He’s the nom de plume of Doctor Who, and he’s also the man opening the London Olympics tonight:
Well, maybe not
As it so happens, the guy whose hands wave around at the beginning, and voice exclaims John Smith nearer the end is Osama from yesterday. This video was filmed by me at the technical rehearsal on Wednesday, and look out for the exploding balloons in the bottom right hand corner. I’m still impressed with my luck of getting a practically front row ticket too
The name John Smith is in theory one of the most popular names out there, given that Smith is one of the most popular surnames in the English speaking world and the name John having centuries of popularity under his belt.
Perhaps in these more modern days, here in the UK he would actually be Jack Smith instead – especially for the under 20s given that Jack reigned as the most popular name in England&Wales from 1996-2008.
The name is often used as a generic name to represent the everyday man, given the commonplace of both names.
An interesting exchange in Doctor Who sums the attitude to this name up nicely for me, when the Doctor gives his name as John Smith to a character, who retorts along the lines that nobody’s called that anymore.
One could see this as hinting towards a drive many parents have these days for a more unique name.
It’s also worth talking about the phenomena of the slightly different Alan Smithee. This was the official name used in films by directors who had disowned the film, and thus didn’t want their name in the credits. It was coined in 1968 and discontinued in 2000.
The downfall of the name has often been attributed to a film released in 1997 called An Alan Smithee: Burn Hollywood Burn. It is regarded as one of the worst films of all time, and thus brought harsh negative publicity towards the name Alan Smithee.
Other names like this include the name Joe Bloggs/Fred Bloggs, often used the the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and John Doe, the USA and Canadian equivalent. In both cases, the surnames are more distinctive, whilst the first names remain popular picks.
Other cultural versions of these names include:
- Israel Israeli, israel
- Jan Kowalski, poland
- Jean Dupont, france
- Jonas&Petras, lithuania
- Luther Blissett, artists and activists in Europe and America
- Matti & Maija Meikäläinen, finland
- Max & Erika Mustermann, germany
- Medel-Svensson, sweden
- Ola & Kari Nordmann, norway
- Seán Ó Rudaí (Sean O’Something), ireland
- Tadhg an mhargaidh (Tadhg of the markplace), irish version of Average Joe
- Tauno Tavallinen, finland
- Tommy Atkins, the British army (dates from the World Wars)
I don’t suppose anyone actually knows a John Smith?