Celebrity Names Blog

Celebrity Name Doppelgangers: Facebook Ruined My Name!

Celebrity Name Doppelgangers: Facebook Ruined My Name!

When our Name Lady wrote to a mom distraught because her daughter Miley's name was ruined by Miley Cyrus, she (the Name Lady) conceded that the celeb had "taken control" of the name Miley, and advised the mom the let her daughter choose a new nickname. A vulnerable teenager with a celebrity-name-induced existential crisis: that's rough, right?

Now imagine you're a successful midwestern lawyer with a weird last name and your own law firm. You've built your "name" and professional reputation over years until you gained national status. Your law firm dominated search engine stats for your name: Mark Zuckerberg. Now. Imagine it's 2004 and along comes Facebook, built by Harvard whiz kid, Mark Zuckerberg. Imagine how your Google rankings will tank, your business eclipsed in public imagination by The Social Network. Nor will that the be the end of your trials.

Attorney Mark Zuckerberg temporarily lost his Facebook account on Wednesday because of his name: an unusual name, it is nevertheless also the name of Facebook's founder. Since Facebook has a policy of policing celebrity websites to keep people from putting up fake ones, attorney Zuckerberg's name raised flags for an employee, who yanked the account. 

Which was the reason that, back in 2009, attorney Zuckerberg had had to provide extensive documentation, including his birth certificate and Indiana Bar Association license, even to get a Facebook account. The good news: shortly after news broke "the other Mark Zuckerberg"s account had been yanked, it was reinstated with an apology. But what can we learn from this digital Big Lebowski tale? That random name caprice can hit a business owner hard.

You may remember that in The Big Lebowski, our abiding hero, The Dude, whose other name is Jeffrey Lebowski, is mistaken for a different, richer Jeffrey Lebowski, and held accountable for this Jeffrey Lebowski's debts. This launches him on wacky, interesting adventures.

When Mark Zuckerberg, the lawyer, was mistaken for a different, richer Mark Zuckerberg, the wacky adventures on which he was launched included 500 Facebook Friend requests per day (many from overseas), as well as angry phone calls and even legal papers -- all intended for the more high profile Zuckerberg. Ultimately, Attorney Zuckerberg told the Indianapolis Star, Facebook was responsible for breaking up his marriage. On the other hand, the lawyer said that after giving his name to the hotel desk, he was treated very well in Vegas. 

(Are we the only ones who notice that Indiana is turning into quite the hotbed of naming stories? The state also made name headlines recently when the city of Fort Wayne declined to name a federal building after an important town mayor whose name happened to be Harry Baals. In that case, we can all see the problem.)

The Zuckerberg case, in contrast, is a cautionary tale for namers because, at first glance, Mark Zuckerberg's parents did everything right. With an unusual mouthful of a last name like Zuckerberg, name lore suggests using a simple, well-liked, popular first name for balance. Even so, had his parents made a different choice for their son--say, Englebert Zuckerberg--maybe the Indianapolis bankruptcy lawyer's name wouldn't have lost so much Google ground.

We've asked before if a name can seal your fate. The Zuckerberg case brings home a painful truth for Name Enthusiasts: carefully as we may weigh and choose, we can't control the name's fate. The meaning a name will have in society 20 years hence is unimaginable. So lighten up, and enjoy the process.

Do you know anyone with the name of a famous person? Have you been mistaken for someone else with the same name?



Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

May 13, 2011 3:08 PM
By kiki (not verified)

I don't personally know anyone with the name of a celebrity but this reminds me of the Office Space character Michael Bolton who despises the singer Michael Bolton for stealing his name. I believe he calls the singer a "no talent a** clown." HA HA!

May 13, 2011 4:35 PM
By Jennie

Last year we wrote about regular people with Presidential names... http://www.namecandy.com/celebrity-baby-names/blog/2010/01/03/presidential-namesakes-sharing-your-name-with-the-commander-in-

May 13, 2011 4:38 PM
By Jennie

Also, my name is one letter off and pronounced the same as the science fiction actress/bombshell Jenni Baird . People who only know me by phone or online often expect me to look like her (which i most decidedly DON'T -- :) )

May 13, 2011 6:42 PM
By Emily (not verified)

What is most intriguing about this to me is that you can't predict it- as you say, his parents did a good job of naming him, they didn't know some college kid with the same name would later become famous!

Also, as a Hoosier, I love the Indiana shout out!

May 13, 2011 10:05 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

City buses in Philadelphia have ads for a personal injury lawyer named Justin Bieber. Cracks me up every time.

Also reminds me of a friend who desperately wanted to name her son after her beloved grandfather...Adolf. She named him Adam instead.

May 14, 2011 6:24 AM
By Elizabeth T. (not verified)

I have a good friend named Bruce Willis. He lived in anonymity until 10th grade when "Moonlighting" debuted. His FB account is under his middle name. Once I was with him when someone introduced him to a woman named Betty Davis (not sure if she spelled her name Bette or Betty). They really bonded over complaining about their names.

May 14, 2011 2:00 PM
By Nancy Schneider (not verified)

I went to high school with a guy named John Roberts. I realize Supreme Court justices aren't A-list celebrities, but our American History and Government teachers would call him Chief.

May 14, 2011 8:41 PM
By Rachel (not verified)

I went to high school with a Susan Boyle. I'm not in touch with her, but I can't imagine it's been easy since the Susan Boyle sudden singer star thing happened. The Susan Boyle I knew was considered very attractive.

