Giving the Same Name to Different Things
July 8, 2022 8:39 AM   Subscribe

George Foreman has 5 sons named George. Deerhoof has 3 songs called "Flower". Mathematicians use the word "normal" for more than 20 unrelated concepts. What are some other examples of the same person/community assigning the same name to several things which one would expect to be uniquely identified by their names?

I suspect this will have a lot of edge cases, but have at it! The main thing I'm interested in is that the names aren't just coincidentally the same, but that their being the same seems to violate the ordinary sense of what names are for. (The math example is the weakest of the three above, since the meanings of "normal" occur in different contexts; however, it meets my bar because it's pretty notorious among mathematicians for its sheer perversity.)
posted by aws17576 to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if personal anecdotes count, but I've got a friend who had many dogs, and each one was named Buck. I'm not sure if any overlapped in real life; I think they were mostly one after another.

Newhart (tv show): "This is my brother Darryl; this is my other brother Darryl."
posted by hydra77 at 8:44 AM on July 8, 2022 [6 favorites]

TV Tropes: Name's the Same
posted by zamboni at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2022

There are a bunch more in mathematics
posted by crocomancer at 8:57 AM on July 8, 2022

Best answer: In biology [autoplug alert] hemihomonyms are allowable if there can be no reasonable confusion between the two [or more] species which share a Linnaean binomer.
Agathis montana is both a wasp and a conifer
Centropogon australis is both a bell-flower and a venomous fish.
posted by BobTheScientist at 8:57 AM on July 8, 2022 [7 favorites]

There are five or six different towns called Washington Township in New Jersey.
posted by pinochiette at 9:04 AM on July 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this counts -

I live near Old Highway 8, New Highway 8, and Highway 88 which is colloquially called Highway 8; and they're all right next to each other.

One of my colleagues lives in a new housing development that is currently battling with their HOA about the names of the roads. Think Oak Avenue which intersects Oak Street, and there's a cul-de-sac off of it called Oak Court; and down the road is Oak Park Avenue and there's also a park called Oak Park. Apparently there have been several situations in which emergency personnel have been delayed because they can't find the right address.
posted by Gray Duck at 9:04 AM on July 8, 2022

Best answer: In cycling, there are (at least) four different performance metrics called "threshold": ventilatory threshold 1 and 2, and lactate threshold 1 and 2. Usually when someone uses the world "threshold" without qualification they mean LT2 …I think.

Tire-size nomenclature for bikes is an absolute clown show. Brown's Law of Tire Sizing states that "If two tires are marked with sizes that are mathematically equal, but one is expressed as a decimal and the other as a fraction, these two tires will not be interchangeable."
posted by adamrice at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2022

Best answer: Peter Gabriel's first four solo albums were called Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel and Peter Gabriel.
posted by offog at 9:23 AM on July 8, 2022 [12 favorites]

There are five or six different towns called Washington Township in New Jersey.

Hell, in Boston there are like five different Washington Streets.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:26 AM on July 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

My Great-Grandpa was married four times, and gave the same name to the oldest son from each marriage.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:39 AM on July 8, 2022 [10 favorites]

And, similar to hydra77's friend and Buck the Dogs, I was an adult before I realized that Grandma's blue parakeet Mr. Bird was a long line of blue parakeets named Mr. Bird.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:43 AM on July 8, 2022 [6 favorites]

And just in terms of a word's definition, the English verb "cleave" can, on the one hand, mean "stick closely together" — or on the other, "split apart, as if with a blow." It's basically its own antonym.
posted by lisa g at 9:51 AM on July 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Autoantonyms are a whole class, another famous example is "dust"— as a verb it can mean to add dust, or remove it.

