07 July 2022

What's in a Name?

A belated Happy Canada Day and Independence Day to our Canadian and American readers!

For new readers of the blog, my name is Brian Thornton. "Doolin Dalton" is the Blogger handle I've had for over a decade. Long story on getting it changed, which makes it a story for another time.

There's a funny story about how my parents came up with my first name.

I was born in 1965. During the previous year, while my mom was pregnant with me, there was a song all over the radio called "Sealed With A Kiss." My dad just loved it. And he liked the name of the singer who released it.

A guy named Brian Hyland.

He had a number of puppy love type hits over the course of the early-to-mid 1960s. The best of these was the aforementioned "Sealed With A Kiss." (You've likely heard it. If you're curious, you can listen here.).

However, Brian Hyland's biggest hit wasn't about puppy love and letters and Summer. It was a novelty song about a swimsuit.

Title: "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini."

Yep. This one.

My parents got the idea for my name from the guy who sang this song!

Fast forward to 1993. I was a graduate student (History, naturally) at Eastern Washington University in Cheney. I was sitting in my off-campus apartment one night, when the phone rang. The following conversation is transcribed as I remember it:

ME: Hello?

CALLER: Brian?

Me: Yes. Who's this?

CALLER: (Confused) It's Jen.

ME: Oh, hi Jen.

(I know a LOT of women named Jennifer. Wasn't sure which one this was. Just couldn't place the voice.)

CALLER: (Still confused) This is Brian?

ME: Yes.

CALLER: Brian Thornton?

ME: Yes.

CALLER: Oh, okay. Whew! So anyway, I was calling because I'm really concerned about Bill and his relationship with The Lord.

ME: Bill?


ME: Bill?

(The only Bill I knew well enough that one of my Jen friends would talk about his spiritual life was a practicing atheist).

CALLER: Bill. 

ME: Bill's an atheist.

CALLER: Are you sure this is Brian Thornton?

ME: Yes. Which Jen is this?

CALLER: Your sister.

ME: I don't have a sister.

CALLER: This is Brian Thornton?

ME: Yes.

CALLER: Brian Thornton from Oak Harbor?

ME: No.

Funny story, turns out there were two Brian Thorntons enrolled at E.W.U. that year. Myself and a freshman attending on a golf scholarship. His sister called directory assistance for Cheney and got my number instead of his.

Nothing like this had never happened to me before. Jen and I cleared that up, had a good laugh, and hung up. And I thought that would be the end of it.

Turns out it wasn't.

To this day I have never met this other Brian Thornton. Not while we were both at Eastern, and not since.

Which is not to say that our paths haven't continued to cross.

I got a job teaching in Kent, Washington (Southeast of Seattle in the Seattle-Tacoma metroplex). Turns out, the other Brian Thornton got a job as a golf pro at a nearby golf course. Every year or so one of my students would mention this golf pro who had the same name as myself.

And then it got weird.

Not a reenactment. I was NOT smiling.
I went in to the dentist's office to get a crown on a tooth where the filling had fallen out. At the time I got
my dental care at one of those open bay places which resembles nothing so much as an assembly line. The dentist working with me that particular day was new to the practice, and likely to the country. It would be putting it kindly say that his grasp on the English language was "evolving."

So imagine my surprise when he began to try to numb up the wrong side of my mouth. 

Once I got over my shock, I put a stop to this but quick.

A quick consultation with ladies in the front office revealed that the dentist was planning to give me a crown using the dental records of the other Brian Thornton.

Needless to say, I changed dentists.

So next time you read one of those stories where there's a mix-up with the names of a couple of very different people, rest assured it does happen in real life.

And maybe it's time I tackle this sort of story.

And that's it for me this time around.

See you in two weeks!


  1. LOL! There re a bunch of other Jeff Bakers but I've never crossed paths with them! And I looked up the name "Brian" a while back: it's famous as the name of Irish kings but it dates back even further. In fact, Monty Python's having a "Brian" kicking around in Galilee 2000 years ago might not be that far off!

  2. Great story. You could make good fiction out of this!

  3. I have what most people consider an unusual name: David Schlosser. I've lived in more than 10 states and learned it's a very usual name. We used to have a Facebook group of all the David Schlossers using that platform -- thousands of them around the world.

    Growing up in Topeka, there was a David Schloesser who was about my age and in a different school district, and his mom and my mom had the same name.

    When I lived in Austin during grad school and was a dorm director, my name and phone number weren't in directory assistance because I was on the campus phone network. After getting a few calls from female friends who said, "I just got some guy with your name in a lot of trouble with his wife," I looked up the other David Schlosser in the phone book and called him. After I introduced myself, he said, "Oh, thank God - please talk to my wife and tell her I'm not having an affair." When I moved to Austin years later and still single, I called him to let him know I was back. He was kind of a jerk about it. We had the same mechanic and same dentist.

    When I lived in Charlotte, my primary care doc had another patient named David Schlosser. That clinic used a palm scanner to keep our files separate.

    When we did our first real estate transaction in Seattle, I learned there's another David Schlosser in Washington who's got a lot of tax problems and had to sign an affidavit that I'm not him to finance our house in Redmond.

    After we moved downtown, the check-in clerk at our vet always looked confused when I showed up with our dogs for an appointment because the pet that clinic looks after for another David Schlosser is a cat that has the same name as one of our dogs.

    At work, I regularly get email and chat messages auf deutsch for the other David Schlosser who works at Dell.

  4. Wow, Brian and David. That is cool in its own way,

    But not cool when an old girlfriend found someone was piggy-backing on her medical insurance. She missed the woman by mere moments one day, coming in to her doctor's office 2-3 minutes after the other woman departed.

  5. Spooky! But not unknown. Up in the source for my Laskin, SD, in reality a woman moved to town with the exact same name as the wife of a local judge. Mix-ups abounded. And then there are those who (deliberately?) date people with the same first name, so that no one quite knows who he's dating when...


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