May 16, 2011 4:23 PM
By Stephanie (not verified)

I went to High School with a Mike Sanders who everyone called Colonel- Colonel Sanders. Total awesomeness. I can't tell you how many Michael Jacksons I have met or known- you should look it up in your phone book, there are usually quite a few. Also know a Randy Jackson.

May 17, 2011 12:04 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I went to school with a boy named Jeffrey Dahmer. His name was spelled slightly differently, but still, the kids had a field day with that one.

May 17, 2011 12:16 PM
By NicolaL (not verified)

I went to school with a Tom Jones and a Steven King. They were both born after the respective celebrities became famous; I'm not sure what was going through their parents' minds.

May 17, 2011 12:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know a Marcia Mason, and she's not the actress. This Marcia rather enjoyed sharing the name with someone more famous, but always insisted that she came before the actress.

May 17, 2011 12:57 PM
By Tanya (not verified)

I went to school with "Jennifer Lopez"

May 17, 2011 1:25 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It's not a celebrity per se, but when I was in elementary school the "American Girl" dolls and books were very popular and one of the girls was named Kirsten Larson. In middle school a girl transferred to my school named Kirsten Larson. She said she'd heard it every day since the books came out.

May 17, 2011 1:26 PM
By Pamela S (not verified)

My surname is in the top 50 in the US, and I and all my siblings have top 20 given names for the years we were born. We have ALL had trouble with other people with our same names. In the city where I live, there are six women listed in the phone book with my name. That annoys me, but the name is just as much theirs as it is mine... still hate it.

My dad almost got arrested for some incredible amount unpaid parking tickets stacked up by another Naval officer with his same name, first, middle and last, similar rank, a wife with the same given name, and stationed at the same shipyard. They might have even driven the same kind of car, I dunno, but we had a Volkswagon Bug back then. He had trouble at the bank with this guy too and only got out of the mess with the parking tickets because it was pretty easy for my mom to prove they had the wrong guy when she pointed out that Dad had been at sea during the time most of the tickets were given, and still was when they came to fetch him. "Ummm, this can't be him; he's in Manila right now."

I dunno, but if am ever blessed enough to have children, I'll be making it a point to avoid anything on the top 100. Your name, of all things, should be your own.

May 17, 2011 3:06 PM
By Debbie (not verified)

Pamela S.'s comment reminded me of my dad's story -- he has the same name as another man about the same age in the same state. That man is on the no-fly list, and my dad has issues every time he goes through airport security (and he now has to travel internationally for work -- not fun!). On the celebrity side, I went to school with a Robert Dinero but never heard what he thought of his celebrity name.

May 18, 2011 1:02 PM
By Knit-Wiht (not verified)

I have the same name as a "model", she fell between the pin-up girl and the penthouse bunny generations. My last name is not rare, but also uncommon enough that I've only met 2 or 3 people with it who aren't related to me. My first name did make it in to the top 100 in the 1920-1940s but doesn't rank anymore. It was quite a shock when happened to google my name.

May 18, 2011 3:31 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Tom (as short for Thomas) Jones is just too common for people to not decide to ignore the famous aspect when naming (especially if they're trying to do the family name thing - I know folks for whom it came up - they actually disliked the name "Tom Jones" because it was so common.

It's like the fact that Davy Jones (of the Monkee's) is never going to rid the world of David Jones's (given St. David is the patron saint of Wales, and that being where the majority of Jones originally hail from) Just too common a name for people not to decide to overlook it.

May 19, 2011 9:00 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I went to college 20 years ago with a guy named Paul Newman. And he was a drama major. He did eventually get to LA and had some minor parts on soaps, and professionally changed his last name to his mother's family name.

May 20, 2011 3:40 PM
By Paula (not verified)

I live in Nashville, TN, and also happen to be a huge country music fan. In the 20+ years that I've lived here, I've met people named Bill Anderson (NOT "Whisperin' Bill" Anderson, of the Grand Ole Opry!), Lynne (spelled that way) Anderson, who happened to be the daughter of the Bill I mentioned and is in no way connected or related to Lynn Anderson of "Rose Garden" fame, June Carter (NOT Johnny Cash's wife!), Brenda Lee (NOT "Little Miss Dynamite" Brenda Lee the singer), and Steve Sanders (same name as the singer who replaced Oak Ridge Boy William Lee Golden back in th late 1980's - NOT the same Steve!), among others! Most of the "ordinary" people with the "country star" names that I've met are around the same age as or older than their celebrity namesakes, so obviously none of the names were done on purpose.

Here in Nashville I've also met a young man named Michael Jordan, but his last name is pronounced "Jerdan," but no doubt he's had plenty of kidding over the years about the famous basketball player!

May 31, 2011 1:36 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I went to grad school with a Michael Jackson. I also knew a John Wayne once.

May 31, 2011 1:37 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Oh, and I also know a Christopher Plummer, and his wife, Amanda Plummer.

August 25, 2011 1:11 AM
By Emmy (not verified)

I know a Mary Kate Olsen and a Taylor Swift

September 15, 2011 11:34 PM
By Criminal Defense Attorney Reno Nevada (not verified)

reminds me of a friend who desperately wanted to name her son after her beloved grandfather...Adolf. She named him Adam instead.

June 20, 2012 1:45 PM
By Incredible Discoveries (not verified)

That is what the practical online business using social networks can do. It can definitely ruin you! Barely starting from your own name.

December 8, 2015 2:44 PM
By California Legal Group (not verified)

Haha what a funny situation that i have never heard of. Its so silly that the lawyer, was mistaken for a different, richer Mark Zuckerberg, the wacky adventures on which he was launched included 500 Facebook Friend requests per day.


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