We all suspect we have a double out there in the world, but the internet makes it easier to find dozens of them. A couple of years ago, I googled my name to find one of my articles so I could email it to an editor. Dozens of Cathy and Catherine Shermans appeared. Only three of them were me, but some were so like me in what they studied or pursued or were employed in doing that if I didn’t know better I would have thought they were me. Poet, science writer, photographer, artist, museum worker or in jewelry sales — work or hobbies I’ve done. Others were college students, a counselor, realtor and attorney. So far, I haven’t found any with a criminal record. One received a humanitarian award (Not me….) Rosanna Arquette even played a Cathy Sherman in a movie, “Good Advice.”
Others with my name were so different from me I thought there’d be no way anyone would mistake those tough gals for wimpy me! Long-haul trucker, another one a school bus driver, one a personal trainer. There’s the young teenager named Cathy Sherman who won outrigger canoe contests in Honolulu. But, I thought, hey, if those Cathy and Catherine Shermans can do it, maybe so can I!
Googleganger is the name for this phenomenon — googling our other selves, our doppelganger (German for double going.) A story in the New York Times (See link to the story below) explains the psychology behind why we feel pleasure and seek out others with our name and lists lots of examples of people who have plowed this googleganging earth before I did. It also describes the hunt for our other selves. People have written books on it. As for the word, googleganger (imagine a pair of dots, an umlaut, over the a,), it was named “most creative” word last year by the American Dialect Society. My friend, “Planetjan,” (see blogroll), put the word in her “Quotation Rotation.”
Some people with really common names will laugh at the thought there’s a bond. To them, it’s probably annoying. You get the wrong mail, or even go to jail. Some people have even gotten arrested for the antics of their name double.
My name is just common enough to have googlegangers, but not common enough that I know anyone with my name. I thought I owned my name. Wrong!
It wasn’t until I received a facebook friend request from a Cathy J. Sherman in Australia that I thought it might be possible to actually get to know some other people with my name — without going to a lot of trouble. I’m now adding Cathy and Catherine Shermans to my friends list. So far, I haven’t had to deal with the dilemma of what to do with a Kathy with a K. I never thought of Kathy as the same name as mine, but I shouldn’t be so picky. After all, they are Shermans…..
I have ancestors named Catherine Sherman, but despite all of these doubles, I’ve never met another Cathy or Catherine Sherman. I came close once. I got a report from my doctor that I had an abnormal finding on a test. I needed a different test. I drove in an ice storm to get to my procedure, after worrying for a month. The nurse asked me a couple of questions. It turned out that another Catherine Sherman had had the same test in that office the same day I had. It was her abnormal result, not mine. I was relieved for myself, but concerned for my double. This confusion wouldn’t have happened had I taken my husband’s much more rare last name. But I wouldn’t have any googlegangers. Medical mixups are a small price to pay.
Finding a host of Catherine Shermans led to a lot more people with the last name of Sherman in a facebook group called “Shermans Unite!” I’m now a proud new member. People grouping together with the same name isn’t a new phenomenon, although it was much harder before the internet. You had to rely on the old-fashioned phone directory. How quaint is that?
Growing up, I didn’t know anyone else with the name of Sherman other than my immediate family. If we Shermans have nothing else in common, we do have similar nicknames, including being called Sherman by friends instead of our first names. It makes it confusing when I go out with my three brothers and their five sons. My two sisters kept the name Sherman, too. (If you were lucky enough to have that name, would you change it?)
According to “Shermans Unite!” Sherman is the BEST LAST NAME EVER! The facebook group says “that people call you by your last name, all of the time, because it’s just that great.” And this is true. And it’s never mispronounced. If for some reason people tire of calling you Sherman, there are tons of nicknames — Sherm, Shermie, Sherm-dog, The Shermanator (From American Pie), or Tank, from Sherman Tank.
People are bound to be jealous and will try to use the name maliciously. When my father played high school basketball, the opposing teams tried to rattle him by chanting, Sherman, Sherman, you are it! S H for Sherman, I T for It! But there is no stopping a Sherman. We’re like tanks.
The most famous Sherman is the Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman. My father did some research and didn’t find a link there. We claim him, anyway! Other famous Shermans include General Sherman’s brother John, who authored the Sherman Antitrust Act, and was a senator and Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State. He was also known as the “Ohio Icicle.” Hmmm. James S. Sherman was the 27th vice president of the United States. All of these Shermans are part of a vast political family that spans the history of the country, beginning with the patriarch of the family, Roger Sherman, a senator from Connecticut, who was one of the Committee of Five who drafted the Declaration of Independence and then was one of the signers. In fact, he was the only person to sign all great state papers of the U.S.: the Articles of Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Conferderation and the Constitution. That’s a big deal. Way to go, great-great-great-great grandfather! (Ok, it’s just wishful thinking.)
To see more about this family, go to www.wikipedia.org and search for the “Baldwin, Hoar & Sherman family.” Isn’t wikipedia great!
Thomas Jefferson said of Roger Sherman: “That is Mr. Sherman of Connecticut, a man who has never said a foolish thing in his life.” That, perhaps, is a clue that I’m not related to him.
My branch of Shermans was originally French-speaking Catholics from Alsace-Lorraine, a province that was tossed back and forth between France and Germany. The Roger Sherman family is Anglo-Saxon Protestant, originally from England. The name Sherman is from Middle English shereman for “shearer,” so maybe our common ancestors were all shearing sheep together somewhere before some of the Saxons moved into England. (The Celts would say invaded!) There are Jewish Shermans, too. Sher “scissors” plus man is yiddish for tailor, according to www.answers.com There are also some non-Shermans who like the name so much that they give it to their children as a first name. Sherman Helmsley was one of the lucky ones.
There are lots of other famous Shermans. Don’t forget Mr. Peabody’s pet boy Sherman from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The work of photographer Cindy Sherman, who uses herself as a model, is in museum collections across the country. There’s Ben Sherman, a clothing designer, and Nat Sherman, tobacconist to the world. Remember comedian Allan Sherman (Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah song) and Bobby Sherman, the teeny bopper singer? My brother’s name is Allan, so we sang that a lot. My father’s name was Bob, so he got a lot of phone calls from giggling girls when that singer was popular — or should I say “more” popular, because Shermans never lose popularity.
General Sherman gave his name to the Sherman tank and to the General Sherman Sequoia tree, the biggest tree in the world. It is, in fact, the largest single organism by volume on earth!
There’s Sherman, Texas, and Sherman Oaks, Calif., and counties named Sherman in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. If your name is on a county in Texas, you have hit the big time! The Texas county and city are named for Sidney Sherman, who fought in the Texas Revolution. Those Shermans are fighting all over the place!
I feel happy to be among my tribe, even if we are united only by one glorious name! As to the subset of Cathy Shermans, my googlegangers, I’ll be happy to see what you’re doing out there in the world. Now when I see my name listed multiple times on my facebook birthday calendar all year long, I don’t have to groan about getting older, I’ll just celebrate more!
Names That Match Forge a Bond on the Internet a link to a New York Times article about finding your name double through google, called googleganging.