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Who is Your “Namesis”?

June 10, 2019 laurawattenberg 25 Comments

Who is Your “Namesis”?

June 10, 2019 LauraWattenberg 25 Comments
Enraged man with "Lucas" name tage
Image: Aaron Amat/Adobe

Your name has enemies. Don’t blame yourself, it’s nothing that you did. In fact, your name itself is perfectly innocent. But somewhere out there, there’s another name holding a grudge.

I learned this from a Twitter conversation started by a Jonah who declared Jonas his name’s natural enemy. When he invited others to share their own name’s nemesis, or “namesis,” the floodgates were open. Name enemies, it seems, are everywhere.

Most often, the villains are near-doppelgangers. After you’ve mistakenly been called—or responded to—a particular name one or two hundred times, the die has been cast:


It’s not always about mistaken identity, though. For some names it’s a moral imperative: your own name is right, thus variants are corrupt and must be stamped out.


Perhaps most interesting are the names that don’t sound alike, but are constantly confused because they feel alike. Women named Rebecca, I now know, are routinely called Rachel. Then there are the people who suddenly find that their surname has become a popular first name. The variants are endless, but the core experience is universal. We all have our nameses. What’s yours?

LauraWattenberg
LauraWattenberg

Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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25 Comments

  • JGuliaP June 10, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    My maiden name is Park and my brother has a name ending in -er. I imagine he would say his namesis is Parker. Plenty of people have mistakenly called him that over the years.
    I love the idea of the namesis and will be thinking what they might be for the people I interact with.

    • k June 11, 2019 at 2:41 am

      As a Katie born in the ‘80s I loathe mistakenly being called Kathy by people older than me. It’s such a Boomer name.

  • Gina June 10, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    I’m a Virginia who is often mistaken for Victoria. I get it in Greek, too: Greek speakers keep calling me Evgenia.

  • luciernaga
    luciernaga June 10, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    I think popular nicknames that the person hates ought to count: my best friend Victoria’s namesis is Vicky; my mom (technically Elizabeth) goes by Lib but NEVER Libby.

  • Colette June 10, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    I am “Colette with 1 L”. Namesis no. 1 are all the Collettes out there. Namesis no. 2 is Colleen! I guess people just opted for the close but familiar instead of actually remembering my name. There are the random Claudette and Cosette references, but not as much.

  • Amity June 11, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    My name is Amity and my namesis is Amy. Way too many people guess names from the beginning and ending, completely ignoring the insides.

  • Martha June 11, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    Thankfully, Martha doesn’t really have a namesis. The closest is Marsha: I’ve had a few instances where my name was mis-heard as that.

    (Then there was the time at Burger King where the server wrote down Bertha instead of Martha. That one had me seriously contemplating going to the manager and complaining, because it seemed… deliberately offensive.)

    My sister Julia’s namesis is Julie. She is not now, nor was she ever, named Julie. But a certain type of person (somewhat generational, but not entirely so) insists on calling her Julie, despite being clearly and repeatedly told that the name is Julia. Three syllables, please.

  • Angela June 12, 2019 at 12:41 am

    I’m Angela and my nemesis is Angelica…so close, but so far! There was an Angelica in school with me whose last name was only one letter different from mine…she was always being sent to the principal’s office and I was summoned in her place a few times for things I didn’t do!

  • Andrea June 12, 2019 at 4:27 am

    My name is Andrea. I have constantly been called Angela. There were two girls in my class called Angela, which didn’t help, but people who didn’t know them still confused Andrea and Angela.

  • Jenna June 12, 2019 at 4:30 am

    Jenna… not Jenny, Jennie, Jennifer, Ginny, Ginnie…or Shannon. (Why must they be confused?)

  • Kimberlite
    Kimberlite June 12, 2019 at 5:30 am

    I knew two Claras with Claire nameses… namesises. Hmm, not sure how to pluralize.
    They both absolutely hated being addressed by the nn Claire-bear because it’s-Clara-not-Claire-thankyouverymuch.

  • Lydia June 12, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    This has gotten better as my name has grown in popularity, but growing up, my namesis was Linda. In school when we had a substitute reading the roll, I would answer “Here” for Linda, just to move things along.

  • Kater-ater
    Kater-ater June 13, 2019 at 1:37 am

    One of my earliest memories is a conversation with an adult who just met me:

    Them: “Oh, I bet your parents sometimes call you Katie.”
    Me: “No! My name is KATE NOT KATIE!”

    And, though I manage to be marginally more diplomatic about it now, this is basically how I still feel.

