A Whole Lotta Joshes

There was a time last year when I was in active communication with three people named Matthew, all of whom went by Matt casually, and who had overlapping domains. More than once I caught myself emailing Matt № 1 when I meant to email Matt № 2 or 3. And, indeed, once I did that. And because of the overlapping domains, the email kind of made sense. 

This year I’ve swapped out Matts for Joshes. I’m juggling four Joshes this year. Their domains don’t overlap as much as the Matts, but I suspect that, nonetheless, I will end up emailing Josh № 4 sometime soon when I mean to email Josh № 2. Thank goodness I’m not dating any of them.

(I’ve met a new Mitch this summer, which pushes my Mitch-count to three, so it’s possible that there will be similar Mitch-problems in parallel).

All of which got me curious about first name frequency, so I exported the 1,092 contacts in my address book, extracted their first names, and then sorted and calculated frequency (if you’re a command line-user and have never explored uniq -c, you haven’t lived!).

There are 32 first names that show up 5 or more times in my contacts; in order of frequency, they are:

  18 John
  12 Peter
  11 Paul
  10 David
  10 Dave
   9 Steve
   9 Chris
   8 Mark
   7 Stephen
   7 Mike
   7 Kelly
   7 Bill
   6 Robert
   6 Patrick
   6 Karen
   6 Ian
   6 Heather
   6 Gary
   6 Alan
   5 Tom
   5 Tim
   5 Susan
   5 Scott
   5 Ron
   5 Nancy
   5 Kevin
   5 Jeff
   5 George
   5 Doug
   5 Don
   5 Bob
   5 Ben

It’s worth noting, per aforementioned first name confusion, that in that top-32 are the names of all of my brothers (John, Stephen, Mike).

And, in the number two slot, is my name. Given that nobody has been named Peter since the 1950s, this tells you something about the age of my contacts.

This blog post actually started off being a blog post not about Joshes, but about Peters. About Peter Bihr, in fact. He’s the youngest Peter in my contacts, an exception to the aged rule.

And what I wanted to mention about Peter is that he’s started to post his weekly email newsletter to his blog, which means that I can consume his weekly newsletter in my RSS reader. For which I am truly thankful.

I should really send him a thank you note. There’s a good chance that one of the Peters Bevan-Baker, Foley, Hooley, Johnston, Livingstone, Lux, Mutch, Noonan, Porteous, Richards or Whittle will get the thank you instead, but that’s a risk I’ll have to take.


Ton Zijlstra's picture
Ton Zijlstra on September 25, 2020 - 02:02 Permalink

There are 'fashion' waves when it comes to first names as well. First names popular in the early 70s e.g., which made me end up with several of them in my age cohort at school. When we chose Y's name we purposefully checked it against the public database of all first names in the country over time, narrowing our list to those that aren't likely to mean having class mates with the same name, yet also not so unique noone will have an immediate notion how to spell it (which happened to E a lot, as her name is very rare in NL, less than 5 according to the database, but might be unique even). The Dutch first names database since 1880 is at https://www.meertens.knaw.nl/nvb/english