Maybe this has happened to you. Two names get stuck and mixed up in your mind until you consistently can’t tell them apart. Jeff Bridges and Jeff Daniels are two very different actors. About five years apart in age, they’re both white men, but they play very different roles from each other. What’s worse, I’m a real fan of a Jeff Daniels movie or two (ahem), and one I watch every year. When it’s over I inevitably think it was a Jeff Bridges movie. I’d let this pass as aging gray matter but for one thing—I recently read a book on movies where the author made the same error. So I tried to exegete it. Why such a mistake? They’re not exactly doppelgängers, after all.
Okay, so they’re about the same age. They don’t look alike and their movie personae are very different. I tend to think it’s the euphony of the names. Jeff, followed by a two-syllable last name that ends in s. As I was talking this through, I said “Both last names begin with a bilabial.” My daughter corrected me, “D isn’t a bilabial,” she rightly pointed out. Okay, well, they occur near each other in the alphabet—they’re both in the first four. What I’m struggling with here is how at least three of us (I had this conversation with someone else years ago who also admitted to confusing the two), have this issue. And it’s not just the Jeffs.
Back in seminary, the song “Bruce” got a lot of airplay. By Rick Springfield, it was a lament that he was mistaken for Bruce Springsteen. The two both play rock (duh) and they were both born in 1949. Their last names begin with “Spring,” but “steen” and “field” are quite different. Not to mention Rick and Bruce. I sometimes think fame is just a mosh of pop culture that gets stuck in our heads and thoughts go around and around like a washing machine until those we don’t really pay attention to end up blending. And also, famous white guys about the same age with somewhat similar names, have to put up with imperfect doppelgängers. (Or is it doppelgängeren?) Academia.edu seems to confuse me with the Steven Wiggins who is an Economics professor at Texas A & M. Or is it the Steve Wiggins, Agricultural Economist at the UK Overseas Development Institute? Since I can only guess from their photo, we seem about the same age. None of us is famous, but that doesn’t prevent doppelgängers from finding you.