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What is the equivalent of "John Doe" in other languages?
September 14, 2012 3:33 PM   Subscribe

What is the equivalent of "John Doe" in other languages?

For some reason, I've become immensely curious about purposefully generic placeholder type names. If you speak another language, what is the functional equivalent of "John Doe" in that language?

Bonus points for explanations of the significance of that name. Is it just the two most common names (John Smith)? Is it euphemistic (John Q. Everyman)? Is it totally nonsensical?
posted by daniel striped tiger to Writing & Language (36 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been told Peter Schmidt in German, and in the UK Tommy.
posted by bq at 3:38 PM on September 14, 2012


In the UK it is Joe Bloggs. This wikipedia article may be of interest
posted by missmagenta at 3:38 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


When discussing an unnamed/unknown person Swedish usually just uses "N.N.", from the Latin Nomen nescio. When talking about a typical Swede, however, they would be a "Svensson" (no first name).
posted by harujion at 3:41 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a great question.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Atkins

Tommy Atkins or Thomas Atkins has been used as a generic name for a common British soldier for many years. The origin of the term is a subject of debate, but it is known to have been used as early as 1743. A letter sent from Jamaica about a mutiny amongst the troops says "except for those from N. America ye Marines and Tommy Atkins behaved splendidly".
posted by bq at 3:41 PM on September 14, 2012


I was going to say 'fulanito' or 'fulano de tal' for Mexico but the Wikipedia article covers that. I'm not sure what the origin is. It is not some common name but is used only in the context of some generic person.
posted by vacapinta at 3:41 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia has an article detailing the history of John Doe as well as other placeholder names, including those not in English. We don't know the exact reasons why John Doe (or Roe) was chosen, though.
posted by dhartung at 3:44 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Petar Petrović in Serbian.

If you wanted 'Tom, Dick and Harry' that would be 'Janko i Marko'.
posted by Dragonness at 5:19 PM on September 14, 2012


My grandfather used "Jimmy McGillicuddy" instead of "John Doe." Not sure where it came from but it did amuse me.
posted by emd3737 at 5:32 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Hebrew (not sure about modern, but definitely ancient) it's Ploni Almoni.
posted by callmejay at 6:01 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]




Wiki article lists these, but asked my Hungarian roommate about them for more detail:
Gipsz Jakab - "Probably something about gypsies..."
Kovács János - more along the lines of "John Smith"... just highly common names.

Kiss Pista & Jóska Pista - sort of like how older people use "Ralph" as a generic name, as in "Whatever you say, Ralph"... Kiss Pista is "Little Ralph".
posted by jorlyfish at 6:30 PM on September 14, 2012


Jacques Bonhomme.
posted by gjc at 6:41 PM on September 14, 2012


The Soviet space program used a mannequin named Ivan Ivanovich.
posted by djb at 7:26 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


John and Jane Citizen in Australia - but that's never used in a legal context, more for sample credit card applications and such.
posted by goo at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2012


Ploni or Ploni Almoni is used in the Bible, Talmud and in modern Hebrew.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:33 PM on September 14, 2012


The Spanish Wikipedia equivalent of the English John Doe one already linked above seems to list some countries not in the other, if you can deal with occasionally having to visit Google Translate.
posted by Su at 8:35 PM on September 14, 2012


In French also, Monsieur Untel (from un tel, one such).
posted by zadcat at 10:21 PM on September 14, 2012


In an official context, Dutch uses N.N. (going down the alphabet with O.O., P.P., etc. when more than one unnamed person is being discussed). In more informal discussion we have 'Jan Modaal' (John Average-Income, often used in economic discussions) and 'Jan met de Pet' (John Cap-wearer, dating back to times when men from the lower classes wore caps and men from the upper classes wore hats).
posted by rjs at 12:41 AM on September 15, 2012


In Germany, you often get Max (or another generic first name) Mustermann, which can translate to template-man/sample-man/something similar. I recall seeing Monika and Claudia as common female Mustermann names. I haven't seen it listed in legal contexts anywhere, but I also don't keep much much with German criminal cases, so...

Also, this Wikipedia article would probably be of interest.
posted by naturalog at 12:56 AM on September 15, 2012


When I was a kid (in the 80s), 'John/Jane Smith' was the most common UK equivalent.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:12 AM on September 15, 2012


Surprised to find "Joe Soap" isn't used for this outside South Africa.
posted by kreestar at 1:39 AM on September 15, 2012


"Fulano/a de Tal" is used in continental Spanish, though "fulana" also means prostitute (don't shoot me, I am only the messenger). For Tom, Dick and Harry you can use "Fulano, Zutano y Mengano". Used only in discourse, not in legal proceedings.
posted by kandinski at 2:17 AM on September 15, 2012


@kreestar "Surprised to find "Joe Soap" isn't used for this outside South Africa."

"Joe Soap" is actually quite common in the North West of England, too, at least in people born and raised here between 1920 and 1990 (i.e. me, my parents, my grandparents). Didn't know it was used in South Africa though.
posted by gmb at 4:06 AM on September 15, 2012


N'thing Fulano for Spanish, and also that it has an edge to it (as mentioned by kandinski above) depending on context. In my own family, we might also refer to Juan Caca, but this has its roots in an old comedy routine* and I'm pretty sure it's just us.


* - Juan Caca presents himself at the government building in order to change his name. Goes through all the problems he's suffered as a result of his name. Long story, big buildup. Official finally agrees that a name change is in order. Juan's preferred new name? Jose Caca. Big laffs all around. It's funnier in Spanish.
posted by jquinby at 5:59 AM on September 15, 2012


"A.N. Other" is sometimes used in the UK.
posted by Jabberwocky at 6:26 AM on September 15, 2012


In the UK (when I was younger, at least) it tended to be Fred Bloggs rather than Joe Bloggs.
posted by Decani at 7:19 AM on September 15, 2012


Ah. Wikipedia mentions both.
posted by Decani at 7:21 AM on September 15, 2012


I have read that Yamada Taro is used in Japan.
posted by anansi at 7:34 AM on September 15, 2012


Taro and Akiko in Japan, for men and women respecively.
posted by Tiresias at 7:38 AM on September 15, 2012


Ploni Almoni works in Hebrew.
posted by eytanb at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2012


jan jansen in holland
posted by jannw at 12:26 PM on September 15, 2012


In French, in a legal context, you usually see "X", for instance in published court decisions where the identity of the parties is confidential (with Y and Z used for other anonymous people), or in terms like "plainte contre X", which is a complaint lodged against someone whose identity is unkown.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2012


In Quebec, I've also heard people talk about "Pierre-Jean-Jacques", usually in context where you'd use something like "Tom, Dick and Harry" in English. Also in Quebec, Monsieur or Madame Tremblay, since a little over 1% of us bear that last name.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:35 PM on September 15, 2012


In Korean it's Hong Gil Dong.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:41 PM on September 15, 2012


Thanks everyone. I continue to be amazed at the occasionally weird and wonderful specificity of Wikipedia articles.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 1:55 AM on September 16, 2012


Fulano is from Arabic فلان fulan "so-and-so". Indonesian si polan is from the same source.

According to Wiktionary, Hebrew פלוני ploni is cognate. As far as I know they're just nonsense names. But if the Hebrew and Arabic words are related, they have to be pretty ancient nonsense.
posted by nangar at 7:23 PM on October 4, 2012


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