In addition to the notion of "overloading" a term, the general concept of having one word do lots of different work is polysemy, and there are lots of interesting examples there as well as fun specific words for certain classes of polysemes.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2022 [6 favorites]

My grandfather who was a county judge called all of his grandkids, "defendant". He thought it was funny. I did too. His kids, my parent and my uncles, did not think it so funny. Like at dinner, he would say, "Which one of the defendants wants pie for dessert?" When one of us would stick up for another or question him, he would say, "Oh, we have a jailhouse lawyer in the family." My mom claimed we thought grandpa really thought our name was defendant. I do not recall that although I do recall him calling me defendant. Usually, one of the younger grandkids would say, "That's not my name Grandpa!", but he would just smile.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure if this counts, because it's probably more by coincidence than design, but:

Three miles from my house is a hamlet called Goodnestone. This seems like a pretty unique name; I'd certainly never encountered a place called that before I moved here. I don't even know how to pronounce it.

Fifteen miles further on, in the same county and in the orbit of the same city, is another hamlet called Goodnestone.

I found this out the hard way.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:06 AM on July 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The band Express Rising has two different self-titled albums, and then two other different albums named Fixed Rope. As someone who's persnickety about their music metadata, it kind of pisses me off, TBH.
posted by aubilenon at 12:03 PM on July 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Speaking of self-titled albums, Weezer has three albums named "Weezer"
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:12 PM on July 8, 2022

This probably doesn't meet your bar, but I spent most of my life in Los Angeles where the whims of the almighty 405 influence the very courses of lives. Imagine my surprise when I moved to the Seattle suburbs and discovered that despite moving two states away I had not escaped 405 after all.

I try to call it "405" because that's how people talk here, but honestly not saying "The 405" when talking about a freeway called "405" feels like actual blasphemy to me. And the freeway gods are jealous & vengeful gods.
posted by potrzebie at 5:03 PM on July 8, 2022

Best answer: If my reference on the New Testament is correct, in Acts 14:21-28 (which speaks of the travels of Paul and Barnabas) verses 21 and 26 both mention Antioch, but different Antiochs. Verse 21's Antioch was in Pisidia in Asia Minor, whereas verse 26's Antioch was in Syria. Supposedly there were 12 other cities named Antioch in honor of Antiochus, the father of Seleucus (founder of the Seleucid Empire in the fourth century BCE).
posted by forthright at 5:59 PM on July 8, 2022

BTS has a long-running variety web series called Run BTS where they try various activities. They just released a new song called Run BTS. They also have a song called Run.

Run by BTS, Run BTS, and Run BTS are three different things. Googling for RUN BTS is a crapshoot.
posted by Nickel at 6:25 PM on July 8, 2022

My uncle John (none of the names are real, obviously) has 3 sons. Their names are:
John David Penguin
Joseph Steven Penguin
John Joseph Penguin
(again, not their actual names, but that's the pattern. Penguin is the surname stand-in, in case that was unclear).

Also, in statistics alpha and beta mean all sorts of different things (and I think there are some examples of other greek letters, but i don't recall specifically)
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:29 PM on July 8, 2022

An edge case, but I used to live between Green Valley and Valle Verde. I never figured out if they were trolling bilingual folks.
posted by Ookseer at 7:32 PM on July 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

If you drive anywhere in the Dallas /Fort Worth metroplex, and you cross a bridge, it will be the Trinity River. It looks like 4 different rivers to me. One name. Let's go watch the fireworks in the Trinity River - could be anywhere.
posted by CathyG at 9:24 PM on July 8, 2022

Like Gray Duck said, you often see housing developments with intersecting streets with the same name, eg Northrup Dr, Northrup Ct, Northrup Way. Does anyone know what the reason is for this??
posted by exceptinsects at 9:40 PM on July 8, 2022

There is a (Reno-based) punk band called Gob, and a different, Vancouver based punk band named Gob.
posted by dismas at 10:15 PM on July 8, 2022

Best answer: Atlanta has seventy-one streets named "Peachtree."
posted by nightcoast at 2:20 AM on July 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

In linguistics, "word" can refer to a bunch of different concepts. (We sometimes distinguish by saying "phonological word," "prosodic word," "syntactic word," etc, but often we don't.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:24 AM on July 9, 2022

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