My extended family once had so many males named Frederick that the women in the family assigned each of us a number so the tribe could distinguish between us at family reunions. I became Fred IV. A casual observer might have thought that we considered ourselves royalty, or perhaps a line of renegade popes.
I have a neighbor, Tom Cruse, and a former student, Julia Roberts, who hear all kinds of comedic responses when they use their credit cards or present an ID. In most cases, however, confusion over names produces consternation, not amusement. Rates of criminal identity theft have grown at an astonishing pace, we’re told, and its victims find their lives hijacked. We also hear repeatedly of individuals who are hassled every time they try to board an airplane because they happen to have the same name as some suspicious character on a government “no-fly list.”