Ÿ™‚
          Roberta Orgill, 17. YouTube Star.
          Roberta Flack, 82. R&B Singer.
          Roberta Damian, 15. TV Actress.
          Roberta Bondar, 73. Astronaut.
          Roberta Pupi, 30. YouTube Star.
          Roberta Ferrari, 50. Journalist.
          Roberta Shore, 75. TV Actress.
          Roberta Vinci, 36. Tennis Player.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. My cousin is named Kim, but it’s not Kimberly, just Kim. It is also used here as a boy’s name, which can be confusing. ๐Ÿ™‚ McCarthy is very common here too, with its Irish connections.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was the most delightful post to read, Pete. Loved the story of all the Pete Johnsons in the waiting room. Loved even better that Ollie (Oliver) is the current dayโ€™s #1 name. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I tried to phone a Mary Smith locally and got the wrong one. My sister was christened Marianne but was always called Mary. My hubby and I had our coat of arms done for us a long time ago but it was pretty dull and we haven’t tried to trace our ancestors. I did find over 40 people with the same name as myself so had to add my middle initial to my books. I think I’m the only Julie C Round.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had never heard of anyone with the surname Round, until I met you online, Julie. Then I was watching a news report the other day, and one of the ‘talking heads’ had that surname too. Maybe one of your relatives? ๐Ÿ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I doubt it. There is someone on background TV that pops up sometimes, no relative- but our son, Sticky, is really Martin Round and writes books on scooters and scootering so is quite famous on that scene. The other son is a part time actor so he may get noticed one day!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post ๐Ÿ™‚ Here in the United States, (at least based on my knowledge), it has been said that James is the most popular first name. I will have to recheck that in the future though. As to having many different people in the same room with your exact first name, I have had that experience, though it has only been with two people in the same room (me included). Anyway, keep up the great work as always ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The four of us in that room had the same first and last name, were born in the same year, and had no middle names. We also all suffered from the same eye condition. That was quite spooky, I can tell you.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that interesting link, Narfphagus. I see I am at number 56. Over here, immigration and birth rates have both had a significant effect on popular names. Mohamed/Muhammad is now the most common boy’s name, in some districts. And once the most popular name for boys, John is becoming quite rare.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  7. Wow! What are the chances of that? But I know what you mean about common first names – some seem to endure through the generations and others don’t. Or they cycle through every 100 years or so. I know many people named Sue, Susan, Susanne, Suzanne, Susie, etc. and none are under 50!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we all tend to grow up with those around us having similar names. Although the popularity of names comes in cycles, there are many once-popular names that disappear completely.
      (Edna, Edith, Mortimer, etc)
      Best wishes, Pete..

      Like

  8. That made me laugh – my son’s middle name is Peter – after his Ukrainian grandfather – can’t spell the Ukrainian version but everyone called him Peter. Everywhere I go we ladies all have names beginning with J. Nobody calls their babies Janet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janet was a common name when I was younger. (1960-1970) But I don’t see any young women with that name now, that’s true. My wife was born in 1961, and her name is Julie. Three of her closest friends are also called Julie, and they are just collectively known as ‘The Julies’.
      By the way, here’s Peter, in Ukrainian. ะฒะธั‡ะตั€ะฟัƒะฒะฐั‚ะธัั ๐Ÿ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s hilarious Pete! Like you my name is a sign of my age. Judith is not common at all now and like many girls born in the 1950s a lot of us have Margaret or Elizabeth as first or middle names.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Remember all those ‘Judy/Judith’ actresses in the sixties? You can definitely get some idea of age, just from a first name. For example, I never knew anyone called ‘Darren’, until I was almost 30! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It made me think of something my dad told me. I was born around 10 pm, on the 16th of March. Had I tipped over midnight, into the 17th, despite having no Irish connections, I would have been called Patrick, after that saint’s day. Then that eye-clinic moment would never have happened. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Just goes to show you that biblical names aren’t expected these days when naming your children. I was waiting for you to share a dirty story about your name. In the states, growing up, you would no doubt have been teased for the double whammy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Somehow iโ€™m reminded of โ€œinvasion of the body snatchersโ€. But iโ€™m guessing you all donโ€™t look alike.

    Having a first name โ€˜edithโ€™ is a plus. No one else, in this century, has that name.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I don’t know any young people with our older names, all the Peters I know are 50 +, Phil is a similar thing I think. 2 of our grandsons are Lewis & Callum, but at least we have a Matthew which seems pretty timeless. The little lad who lives next door is a George which I do like, but his parents are quite quaint ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a fascinating post, Pete, and how amazing so many Pete Johnsons were in the same waiting room. I have a Facebook friend who was befriending other Mary Smiths around the world and we’ve been friends for years now, though never met. I know quite a few Peters but hadn’t thought about their age until I read your blog – and yes, they are all over fifty, the ones I was at school with over 60. My son has Peter as his middle name – named after his godfather, another over fifties Peter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you start to think about it, it all falls into place. ๐Ÿ™‚
      That waiting room experience was startling. And we kept going back for the same appointments of course! But being Londoners, we actually never discussed it. Typical. The party at the gallery involved men from all over the country. Some had been so flattered to be invited, they paid for expensive hotels nearby. One had even travelled from Canada to be there, after a relative had phoned him with information about the event. And that relative was a cousin, with the same name!
      I suspect your name is even more common than my own, Mary.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  14. What a fun story, Pete! On a different note, do you have any idea what can be done about the following WP problemโ€”when I try to press โ€˜likeโ€™ sometimes nothing happens, sometimes I am redirected into logging in. Also I have to fill in my email, name etc. each and every time, then log in AGAIN! This does not happen on every blog, and sometimes it doesnโ€™t happen every time. It happens on my blog, too, although Iโ€™ve tried to fix it in the settings. So annoying, and Iโ€™m sure it stops people from commenting, because itโ€™s soooo boring. I thought you just might have an idea…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never have to do that when I comment on your blog, Marina. But there are other WP blogs, mostly self-hosted ones, where I have to do it every time. So I tick the box on their site that ‘remembers’ my details for next time.
      Try this.
      Got to ‘Settings’
      Then ‘Discussion’
      You will see a section that states ‘Comment author must fill out name and email’.
      If this box is ticked, untick it. That might help, but I am not 100% sure. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

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