One year ago, a battle cry rang throughout the internet. Having tracked down all bearing his name, Josh Swain collected all his namesakes in a very confusing Facebook group chat and issued a challenge: Meet at these coordinates in exactly one year for a Josh Fight. To the victor goes the title of the Supreme Josh, to the losers the ignominy of having to go by Joshua or Joshiel. There can be only one.
To the unobservant, the Josh Fight might appear like a Smurf-like circle jerk (slash a great excuse to raise money for charity), but it is actually the inevitable conclusion of one of the internet’s mental pressures. Before the internet, unless you had access to a government database or a tower of phone books, it was incredibly rare to ever be aware of the existence of a name doppelganger, let alone come into contact with one. But the internet has not only put us in touch with our identity sharers but in direct competition with them, a competition some will fight with bitter and entitled resolve.
This exposure to all our name-right usurpers can impact us psychologically, from raising self-esteem issues to stress from invisible peer pressure. For many people, their careers and dreams depend on being THE Maria Hostetler that first pops up in Google or getting that professional sounding “firstname_lastname” handle on the latest online platform. Even those who just like to cyberstalk their name fellows on social can experience a creeping identity crisis. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you scroll through an 8593 long list of Sarah Smiths on Facebook and slowly realize you’re objectively not the best Sarah Smith; you’re not even in the top 5,000.
So maybe the Joshes have the right idea. Maybe all namesakes should just duke it out and once and for all know their place in the nominative hierarchy. In the case of Josh Swains, this was decided on the 25th of April 2021 during an intense game of rochambeau in the middle of a field in Arkansas. I won’t keep you in suspense over who won -- it was Josh Swain. There was also a greater pool-noodle melee for all Joshes during which a four-year-old Josh beat Josh, Josh, and, surprisingly, Josh and was crowned the king of the Joshes.
But while a bunch of maskless dudes spending Spring Break hitting each other with pool noodles during a pandemic is the most Josh thing in the history of Joshery, other names will have to search within and determine the kind of contest that would bear a suitable champion. Lindas may not want to fight with pool noodles but with throw pillows embroidered with inspirational quotes. The Silversteinian bands of Wolfs, Thors, and Hunters could see who can do the most pushups without crying. And Karens can meet at high noon for a quickdraw -- whoever can pull out their phones and call 9-1-1 the fastest when a minority walks by wins. Of course, the greatest battle of all would be between John Smiths, all one million of them on Facebook. Though that would be less of an epic fight and more of a spy game where first they have to figure out which are the real John Smiths and which are using the name to anonymously stalk their exes.
Or, hear me out: We could just turn our backs on this eponymous peer pressure. Instead of fighting, we should make peace with our name doppelgangers -- exemplified by the Daniels, who have unified on Twitter through their Oh Danny Boy brotherhood and collective hatred of the bourgeois Nathaniels. After all, these few people are the only ones who truly understand what it’s like the bear the burden of your name; the pain of the stereotypes, the annoyance of the automatic nicknames, and the fury you feel when they keep misspelling your name even though it’s right there in the goddamn email address, Janet.
Personally, as a Cedric, I would still welcome a gathering of my name fellows, who are all statistically either middle-aged African Americans from aspirational families or ancient British butlers, so that we may engage in a gentlemanly game of who can sound the whitest on the phone.
You can follow Cedric on Twitter, a haven for all names. Except for Cedrics who pronounce their name with a long "e," they can piss right off.
Top Image: Kenneth Ferriera, Wikimedia Commons