What’s in a name?

3 min readSep 8, 2023

Wherein the author learns that people who share her name are mostly … dead?

Name badges and felt pens on a table
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Google has this nifty tool called “alerts”.

It allows you to monitor the internet for content of interest based on topics that you designate. Rather than having to initiate a search, the app does the looking, and alerts you to relevant items as they arise.

They call it a “content change detection and notification service” that scours web pages, newspaper articles, blogs and scientific research to find items that match specified search terms.

How cool is that?

You can find out if your favorite topics were mentioned in the news; if something you wrote was republished (without permission?!); if someone said something about you or attributed something to you.

Of course, you have to select the right search terms. What do you want to know about that may turn up on line from time to time?

Some time ago I decided to stop periodically searching for references to myself online (SO self-absorbed) and instead, I set up alerts to do it for me. I created alerts for my real name, my Medium pseudonym, and my email address. And then I sat back and waited.

And what have I been alerted to in the weeks and months since I set up the alerts?

Mostly obituaries.

Apparently, the combination of names my parents chose was popular in the 1930s and 40s, and sadly, those folks are reaching their end of life more frequently these days. There’s not a week goes by that I don’t get a notice of the passing of someone who shares my name. I read something online that insists the odds of any two randomly selected people having the same full name are vanishingly small.

And yet, here we are. It’s … interesting?

A baby peeking out of a white flanelette blanket
Photo by Michal Bar Haim on Unsplash

Certainly in most cultures names go in and out of fashion — in places with a British lineage, we rarely hear of a Gertrude or an Ethel any more. Apparently the two most popular names for female babies in the US right now are Olivia and Emma. And according to the US Social Security administration, between…




Recreational writer, collector of antique corkscrews, urban gardener and retired management consultant to social profit organizations. Proudly Canadian.