    Also, as a full name Katherine, the first time I heard the name Katelyn I legit thought it was a fake, made-up invention based on Katherine.

  • Brigit June 13, 2019 at 11:45 am

    My real name is Patricia, pronounced by most people I grew up with as Patreecia, so my namesis in Catholic school was T(h)eresa. There were lots of both of us and people would mix us up.

    And Pat, since I’ve always been Trish but people insist on saying Pat when they see Patricia on a form or list.

    And Chris, because when you answer the phone as Trish half the world replies “Hi, Chris….”

  • Katie June 13, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    My name is Katie but for some reason have been called “Sarah” more times throughout my life than I count. No idea why.

    Also, because my full name is Katharine “with an A, like Hepburn”, all the other spellings are my namesis and bane of my existence! 😉

  • Fiona June 13, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    At first I thought I didn’t have one, as a Fiona; it’s pretty distinctive. Then I remembered. Fifi. Only one person in the world is allowed to call me Fifi and IT ISN’T YOU!

    Fi is fine, though. 😉

  • Amy3 June 13, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    As an Amy, I don’t really have a namesis. It’s not usually mistaken for anything else. However, I have been called Carrie by several people. Maybe I just look like a Carrie?

  • Emmeline
    Emmeline June 14, 2019 at 8:39 am

    I’m Emily, and my name is hardly ever confused with anything else. Nonetheless, my namesis is Emma. It’s the boring, insipid, spineless version of my own beautiful (though sadly way more popular than I’d like) name. Why would you ever choose Emma (also way too popular) when Emily is on the table?

  • Rebecca Webber June 14, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    I’m a Rebecca who has always gone by Becky, which has left me with several nameses:

    1. Becca — this was the most common nickname for Rebecca when I was growing up, so I’ve been called Becca a lot, and I hate it. In my mind, Becca is the mean girl.

    2. Debby and Peggy — people regularly mishear my name as one of these on the phone (probably my lack of annunciation, but still bizarre to me, as I don’t think of those as generationally-appropriate for someone born in the Gen X-millennial cusp).

    3. Of course, my real problem these days is Becky itself, from “Becky with the good hair” to “BBQ Becky,” your own name of the year for 2018. (Note: I feel strongly that it should be Beccas in the crosshairs of the clueless young white woman stereotype, and how about Debby or Peggy as the racist white woman?)

  • Kayeff
    Kayeff June 14, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Cordelia’s namesis is definitely Cornelia.

    Mine is the standard version of my non-standardly-spelled name, but I don’t really think that it’s fair to villainize all people who spell my name like that since it’s an unusual spelling. Unless you’re my cousin, friend, have known me for years, or have my name written RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. Like, I signed my email to you and you respond with a misspelled salutation. That’s unacceptable.

    (Emily, I love your impassioned diatribe against Emma!)

  • wsusanna91
    wsusanna91 June 16, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I’m a Susanna who is usually Sue, but also routinely called “Susan” or “Suzanne” by co-workers and acquaintances. . Usually, I respond to either without a second thought.
    I went by my full name more often as a child, and was often mistaken for a Samantha or Savannah.
    As an elementary-schooler, I named my modern American Girl doll “Savannah” as a parallel of myself.

  • Zoe June 18, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I’m a Zoe and my namesis would have to be Chloe. They rhyme, they’re both Greek in origin, and I suppose equally as popular? I was so shy as a child that my teacher called me Chloe for the entire year and I never corrected her. I would say “Zo” is another namesis but I’ve never met anyone who has that actual name or pronounces Zoe as such.

    • LauraWattenberg
      LauraWattenberg June 19, 2019 at 6:10 am

      I once listened to an audiobook with a female protagonist called “Zo,” which seemed a little odd for the character. A year or so later I saw a copy of the physical book and discovered the name was Zoe! Aaaaaaahh.

  • Evie
    Evie June 18, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    “Namesis” is brilliant 🙂 I sadly have a lot of them. Elaine and Alanna are probably the worst, but Alina is up there, too. Pretty much any *L*N* combination, where * can be any vowel. Though in recent years I have made peace with the “Ellen-uh” pronunciation of my name, and will respond to it without any ill feelings.

  • Emily June 19, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Another Emily here! My “namesis” is probably Elizabeth, though for awhile I worked with an Erin and we were routinely mixed up.
    My boyfriend is Ethan, which is relatively uncommon for my age group, despite its popularity now. He has been referred to as Evan, Ian, and Nathan (it took my grandparents about two years to get to “Ethan”).

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